The eagerly awaited return visit of Prime Minister of India Dr Manmohon Singh is being fixed on the first week of September 2011. This very important summit must address and honestly attempt to resolve several sensitive unresolved matters between the two SARRC neighbors –the largest democracy of the world India and the land of great potential Bangladesh. It is a healthy sign that the with the high profile visit round the corner India decided to withdraw some uncalled for and controversial off the record statements of Indian Prime Minister about Bangladesh during his meeting with a section of Indian media. Let us not look back into that controversy here. Let us look forward to very friendly summit which should further strengthen the friendly ties which were so smoothly initiated during the visit of Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina to India.
India must realize that irrespective of size and economic situation Bangladesh and India are sovereign equal and matters must be dealt with on the basis of sovereign equality. Everything must be looked upon on mutual win- win basis. No party must have take all and share nothing attitude.
Bangladesh Needs Equitable Share of Water:
The river based agro economy of Bangladesh desperately needs equitable share of water through all common rivers. Indian actions of unilateral withdrawal of water in some common rivers have initiated desertification in huge areas of Bangladesh. During the ensuing summit meaningful progress must be achieved on water sharing. Bangladesh must be ensured of its legitimate right in accordance with international norms as lower riparian country. We hope Teesta Water sharing agreement will be inked during the summit. There must be unconditional assurance by India to honor all signed Indian treaty and agreements on water sharing. India must not take any project on the upstream which may harm Bangladesh on the downstream.
Maritime and Land Boundary Disputes must be resolved:
It is a pity that several issues relating to boundary disputes in land and water remains unresolved for 40 years. Bangladesh will love to see complete implementation of Mujib-Indira treaty on exchange of border Enclaves. There must be authentic survey of boundary demarcation and India must not resort to barbed wire fencing as Bangladesh government in the meantime done more than enough to crack down on all hide outs of Indian insurgents inside Bangladesh territory. India must assure Bangladesh and practically implement that no innocent Bangladeshi is killed along the border by BSF. The maritime boundary disputes must also be attempted to resolve on the basis of sincere bilateral discussions. Petroleum resources underground cannot be bounded by physical boundaries. If the maritime boundary demarcations are agreed in accordance with International law there may be still some overlaps of underground resources. These can be exploited on the basis of Joint Development agreement in practice in many countries-Indonesia- Malaysia, Malaysia-Thailand, Netherlands –Germany.
Cross Border Trading of Energy:
It is great that after several years of discussions India and Bangladesh have started implementation of power grid connectivity. But we understand the power trading is stuck on some issues of power tariff. The power Grid connectivity between India and Bangladesh must give Bangladesh access to Hydropower from Nepal and Bhutan. 4 Countries must make meaningful progress in sharing power according to their needs. Manmahon- Hasina summit must set the strong the basis for such power trading. Tariff and other technical and non technical issues which barricades power trading must be honestly resolved.
Exchange of Criminals and Prisoners:
Present Bangladesh government has done a lot in crashing all militant hide outs from inside Bangladesh territory. No group or individuals are now allowed to use Bangladesh territory to work against Bangladesh and neighbors. Bangladesh also arrested or pushed back some identified Indian insurgents. But several top Bangladeshis terrorists are carrying out operation from inside India. Indian government must sincerely try to arrest them and hand over to Bangladesh. Some identified criminals against whom there are arrest warrant are allegedly hiding in India. Some are in Indian Jails. They should be returned. In this context if any treaty or protocol needs to be signed that must be inked.
To balance huge trade imbalance India must withdraw all tariff and non tariff barriers those are impeding entry of Bangladeshi export commodities into India. In any bilateral talks some lists are exchanged and parties agree to act upon it. But in actual practice very little are achieved. Not only border hats Bangladesh needs zero tariff or minimum tariff on its goods entering India. Bangladesh has agreed to provide transit to India to travel across from East to west [Tripura, Meghalaya – West Bengal. In future India may use like Bhutan, Nepal, China and Myanmar Bangladeshi ports for their exports and imports. But in exchange Bangladesh must get free trading rights with 7 sisters around Bangladesh, unhindered access for trading Nepal and Bhutan.
India must take actions in its border to stop free entry of drugs and narcotics from their part into Bangladesh and BGD to stop this nuisance.
Friendly Relation must be strengthened:
Bangladeshis have no particular reason to have Indian allergy excepting a very limited group of fundamentalists. But many Bangladeshis do not like big brotherly attitudes of a section of Indian beauracrats – the spoilers. Many great initiatives in the past to normalize relations have been spoiled for this. Some great initiatives taken during Bangladesh PM’s visit to India could not make meaningful progress for bureaucratic attitude. When there are political commitments of highest level beauracrats must not create impediments.
Let the visit of Indian PM to Bangladesh and the ensuing Summit opens the avenues of several Win- Win breakthroughs of mutual relations. It is only through mutual co –operation respecting sovereign equality two important SAARC countries can make giant strides towards economic development and poverty alleviation. Let Bangladesh-India be trend setters in the South Asian region.