Event ReportsPublished on Nov 22, 2014
A delegation of visiting Members of Parliament from Bangladesh, taking part in an interaction with academics, media-persons and ORF faculty, hoped that the new government in India would take the relations between the two countries to a different level.
Bangla MPs hope Modi Govt will take bilateral relations to a different level

A regional outlook and assessment of ground situation could help improve connectivity between India and Bangladesh, according to a visiting parliamentary delegation from Bangladesh.

The observation of the MPs delegation came during an interaction with academicians, media-persons and research scholars, organised by Observer Research Foundation, Kolkata, on November 22. The delegation comprised 10 MPs.

The MPs felt that trade and commerce need to be the bedrocks for connectivity and that India must recognise Bangladesh as an emergent economy. Bangladesh has been slated amongst the 11 next economies after the BRICS as having the high potential for becoming the World’s largest economies in the 21st century.

The parliamentarians maintained that though special ties between India and Bangladesh have prevailed due to shared history, long border and culture, and the remarkable contribution India made to Bangladesh’s freedom struggle, the two are sovereign nations with their own aspirations. A parliamentarian observed that while lack of India experts in Bangladesh is affecting Bangladesh’s policies towards India, it has also to be admitted that India in its foreign policy has not given due importance to Bangladesh.

The parliamentarians said that political forces have been irritants in relations between the two countries while academic and bureaucratic initiatives have been successful. Communal organizations, undemocratic protests and violence are challenges that Bangladesh needs to overcome.

Track-II initiatives -- academia, media and parliamentarians -- assume an important role in this context. At a time when many sensitive negotiations are taking place at the highest level between the two countries, the efforts from civil society need to be strengthened to meet the interests of the peoples of both countries, felt the M.P.s. Highlighting the role of the ORF in this context the parliamentarians expressed their hope that organisations like ORF would play an important role in strengthening ties between the two nations.

Trafficking, communalism and terrorism were identified as threats having spillover effects not just across the border but on the whole region, having serious consequences on relations between the two countries. The need for deeper engagement on the complexities of the border were desperately required, the parliamentarians felt.

A Bangladesh M.P. from a constituency sharing border with India highlighted that a perceptual difference exists between people in bordering cities/ towns and those in Dhaka. He further said that it is a wrong notion that human trafficking victims are always Bangladesh nationals; even Indians are trafficked to Bangladesh.

Bangladesh since independence has been in a constant flux, conceded the parliamentarians. From 1971 till today, the country has not just seen military dictatorship, deepening of communalism but economic development, socio-economic progress and democratic governments have been experienced as well.

The M.P.s felt that the present government in power, led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is committed to establish a non-communal society with zero tolerance for terrorism and to establish a Bangladesh steadfast on democracy. With democracy, peace and development, Bangladesh is slated to become an emerging tiger, exclaimed an M.P.

India has had a lot of contribution in the progress of the nation as well as in fighting ills of the country. The new government in India would take the relations between the two countries which started in 1971 to a different level, hoped the parliamentarians.

Distinguished academicians, scholars and media persons assembled for the interaction felt climate change, migration, lack of information-sharing and terrorism as major hurdles which the two countries need to overcome through cooperation. One of the participants wondered why we in India are not able to watch Bangladesh TV. The audience felt that a change in mindset is an essential first step for fighting the ills.

A mechanism for establishing a joint task force was suggested as a solution for rail connectivity and labour migration. A media-person also demanded that like physical connectivity, the labour market should also be connected, creating newer and safer opportunities for employment of the working populations in both countries. The parliamentary delegation also called on Chief Minister Mamata Bannerjee and they had an interesting interaction.

(This report is prepared by Mihir Bhonsale, Research Assistant, Observer Research Foundation, Delhi)

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