Seminar on India-Bangladesh Relations
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Mr. Muchkund Dubey delivering his key note address

The Vivekananda International Foundation organized a seminar on India-Bangladesh relations at its premises on October 12 & 13, 2011. Spanning three sessions, with one session each devoted to economic issues, security related issues and bilateral relations, the seminar covered the entire range of India-Bangladesh ties.

The backdrop to the seminar was provided by the exchange of visits between the two Prime Ministers notably Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in January 2010 and Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011. Accordingly, the seminar provided an opportunity to not only review the state of India-Bangladesh relations but also to evaluate the outcome of these visits and to analyse the steps that could be taken to make the upward trajectory in this relationship irreversible.

The discussions were enriched with the participation of eminent security experts, economists, and members of the academe, journalists and former diplomats. The Vivekananda Foundation was privileged to also have had participation at the seminar of experts from Bangladesh notably former Chief of Bangladesh Army, Lt Gen Harun-Ar-Rashid, and Dr.Abul Barkat, President Bangladesh Economic Association and Professor and Chairman, Department of Economics, University of Dhaka. The contributions by Lt Gen Harun-Ar-Rashid and Dr Abul Barkat were invaluable and provided the Bangladeshi perspective.

In his welcome address Mr. Ajit Doval, underlined the strategic significance of Bangladesh for India. While Mr. Doval placed on the table all the issues which demand closer attention – the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh, border management, water sharing, trade imbalance etc-- he minced no words in saying that policy makers in India, by and large, have tended to concentrate on the “immediate” rather than upon the “important” and this perhaps was one of the factors why the relationship had not realized its full potential.

Mr. Muchkund Dubey, in his key note address highlighted that Bangladesh was a key country for India. In this context he argued that it was of critical importance for India’s stability, for the integration of the North East, for the success of India’s look East policy and for economic development. Regrettably India had tended to take Bangladesh for granted and had been “over calculative” in determining what it should do vis a vis Bangladesh in the short term thereby missing the big picture. He unequivocally stated that strict reciprocity should not be the guiding principle in dealing with smaller neighbours, like Bangladesh. In his opinion, the PM’s package to Bangladesh, though impressive, fell short of expectations. Mr. Dubey however argued that prospects for improving relations are high at this time. While suggesting that New Delhi provide a minimum of $ 10 billion economic assistance to Bangladesh, Mr. Dubey also urged Indian exporters not to ignore this vital country. In so far as bilateral trade is concerned, Bangladesh’ burgeoning deficit in balance of trade with India in the long run is not healthy. He further opined that doing away with negative list of items for trade will have an electrifying effect on bilateral relationship. Arguing in favour of a broad framework of cooperation with Bangladesh, Mr. Muchkund Dubey said that momentum provided by this historic opportunity should not be allowed to lapse.

Three sessions that followed thereafter were extremely useful in providing perspectives of both countries on a broad range of subjects including economic, political and security. The issue of trade imbalance between the two countries was repeatedly highlighted. However, it was recognized that given the nature of two economies, such a scenario was inevitable. There was a very detailed discussion on the benefits of connectivity. While this was critical for India, it was also of great importance to Bangladesh, in terms of infrastructure development, in terms of promoting exports, in terms of earning resources and for increasing its own productivity.

On security, the complexities of border management arising from the length of the border, the nature of its terrain, the proximity of the populations of the two countries, the extent of smuggling etc were vividly brought out. The discussion went into other aspects of security also – migration, environmental degradation, water sharing etc. Over all, it was a highly productive seminar with panelists cutting across nationality divide harping on the need for both India and Bangladesh sharing a common strategic vision.

Event Date 
October 12, 2011
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