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Amid Chinese assertion, Hasina’s India visit is likely to shape South Asia

Finalising trade pact will be the focus for India and Bangladesh

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s five-day visit to India, beginning tomorrow will be keenly watched not only by the pundits in South Asia but across the world. For one, Hasina will face the general elections in her country next year. Needless to say, the country’s election results will have a “huge ramification” in South Asia, as the region tries to get back on the economic growth path in the aftermath of the Covid pandemic and the ongoing Russia-Ukraine war.

Along with issues related to economic co-operation and connectivity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hasina are expected to delve on mechanisms that will boost food security as well.

“Therefore, the visit (of Hasina) is critical as her moves will be carefully scrutinized back home and the same will have huge ramifications in the region as global geopolitics today offer a different and an enhanced degree of challenges,” a foreign policy expert based in Dhaka told India Narrative.

It is expected that India and Bangladesh will reposition themselves as development partners in the region with the inking of “major bilateral pacts”. Sources said that amid rising Chinese assertion, New Delhi is all set to extend co-operation to Bangladesh, one of the most important allies of India.

India has already increased exports of rice to Bangladesh, which was battered by severe floods this year. The floods damaged large crops, affecting many lives and livelihoods. The surge in crude oil prices and the war have also led to increase in food prices.

Though most analysts have been focusing on tangible agreements that will enhance economic co-operation and connectivity, the underlying thrust will also be on building social and religious harmony between the neighbours, which share a 4,096-km long border—the fifth longest in the world. The two countries also share 54 transboundary rivers, including the Ganges and Brahmaputra.

The Hasina government has played a critical role in containing radicalism in the region.

After 2015 and 2016, when the incidents of terror and violence against secular voices increased, Dhaka has come down aggressively against the extremist elements though Hasina and her team did accept many of their demands in the initial phase.

Modi during his visit to Dhaka last year described Bangladesh as a “soho jatri”—a co-traveller.

“The focus for Bangladesh PM has been socio-economic development. She has also handled issues relating to extremism and fanaticism and that is considered a huge achievement,” Subir Bhaumik senior journalist and an expert on South and Southeast Asia told India Narrative earlier.

Bangladesh, which is now gearing up to exit the least developed countries (LDC) status, has registered a steady economic growth. In 2021, The country registered a 6.94 per cent growth rate in 2020-21 after 3.45 per cent in 2019-20.

A peaceful Bangladesh, which steers clear of radicalism, is critical for India’s development.

Also read: Bangladesh PM Hasina thanks “tested friend” India for evacuating Bangladeshi students from Ukraine

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