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Modi, Hasina kick off ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy with Bangladesh

Modi, Hasina kick off ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy with Bangladesh

Kick-starting a new era in India-Bangladesh bilateral ties, Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his virtual meeting with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina said that strengthening relations with Dhaka has been a priority for him from “the first day” and the south Asian country is a “significant pillar” in the NDA government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy.

Modi also noted that there was good co-operation between the two countries in tackling challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.

Describing India as a “true friend,” Hasina said that she was happy meeting Modi “particularly in this month of victory”. Incidentally December 16 is observed as the Liberation Day, marking Bangladesh victory over the Pakistani army.

“December evokes in all Bangladeshis the spirit of joy, freedom and celebration as we recall with deep gratitude our ‘Father of the Nation’ Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Under whose dynamic leadership we earned our great independence,” she said.

While the two leaders not only inaugurated the Chilahati-Haldibari railway link connecting India and Bangladesh they also launched the digital exhibition on Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman and Mahatma Gandhi celebrating their legacies.

But foreign policy experts said that the importance of the much-awaited summit stretched beyond these announcements.

They said that first, the meeting took place just a day after December 16, a day etched in history for both countries and second, it is critical as the geopolitics of the region is changing fast amid China’s aggression.

An analyst pointed out that Modi with his new ‘Neighbour’s First’ dictum is keen on initiating a new era in the India-Bangladesh bilateral ties breaking away from the erstwhile India-Gandhi dominated policy.

“This meeting was of immense importance because of multiple reasons but most importantly there have been misgivings in Bangladesh over the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It was important to clear those misgivings and this meeting will give the right message. Also it underscores the fact that the two countries indeed are equal partners,” Shakti Sinha, former bureaucrat and director at Atal Bihari Vajpayee Institute of Policy Research and International Studies told IndiaNarrative.com.

Sinha added that economic co-operation between the two countries is of paramount interest for industry and growth in the region.

The Teesta water sharing deal, which has been a thorny issue between the two countries, is also expected to be taken up in the coming months. Earlier, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had opposed the Teesta water-sharing formula citing global warming issues..