Space For Rent

Space For Rent
Saturday, June 6, 2015, Jaishtha 23, 1422 BS, Shaban 18, 1436 Hijr

Bangladesh greets you Mr Prime Minister
Syed Badrul Ahsan
Published : Saturday, 6 June, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 24

When Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi flies into Dhaka this morning, he will find a people ready and willing to offer him and his country the best in terms of friendship. Perhaps he will have been briefed on the excitement which coursed through Bangladesh forty three years ago when an earlier Indian leader came calling and a grateful Bengali nation held out before her a heart bubbling with sincere appreciation for the moral and material support she had extended to it in its hour of trial. Indira Gandhi was --- and remains --- a powerful embodiment of friendship for the people of Bangladesh. Her leadership was instrumental in the popularizing of the Bengali struggle in 1971. It was she who, at Bangabandhu's request, did not hesitate to take her soldiers back home within months of Bangladesh's emergence as an independent state. And, on her watch, Bangladesh and India made new history when she and our Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman signed the Land Boundary Agreement in 1974.
Forty one years after the signing of the LBA and its ratification by Bangladesh's parliament, it remained for Prime Minister Modi to ease the process toward an acceptance and adoption of the LBA by the Indian parliament. The gesture was unprecedented not merely because the Modi government took the decisive action of bringing the land deal to a mutually fruitful conclusion but also because of the spirit of camaraderie demonstrated by Indian lawmakers across the spectrum with the people of Bangladesh. They spoke in glowing terms of Bangabandhu and sang songs which celebrated him and his leadership through the nine months of the War of Liberation. Indeed, history was repeated when the two chambers of the Indian parliament cheered the ratification of the LBA by their country. It was similar good cheer we noticed on 16 December 1971 Prime Minister Indira Gandhi informed the Indian parliament and, by extension, the world: "Dhaka is today the free capital of a free country."
It is to that free capital of a free country Narendra Modi arrives today. The effusiveness and the anticipation with which Bangladesh's people await his arrival have to do not merely with his constructive role in pushing the LBA through in the Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha but also with the belief that he will be able, sooner rather than later, to ensure for Bangladesh a fair deal where the matter is one of an equitable distribution of the waters of the river Teesta between Dhaka and Delhi. Pragmatism enjoins upon us the truth, one that the Indian authorities have already hinted at, that there is little possibility of a Teesta deal being signed on Mr. Modi's trip. Of course, there are all those Bangladeshis disappointed at the absence of a deal on the Teesta. But of greater importance than all this is the hope of bilateral and regional cooperation that the Modi government, in its year in office, has promoted in South Asia. Bangladesh's people have, owing to the alacrity with which the Indian authorities, on Modi's watch, have ratified the LBA, remain hopeful that he will take the lead again to have the two countries arrive at a satisfactory agreement on the Teesta which was negotiated and ready to be inked when then Prime Minister Manmohon Singh visited Dhaka in 2011.
We in Bangladesh are fully aware of the compulsions which underline Indian and especially West Bengal perspectives on the issue. Those compulsions cannot but be taken into account where Teesta is concerned. At the same time, though, the urgency in Bangladesh regarding its need for the waters of the Teesta cannot be gainsaid. Bangladesh's farmers have consistently paid the price for the lack of a deal on the Teesta. It is a point which surely cannot be lost on Mr. Modi. Neither can Ms. Mamata Banerjee ignore such realities. And where Bangladesh's commitment to healthy, productive relations with India is the issue, one cannot but point to the various steps the Sheikh Hasina government has taken in recent years to ensure a stable, secure South Asia. Happily for everyone, the Modi government has taken cognizance of such steps that gave dividend to India in terms of combating cross border terrorism and insurgency.
And that gives Bangladesh's people hope that certain remaining areas of concern, notably the shootings on the frontier by India's Border Security Force (BSF), will soon be a thing of the past. We in Bangladesh hold out as well the hope that trade between Delhi and Dhaka will overcome such irritants as tariff barriers and lead to mutually beneficial results for the people of the two countries.
Narendra Modi's visit has generated much enthusiasm and expectations aplenty. Who knows? The visiting Indian leader just might go back home after springing a few surprises here in Dhaka? Miracles do not happen anymore. But, then again, miracles never cease. Who knows what sort of a world we might happily  wake up to tomorrow or the day after?

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
Published by the Editor on behalf of the Observer Ltd. from Globe Printers, 24/A, New Eskaton Road, Ramna, Dhaka. Editorial, News and Commercial Offices : Aziz Bhaban (2nd floor), 93, Motijheel C/A, Dhaka-1000. Phone :9586651-58. Fax: 9586659-60, Advertisemnet: 9513663, E-mail: [email protected], [email protected], [email protected]