OPINION

Significance of tenth round of ‘India-Bangladesh Friendship Dialogue’

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By: Mehjabin Bhanu

Bangladesh-India Friendship Dialogue is a forum for bringing together key stakeholders, including think tanks and civil society in both countries, to discuss relevant issues. In 2019, the ninth round of dialogue was organized in Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh-India relations, friendly dialogue has started in Shimla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh. Thetwo daystenth-round friendly dialogue titled ‘India-Bangladesh Friendship Dialogue’ was organized in Shimla, Himachal Pradesh, India from February 18-19. MPs, policy makers and thinkers of the two countries took part in it.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam led the Bangladesh delegation in the meeting. Awami League presidium member Jahangir Kabir Nanak, Deputy Education Minister Mahibul Hasan Chowdhury Nawfel, Mirza Azam MP, Asim Kumar Ukil MP, Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen and Bangladesh High Commissioner to Delhi Muhammad Imran also took part in it. The Indian delegation is led by State Minister for External Affairs Rajkumar Ranjan Singh.Over 100 delegates from India participated on the occasion of 50 years of Bangladesh-India relations.

The meeting was jointly organized by the Bharat Foundation and the Bangladesh Foundation for Regional Studies to revive Bangabandhu’s vision for India and to promote security cooperation in developing social and economic relations.

According to a press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam addressed the meeting highlighting the historical context between the two friendly neighboring countries and various issues of bilateral cooperation. He said that with a positive outlook, relations between the two countries would reach new heights in the days to come. It is learned that RSS leaders, known as the ideological guardians of India’s ruling BJP, also joined the dialogue.

State Minister for Foreign Affairs. Shahriar Alam emphasized the role of policy makers, media and members of civil society in creating a positive narrative of Bangladesh-India relations by increasing people-to-people contacts.

He said Bangladesh’s recent commendable economic growth has created new opportunities for its partners. Alam said Bangladesh believes in peace and stability following the policy of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman so that each country can devote its resources and energy to the important cause of advancing for the welfare of its own people.

He said Bangabandhu laid a strong foundation of Bangladesh-India relations on the basis of independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and mutual respect for democratic customs and values. The state minister emphasized on the steadfast commitment of the government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to ensure peace and stability in the region and beyond.

The inaugural session was attended by Himachal Pradesh Chief Minister Joy Ram Tagore, Indian Minister of State for External Affairs Rajkumar Ranjan Singh and Ram Madhav, a member of the India Foundation’s Governing Council. They also focused on strengthening bilateral ties, connectivity, and people-to-people contact. The speakers of both countries shared their views on strengthening the relationship and resolving problems in both countries.

According to the media reports, On this occasion, Rajya Sabha member Suresh Prabhu said that India and Bangladesh have good relations and discussions have been held to make them stronger.He also said along with the completion of 50 years of India-Bangladesh friendship, the Shimla Agreement has also completed 50 years due to which, this programme has been organised in Shimla. The government of India is serious about Rohingya refugees, Prabhu added.Issues related to the economy, terrorism and Rohingya refugees were discussed.

The friendship dialogue is very important for both Bangladesh and India. Even the RSS wants to bolster ties with Bangladesh. This is proved by the joining of RSS leaders in the program.  Basically, the friendship dialogue reflects the better bilateral understanding.

The friendship dialogue was one kind of public diplomacy. Think tanks, members of civil society took part in it. This type of bilateral dialogue can help strengthen people-to-people contact between the two brotherly countries.  The people from both countries can benefit from joining the event, participating, discussing and exchanging views. Some long pending disputed issues can be resolved through this type of initiative. Misconceptions are removed by sharing ideas and exchanging views. Informal discussions can be organized on how to better address the issues that have recently caused discomfort in bilateral relations.

Every year there are new challenges in bilateral relations that bother both India and Bangladesh – naturally these are the ones they talk about here. For example, incidents such as vandalism of mandapas or allegations of torture of Hindus in Bangladesh during Durga Puja in October last year brought similar discomfort to Dhaka-Delhi.

Simply put, the two friendly countries tried to dispel the clouds of doubt in order to have the best relations between them. They are successful in this regard. The dialogue was successfully concluded. The misconceptions between them were dispelled.

Against this background, there is a need for a dialogue – where one can talk openly to each other. There is a separate space for saying things that cannot be said on government platforms. The India-Bangladesh Friendship Dialogue is such a platform.

It is true that India-Bangladesh relations as a neighboring country have always been friendly. India has always had and will continue to have good relations with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina. Bangladeshi people hope that India will always be by Bangladesh’s side in the next journey. As it stood by the people of Bangladesh in 1971; In the same way, the ongoing development of Bangladesh will stand by the progress. Through this visit, it will accelerate the progress of relations and development.

Its support for millions of refugees, allowing freedom fighters to enter India and training them was an integral part of its active support for Bangladesh. Indira Gandhi had visited various countries to rally support for Bangladesh’s independence despite opposition from the United States and China. Relations between India and Bangladesh are written in blood and therefore should be continued even if there are differences of opinion on some issues.

For the past seven to eight years, the platform has served as a platform for exchanging views between the two ruling parties in the two countries – the BJP and the Awami League. This time, one of the BJP’s senior MPs and former state minister for foreign affairs MJ Akbar took part.

At this critical juncture, the RSS on one side and a heavyweight team from Bangladesh on the other – where the country’s minister, MPs stayed- seem to be making a sincere effort to resolve their differences. On behalf of Bangladesh, Awami League Presidium Member Jahangir Kabir Nanak and Members of Parliament Mirza Azam and Asim Kumar Ukil are also present in the dialogue. Both parties committed to work to increase trade, connectivity; eliminate misunderstandings between the people of the two countries and cooperate in education, health and tourism.Basically, it was an attempt to take bilateral relations to the next level.

The Friendship Bridge over the Feni River, which has recently been commissioned. The two governments have recently taken steps to increase trade and connectivity – many ports, ICPs have been created or new roads have been opened by rail, river and road. Based on these, participants discussed how they can increase trade and investment, ‘build-up’ on them.

People-to-people contact was important as well. The dialogue looked at places where there was a lack of trust between the people of the two countries. Basically, the Shimla dialogue tried to address the issues of suspicion and mistrust that remain among ordinary people on both sides of the border for a variety of reasons. We hope that the dialogue is very successful in this regard.

Writer is a School teacher in Bangladesh. mehjabinbhanu1579@gmail.com

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