Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Bangladesh on 26-27 March to attend the centenary celebrations of Mujibur Rehman’s birth and the 50th anniversary of the country’s liberation. It is slated to be a defining moment in the burgeoning relations between the two nations. It may be noted that although Bangladesh is a Muslim majority country, it today has the healthiest relationship with India from among the nations of South Asia. While India has traditionally adopted a positive attitude towards its neighbours, the sentiments have not always been reciprocated with similar warmth. It goes to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s credit that she has led her nation in a way that resulted in not just better political relations but also economic ones. This has proved beneficial for both nations.
This indicates the vast potential that exists within South Asia for peace and prosperity if the constituent member nations have wise, far-seeing leaders. It may be noted that India’s relations with Nepal have been uniquely strong from the beginning but have gone downhill because of the takeover by Communists who are happy to serve Chinese interests. This has meant a totally artificial foreign policy that creates barriers against the natural inclination towards India. This is an entirely unnecessary waste of energy and resources leading to not only economic hardship but also a deepening split personality. Sri Lanka’s internal politics and, then, its flirtation with China have been somewhat corrected in the recent past and there is increased cooperation with India.
What most prevents the creation of an EU like entity in the sub-continent is, of course, Pakistan. In the effort to live by an unsustainable two-nation theory, it has to work hard at resisting the gravitational pull towards India. This requires maintaining a narrative that can fool its people enough to overlook the disastrous consequences, particularly inside the country. Like Myanmar, it is in the grip of its military, whose only justification for the many perks it enjoys is the Indian bogey. So, any politician that gets cosy with India is ousted – or assassinated – and terrorist proxies ensure that the enmity is constantly stoked with cross border attacks. Of late, it has lost almost all of the patrons that funded its madness, and the search for new ones has failed. There is disenchantment even with China, its ‘all weather friend’, as the relationship has failed to prove beneficial. So, overtures are being made for a patch-up with India. Despite all the potential, it would be wise for India to take it very slow because the core philosophy of the Pakistani state has not changed. It will require a lot more hurting to do that. In the meanwhile, the Indo-Bangladesh model should further show what could have been.