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Bangladesh: Sheikh Hasina’s Visit to India

An Example of Charismatic ‘Humanitarian Diplomacy’


by Swadesh Roy writing from Dhaka

We can dissect Sheikh Hasina's Delhi visit into two parts, firstly, joining the World Economic Forum Summit 2019 in India as a chief guest, and secondly, a short bilateral visit in India, in which, the first part of her visit turned out as more significant. As, when a corner of Indian bureaucracy and their civil society have been suspecting that China is playing their cards more in Bangladesh, in the meantime, by joining as a chief guest in the World Economic Forum Summit 2019 in India, which was organized by the Indian industrialists and business groups, it not only indicates a signal to the Indian businessmen, but also it was an assurance to the Indian businessmen that Bangladesh is not a place where only Chinese players will play their cards; rather Bangladesh is a place, where anyone can do their business if they qualify, be it an Indian, Japanese, Korean or even Chinese.


In that economic summit, the president of the World Economic Forum said, "21st century is dramatic and pervasive transformation and a shift from unipolarity towards multipolarity …." Following this, no doubt, the economy of South Asia is taking a multipolar shape. Once, the economy of South Asia was unipolar with India as its center, but with time, it has been changed, though not bigger like India, now Bangladesh is also a center of South Asian economy for its faster growth, geopolitical situation and for having a big internal market. Its far Eastern neighbour is the fastest growing economy of the world, China, and its closest neighbor is a powerful economy of South Asia, India, but both of these two countries have no way of ignoring the economy of Bangladesh which is a facilitator of these two bigger economy. In these circumstances, Sheikh Hasina’s join in the economic summit was the most important to the Indian businessmen. 

Like China, India is also looking at many African states for their investment. In spite of this, Bangladesh is more lucrative to Indian businessmen than Africa, for Bangladesh is politically and socially more stable than any of the African countries. Besides, in Bangladesh, at least 10 million young workers are ready to build up versatile kind of industries, and in the meantime, the young women workforce of Bangladesh has already shown their ability in the garments sector. Now, Bangladesh is in second position for exporting ready-made garments. We know that Vietnam and Cambodia are doing very well in much labor dense in export-oriented industries like shoes, toys, furniture, and electronic devices. It is true if Bangladeshi young workforce gets chance to produce those products, Bangladesh will surpass those countries, furthermore, they will do better in the software sector. Indian industrialist groups have that technology and expertise with running capital; even they know it very much that there is a lot to explore those mentioned sectors in Bangladesh than Africa. They are only afraid of China but Sheikh Hasina's joining of this summit gave the Indian businessmen more confidence to think a long-run investment in these sectors along with other innovative sectors.

The president of the World Economic Forum delivered his speech in Indian economic perspectives but he stated some future infrastructures which will be building up, such as, infrastructure development in Afghanistan, the international north-south transport corridor, the ‘Chabahar' port and India-Myanmar-Thailand highway even the BRICS Bank, and with saying this, he also mentioned the multipolarity of the economy. So, South Asia will also take a multipolar shape, and then these infrastructures will not only help the Indian economy but also accelerate south Asian economy, especially, the economy of the Indian neighbor and the faster economic growth country, Bangladesh. Bangladesh will use ‘Chabahar' port to Myanmar-Thailand highway even the Afghanistan infrastructure, and the Indian businessmen who will invest in Bangladesh can be a part of it too. Through this economic summit, Sheikh Hasina gave that signal to the Indian business houses. Now, the ball is in their court and the result of it depends on how they will play these balls.

The second part of Sheikh Hasina's visit was one day's India and Bangladesh bilateral visit. So far we know Sheikh Hasina did not agree for this bilateral visit at first. However, she agreed with it for insisting more from her counterpart, besides, it was also a courtesy. So, this bilateral visit was a very short working visit. In this very short working visit, two countries signed seven agreements; most of them are cultural and educational. Among them, two are notably important, one, joint surveillance in the coastal area, which is necessary for protecting fish and resists the terrorist and their arms smuggling, and the second one is that Indian state Tripura will get 1.80 cusec water from the Feni River, which is for their peoples’ drinking purpose because in that area of India, people have been suffering for a long time for drinking water as the underground water of the total area is arsenic affected and they have no surface water. 

For this humanitarian ground, Sheikh Hasina, the mother of humanity has given them the opportunity to withdraw this surface water, and for sure, Sheikh Hasina has shown her highest humanity and greatness. Now, the ball is again in the court of India. A huge number of people by the bank of the Teesta River in Bangladesh have been suffering for a long time in every summer for their drinking water and food grain cultivation water, but India is always telling that their West Bengal's Chief Minister's irrational position is the main cause which make them unable to make a treaty regarding Teesta River water. It is not the duty of Bangladesh to convince or pressurize the Chief Minister of West Bengal to make her understand the reality, rather it is the duty of Indian Central Government, and after the Feni river agreement, Teesta river water sharing agreement becomes a holy duty for the Indian Central Government. Sheikh Hasina has played a great diplomatic card in a humanitarian way like her father. Now, Mr. Narendra Modi has to prove his ability to reply Sheikh Hasina's card, otherwise, all failure will deposit in the Mr. Modi's account. And yes, through this short working visit, Sheikh Hasina has shown her that charismatic diplomacy.

Swadesh Roy, Senior Journalist, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He is a highest state award-winning journalist and can be reached at swadeshroy@gmail.com

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