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India and Bangladesh should consider trilateral partnership with Japan, work together with ASEAN 

(From left to right) Ambassador Vijay Thakur Singh, Director General ICWA; Shantanu Mukharji, former National Security Advisor to Mauritius; Syed Badrul Ahsan, Bangladeshi journalist and author with Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury, Diplomatic Affairs Editor of The Economic Times, at a discussion on India-Bangladesh relations (Photo: Rahul Kumar)

India and Bangladesh need to explore the possibility of making a trilateral partnership with Japan. The two South Asian neighbours should also look at making Bangladesh a gateway to link South Asia and South-East Asia, Bangladeshi journalist and author Syed Badrul Ahsan said in Delhi on Thursday.

The noted Bangladeshi intellectual was speaking at a roundtable discussion, Reflections on India-Bangladesh Relations, organised by the Indian Council of World Affairs (ICWA). Ahsan is in India on a trip organised by India Narrative.

Talking about Bangladesh graduating from the Least Developed Country (LDC) Ahsan said: “We are happy moving away from the LDC status but need support from India”. He added that the country will face problems in exports as it largely relies on exports of readymade garments and remittances by the diaspora.

An LDC country gets preferential treatment in relation to trade, development financing, debt relief among other things. Once a country graduates out of the LDC list, these additional benefits are no longer provided.

Among the many worries for Bangladesh is climate change and environment which will impact its coastal areas. Ahsan said that to ward off climate change impacts, both India and Bangladesh will need to build a concerted diplomatic effort, adding that the two also share the Sunderbans mangrove forests which need protection.

In the joint statement released during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in September 2022, the two countries have promised to cooperate in areas such as environment and climate change. They also plan to address issues like river pollution and navigability in their common rivers.

Talking about the improvement in India-Bangladesh relations, ambassador Vijay Thakur Singh, Director General, ICWA said if India has extended the biggest Lines of Credit (LoC) to any one country, that is Bangladesh. She added that the two neighbours have settled their land and maritime boundary disputes and Bangladesh figures prominently in India’s Neighbourhood First policy.

Shantanu Mukharji, former National Security Advisor to Mauritius said that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has brought the two countries together with dexterity despite the challenges. He applauded Bangladesh for tackling the North-East insurgent outfits as well as reining in terror.

Bangladeshi journalist Syed Badrul Ahsan speaks at a discussion at the ICWA in Delhi 

Ahsan said that Bangladesh is grateful to India for supporting it in its war of liberation in 1971. He said: “18,000 Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives in Bangladesh in the war”. He said that Bangladesh is back to being a democratic and a secular nation under the leadership of Hasina and has put behind it three coups and two dictators, “which we call the dark age that lasted 21 years from 1975 to 1996”.

Professor Sanjay Bhardwaj from Jawaharlal Nehru University said that “India wants Bangladesh to become a part of its growth story. We are looking at economic stability in Bangladesh”. He also wanted better people-to-people connect along with more youth exchanges between universities of the two neighbours.

Diplomatic Affairs Editor of The Economic Times, Dipanjan Roy Chaudhury said that with China facing Covid-related problems, Bangladesh has an important role in restoring supply chains. He said that as compared to other South Asian countries, Bangladesh inspires confidence in nations like India and Japan, both of which are jointly investing in its development.

Also read: India – Bangladesh Joint Statement during the State Visit of Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India