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India reaches out to Dhaka, reassures neighbors first policy

India reaches out to Dhaka, reassures neighbors first policy

At a time when China is going all out to woo Dhaka and isolate India, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla paid a two day visit to Bangladesh. Notably, this is his first overseas visit since the coronavirus pandemic broke out in March.

“It was important for New Delhi to pass on this message to Dhaka that Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘neighbors first’ policy remains a priority and that Bangladesh plays an important role,” a foreign policy analyst said.

It is not just China that is warming up to Dhaka. In July Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan, who has been trying to raise the Kashmir issue in the Organization of Islamic Co-operation (OIC), made a phone call to Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina.

India, meanwhile, has promised to increase the bilateral economic ties, beef up exchange of intelligence, and supply the much-awaited coronavirus vaccine, once it hits the Indian market. The two countries have also decided to jointly fight radical elements.

Shringla was the first official foreign visitor in Dhaka. In a significant move, the Modi government said that it will join Bangladesh in commemorating the country’s first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary by releasing postal stamp. Rahman is Hasina’s father.

Though traditionally India and Bangladesh have shared close ties, eyebrows were raised when suddenly China, in June, offered to exempt tariff on 97 per cent of the products made in their country. Under the ambitious Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Beijing and Dhaka have also signed multiple deals amounting to about $21.5 billion to boost infrastructure.

Beijing has also been trying to isolate India within the region. Many analysts said that ties between India and Bangladesh were getting strained and that there was an urgent need to reaffirm ties.

“There have been observations that Dhaka was getting close to China. However, we must remember that Bangladesh and India have cultural commonalities and the trust factor between the two nations has remained strong,” a government official said. China has also been caught in a huge controversy relating to its treatment to the Uighur Muslims. Reportedly about 1 million Uighur Muslims are held in detention camps in China.

Meanwhile the year is being celebrated as ‘Mujib Barsho.’ It also marks 50 years of liberation struggle of Bangladesh. Mujib, as Mujibur Rahman is endearingly referred to, is equally hailed as a reformist and a statesman in India, especially West Bengal. He was an admirer of Mahatma Gandhi and Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose..