Experts on foreign affairs emphasised the need for a comprehensive assessment of the possibility of restoring a balance in Bangladesh’s relations with India.
‘The question we should ask ourselves is whether we can realistically engage with either of the two giants in our region without ruffling the feathers of one or the other or can we restore a balance in our relationship with India as a sovereign independent nation,’ according to a summary made available to New Age on a discussion on Bangladesh-India relations and China.
Dhaka Forum, a platform that seeks to bring the leaders and policymakers together, organised the discussion, held virtually on September 20.
Bringing about a balance in Bangladesh-India relations without causing unwanted ripples in Bangladesh-China relations is important, it said.
Dhaka Forum president and former Bangladesh Bank governor Salehuddin Ahmed moderated the discussion where former ambassador M Serajul Islam presented the keynote paper.
Serajul Islam noted that a paradigm shift in Bangladesh-India relations took place when India became actively involved in Bangladesh’s national politics and general elections of 2014.
The general perception in Bangladesh was that the ruling Awami League was India’s chosen partner rather than the people of Bangladesh, according to the summery.
Bangladesh-China relations throughout these forty years remained at a certain remove from Bangladesh-India relations, both being mutually exclusive, it said.
Reaching out to China despite the Chinese veto over the UN membership application of Bangladesh, reflects a desire to remain an independent and sovereign actor in the international scene, it said, adding that, this is why Bangladesh-China relations over the last forty years developed robustly in all sectors irrespective of the party was in power in Bangladesh.
The recent policies of the Indian government, both internal and its opposition to the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative, injected some destabilising elements in the region affecting India’s relations with all its neighbours in the region, according to the summery.
‘It is India that has introduced the China factor into Bangladesh-India relations when it tried to strong-arm Bangladesh into not participating in China’s BRI even successfully stopping the Chinese financed Sonadia port project under the BRI.’
The Chinese offer to participate in the Bangladesh-China Teesta Project jolted South Block in New Delhi to rush to mend fences with Bangladesh, it added.
Iftikher Ahmed Chowdhury, former foreign affairs adviser to the military-controlled interim government in 2007-2008, former foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, former high commissioner to India A Tariq Karim, former ambassador Iftikharul Karim, security analyst M Sakhawat Hussain and Shahedul Aham Khan, professors Dilara Chowdhury and Rashed Al Mahmud Titumir, Mahfuzul Hoque Chowdhury, vice-chancellor of Chittagong Independent University, and members of Dhaka Forum participated in the discussion.
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