‘Dhaka getting closer to Delhi, Beijing’January 7th, 2011 - 11:55 am ICT by IANS
Dhaka, Jan 7 (IANS) The first two years of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government have seen Bangladesh focusing its foreign policy on regional connectivity and boosting ties, especially with the two Asian giants India and China, a daily said Friday.Hasina’s official visit to India in January last year “helped clear the clouds that overshadowed the relations” between the two close neighbours during the rule of her political rival Khaleda Zia.
The 51-point joint communique signed during the Delhi visit “is considered a landmark in the new bilateral relations”, The Daily Star said.
Bangladesh has agreed to let India use its ports in Chittagong and Mongla, along with two other South Asian neighbours — Nepal and Bhutan. In return, India has agreed to allow transit facilities to Bangladesh for trading with the two land-locked countries through Bangladesh.
Bangladesh has also signed a deal to allow India use its Ashuganj river port for transport of equipment for an electricity plant New Delhi is building in the northeastern state of Tripura.
However, according to the newspaper, securing a loan of $1 billion from India mainly to upgrade road and railway infrastructure is seen as “a major gain” in the government’s foreign policy.
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh rushed his senior colleague Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Dhaka to witness the signing of the loan agreement, the paper noted.
In forging closer ties with India, the government remained unfazed by criticism from the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) led by Zia “that accuses the prime minister of giving too much to New Delhi and getting too little in exchange”.
Zia and her BNP officials have called it a “sell out” to India.
On the other hand, Bangladesh and India are yet to reach an agreement on sharing the waters of river Teesta, settling the dispute over 6.5 km of the border and removing the trade imbalance that heavily favours New Delhi, the English-language newspaper pointed out.
Under Zia (2001-06), Bangladesh was seen as harbouring Islamist extremists and amid protests by inrternational community, the US Congress had threatened economic sanctions.
“A bright spot has been Bangladesh’s success in clearing its name from the list of countries that harbour extremism and corruption. The country is currently commanding an image of a non-communal democratic country,” the paper said.
The past two years have also witnessed Dhaka taking steps to strengthen its trade and economic relations with China, “one of its long-time friends”.
Invited by Chinese Prime Minister Wen Jiabao, Sheikh Hasina paid an official visit to China in March last year producing a 10-point comprehensive joint communique to intensify cooperation in trade, investment, agriculture, transport and infrastructure development.
Bangladesh is seeking Chinese assistance in building a seaport deep in the Bay of Bengal and offering Beijing to use it through a proposed highway from Bangladesh’s southeastern part to the Chinese city of Kunming through Myanmar.
“Diplomatic analysts think Bangladesh spent the past two years in laying the foundation of a new-look foreign policy. They say 2011 will be the year for Bangladesh in getting the benefit,” the newspaper said.
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Tags: asian giants, asian neighbours, bangladesh nationalist party, clear the clouds, electricity plant, indian prime minister, indian prime minister manmohan singh, khaleda zia, manmohan singh, minister sheikh hasina, northeastern state, political rival, pranab mukherjee, prime minister manmohan, prime minister manmohan singh, railway infrastructure, regional connectivity, state of tripura, trade imbalance, transit facilities