India should not be worried about Bangladesh-China relationship: Experts
The relationship between Bangladesh and India is a historic one and the friendship between the two countries has endured the test of time.
Besides, China is also an old friend of Bangladesh. As such, India should not be worried about the state of Bangladesh-China relations, said experts from Bangladesh and India in a webinar on Saturday.
The event, titled "India-Bangladesh Relations: Reminiscing on the Past and Looking at the Future", was organised by the Indian Council for International Cooperation.
Dr Lailufar Yasmin, a professor of International Relations at Dhaka University, said, "Every relationship has its own nature and features. The basis of the Bangladesh-India relationship is mostly historic and geo-political. The two countries share the 5th largest international border."
"However, China is not a new friend to Bangladesh. The country has been the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh since 2006," she added.
She opined that the geopolitical nature of Bangladesh-China relations is almost the same as Bangladesh's relations with the USA, Russia and some other countries.
As the chair of the webinar, Virendra Gupta, an Indian diplomat, said, "As a sovereign country, Bangladesh can promote its relations with any country, including China. But we should have a positive focus on the issue of what Bangladesh and India can do."
Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh, said, "Despite travel restrictions, Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla recently visited Dhaka. It means India prioritises its relationship with Bangladesh."
With respect to the relationship between Bangladesh and China, he said it is not necessary for India to compete with China over its relationship with Bangladesh, but it has to address unresolved bilateral issues.
He emphasised people to people contact between the two countries.
Experts at the event mentioned that the Bangladesh-India relations have improved dramatically since 2010. Maritime and land border agreement and coastal shipping agreement have played a significant role in boosting the relationship.
But trade imbalance, distribution of the water of common rivers and border killings are some of the issues yet to be resolved.
Dr Ashiqur Rahman, senior economist at the Policy Research Institute, said, "Both countries have a clear political will to boost the relationship. But the administrative process (bureaucratic) has failed to meet our political aspirations."
He said economic relations have to be measured rationally. He also focused on the elimination of the trade imbalance between Bangladesh and India.
Veena Sikri, a former Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh, said although the relationship between Bangladesh and India is a historic one, Dhaka's 1972 constitution played a significant role in launching a new trend of relations between the two countries.
"The 1972 constitution is the legacy of Bangabandhu and it contains some features like secularism, democracy, socialism and nationalism, which are also common in the Indian constitution," she said.
She mentioned that India issues more than 15 lakh visas for Bangladeshis every year, which is unique in the world.
Pratim Ranjan Bose, a columnist and researcher based in Kolkata, said, "Although activities of regional organisations are stalled, India has been taking up connectivity projects bilaterally with Bangladesh. Tourism has huge prospects between the two countries but is long overdue in Bangladesh."
Among others, Dr Rajiv Nayan and Dr Smruti S Pattanaik, a researcher, spoke on the occasion.