A key element of India’s foreign policy has been to ensure a ‘peaceful periphery’––a friendly and cooperative working relationship with all its neighbouring countries. This objective, for various reasons, has remained unfulfilled especially with regard to Pakistan. A certain lingering distrust and suspicion continues to trouble the ties with the other neighbours too. In this overall picture, Bangladesh presents a ray of hope. In a very real sense, the ties with Bangladesh are of critical importance to India’s South Asian relations and to its burgeoning relations with Southeast Asia.
Since 2009, Bangladesh has moved away from a relationship which had earlier been marked by mistrust.
This shift in attitude helped in improving the bilateral relationship. India has reciprocated in a similar manner. A flurry of high-level visits between the two capitals occurred and a feeling of mutual trust gained ground rapidly. But, as events turned out, 2011 saw an equally swift decline of cordiality, with senseless polemics overtaking rational debate over issues that have remained contentious since long.
India has a stake in Bangladesh not only for the security of its eastern borders but also for other strategic advantages. Therefore, it cannot afford to let go of this recently achieved opportunity to break away from the past trajectory and establish new contours of engagement with Bangladesh. In many ways, this is a rare opportunity for both the countries to talk with each other and resolve differences.
This paper argues that India must seize this opportunity and expand cooperation with Bangladesh at all levels. It puts forward several key issues that call for an understanding and suggests possible paths of convergence.
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Joyeeta Bhattacharjee (1975 2021) was Senior Fellow with ORF. She specialised in Indias neighbourhood policy the eastern arch: Bangladeshs domestic politics and foreign policy: border ...Read More +