India PM on visit to Dhaka; trade, extradition treaty on agenda


Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed answers a journalist's question, 26 January 2001, during a press conference at her official residence Ganababhan in Dhaka.

India's Prime Minister Manmohan Singh left for a two-day visit to Bangladesh on Tuesday, hoping to revamp bilateral ties and set the stage for strengthening India's influence in South Asia.

According to the Times of India, Singh hopes to push through deals related to the extradition of convicted criminals, rail and road links, power distribution, and border management.

However, the visit has been clouded by the uncertainty over the signing of an accord on sharing of waters of Teesta River following strong reservations expressed by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who pulled out of the visit, the paper said

During his visit, Singh will hold talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, call on President Zillur Rahman and hold meetings with opposition leaders Begum Khaleda Zia and Jatiya Party chief Hussain Muhammed Ershad, the former military dictator, according to TOI. 

Last month, in the leadup to the visit, political commentator C. Raja Mohan tipped the meeting as a potential game-changer in South Asia, saying:

The new commitment in Dhaka and Delhi to build a bilateral partnership allows us to imagine shared prosperity with our eastern land neighbours — Nepal, Bhutan, Myanmar and China.

Mohan argues that India's ties with Bangladesh could send a message to its other neighbors that New Delhi is willing to give ground and share its newfound wealth, rather than maintaining the dogmatic "big brother" attitude that has angered its allies in the past.  And that could have big implications:

Delhi and Dhaka are today in a position to demonstrate the real meaning of “strategic depth” — shared prosperity through trans-border connectivity and economic partnerships. If they succeed, Rawalpindi too might rethink its relations with India and Afghanistan, revisit its much touted concept of strategic depth, and restore the historic connectivity between Delhi, Lahore and Kabul.