Why should Bangladesh have an open-minded, fact-based discussion on relations with India before its elections?

Why should Bangladesh have an open-minded, fact-based discussion on relations with India before its elections?

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When elections are held in Bangladesh or India, will our bilateral relations be a part of the election debate? I think issues like bilateral trade and commerce, safety of lives of people on the border or sharing of common river waters will be raised in the pre-poll discussions. Also, the political-economic importance of various geopolitical and geo-strategic alliances emerging will also be considered. Especially the focus will be on the role of China in the region.

Globally, value-based interstate relations have been replaced by transaction-based relations. We have entered into so-called identity politics. When ‘we’ is replaced by the difference between ‘you’ and ‘I’, different identities will emerge in the respective countries, fundamentally based on the religious identity of the larger population. Why might this be an important election issue? We should keep in mind that in one country there is a religious majority and in another country there is a religious minority. And the religious minority in one country is the religious majority in the neighboring country. If there is no understanding and sensitivity in this relationship then the entire relationship gets entangled in complications. Electoral equations further fuel such complications.

The mindset of political groups in Bangladesh regarding the expected development in relations with India is not clear. That is why Bangladesh should bring the unresolved and prevalent issues in Bangladesh-India relations into the election debate. When the political system for elections in our country becomes clear, the parties concerned should clearly highlight their recommendations in their election manifestos to make relations with India fruitful.

The government will also have to present in a transparent manner how we want to take bilateral relations forward. They should also include others in this discussion and give them some kind of recognition as partners in the process. The government should not assume that relations with India are its only achievement.

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