Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make his long-awaited visit to Bangladesh from June 6 to7, the visit reflects the importance attached by India to the bilateral relations and is expected to further expand the cordial relationship between the two countries and strengthen the excellent ties of friendship and trust that exist between the two countries.
On the eve of Modi's visit, Prof Imtiaz Ahmed of the International Relations Department of Dhaka University on Friday, while talking to the Daily Observer, hoped that Modi's upcoming visit will focus on the issues of border dispute settlement and water sharing deals with Bangladesh. During his exclusive interview Prof Imtiaz expressed his optimism that the Indian Prime Minister's visit will take Indo-Bangla relations to a new height. Excerpts of the interview are as under:
Observer: How do you see, Prime Minister Modi's visit in light of the recent Indo-Bangla relations?
Imtiaz: It has been one year of Modi being elected Prime Minister of India. He had visited many neighbouring countries, including Nepal, Bhutan and Sri Lanka but not Bangladesh, which was a bit embarrassing for Delhi.
After January 5, 2014 general election, Bangladesh government faced negative criticism and reaction from the Western media. And still people raise questions on the legitimacy of the present government. In this situation Modi's visit to Bangladesh will play a significant role.
We expect Modi will give some surprises during his visit to Bangladesh like his other visits in the neighbouring countries that got high coverage by International media.
Among so many bilateral issues, Land Boundary Agreement, Teesta Treaty are very significant ones. The basic elements of the treaties were completed on September 6, 2011 during the visit of then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. We all are aware of the reason for Teesta Treaty not being signed was due to objection of Mamata Banerjee. But Modi has very good relationship with Mamata. So far we know she will be in the entourage of Modi during his first visit to Bangladesh. So the long-awaited issue of Teesta waters could be solved through Modi's visit. I expect Modi will try to build up good relationship with the people of Bangladesh rather than with any political party.
Observer: What does Bangladesh expect to gain from this visit?
Imtiaz: I think, among so many issues, if we think of our priorities, the people of Bangladesh will expect Modi to resolve the Teesta dispute, which is waiting to be resolved for a long time. Besides big investments in the production sector is also expected. For building up relationship between the two countries, providing transport and transit facilities could be helpful for both the countries. So, all issues should be discussed during the visit. Personally, I have observed that Modi has a very good connection with the business community. This could help build strong bonds between Indian and Bangladeshi businessmen.
Observer: There is a general perception that since both PMs lead strong governments, they can make more positive difference in bettering Delhi-Dhaka ties. How would you respond to such a perception?
Imtiaz: I do not think so, both Prime Ministers are having same ranks but their election processes were not the same. We know what happened in the general elections of January 5, 2014. People nationally and internationally had criticized Sheikh Hasina's government. There is no comparison between Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi in this respect. Modi, following democratic form of structure had won two-thirds parliament seats and became Prime Minister of India but Sheikh Hasina did not follow his path.
Observer: To what extent can Bangladesh and India cooperate even more is such areas, as tackling cross border terrorism, and accidents such as the shooting of Bangladesh nationals by BSF?
Imtiaz: It is always expected that friendly and neighbouring countries should have dialogue, in case any misunderstanding occurs between them. They should arrange direct face to face discussions for resolving the issue.
From the newspapers and other media reports, we came to know that the Bangladesh nationals are being killed almost every day by Border Security Force (BSF). India being a responsible country is killing Bangladesh nationals. So, we expect they will stop these inhuman acts through bilateral dialogues.
Observer: How do you compare Modi's visit with the visit of Indira Gandhi 44 years ago?
Imtiaz: The time Indira Gandhi visited Bangladesh and the time right now are totally different.
Bangladesh became an independent country in 1971with the direct military support of India during the government of Indira Gandhi. The time, facts, interests were based on Mujib and Indira's own understanding. And before Modi other Indian government leaders also visited Bangladesh. We did not see any significant changes.
Observer: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Indira Gandhi had a special rapport. Do you see a similar rapport between Modi and Hasina?
Imtiaz: No, I do not see any similarity between Modi and Hasina governments. Awami League government had personal relationship with Congress, Indian opposition political party, based on secularism. But BJP's philosophy is based on fundamentalism. It is not possible to make any special rapport between Awami League and BJP, because their political philosophies are totally different.