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সপ্তশীল

April 10, 2013

শেখ হাসিনার ত্রিপুরা সফরকে এত গুরুত্ব দিচ্ছি দেখে আমার খুব কাছের কয়েকজন মানুষ বিস্মিত হয়েছেন। তারা জানতে চেয়েছেন, এটা কি কোনো খেয়ালের বশে আমি করছি — নাকি কোনো সুনির্দিষ্ট কারণ আছে? আমি বলেছি, আমি জানি না আমাদের পররাষ্ট্র মন্ত্রণালয় কী ভাবছে, কিন্তু আমার একটা স্ট্র্যাটেজির দিক থেকেই আমি এই গুরুত্ব দিচ্ছি। সবাই জানেন বাংলাদেশের সীমান্ত শুধুমাত্র দুটি রাষ্ট্রের সাথে আছে — ভারত ও বার্মা। কিন্তু আমি যখন থেকে মানচিত্র দেখতে শিখেছি আমি দেখেছি বাংলাদেশের সীমান্ত আছে ৭টি ভূখণ্ডের সাথে : পশ্চিমবঙ্গ, মেঘালয়, আসাম, মিজোরাম, ত্রিপুরা,(ভারত) রাখাইন, চিন (বার্মা)। এই ৭টি ভূখণ্ডই নিজ নিজ রাষ্ট্রের প্রশাসনিক রাজ্য, এবং রাজ্য হিসেবে ভূখণ্ডগুলোর নিজের একটা প্রশাসনিক বিশিষ্টতা আছে। কাজেই বাংলাদেশের উচিত এই ৭টি ভূখণ্ডকে অত্যন্ত নিবিড় পর্যালোচনায় নিয়ে আসা। এর ফলে বাংলাদেশ অনেক সহজে তার আঞ্চলিক সম্পর্কের ক্ষেত্রকে দৃঢ় ভিত্তি দিতে পারবে। সে উদ্দেশ্যে শেখ হাসিনার শুধু ত্রিপুরা নয়, একে একে দুই রাষ্ট্রের এই প্রত্যেকটি রাজ্যে সফর করা প্রয়োজন। এজন্যই আমি ত্রিপুরা সফরকে গুরুত্ব দিচ্ছি — এখন পশ্চিমবঙ্গ, মেঘালয়, আসাম, মিজোরাম,(ভারত) রাখাইন, চিন (বার্মা) এই বাকি সফরগুলো হলেই আমরা ভাবনার সার্থকতা।

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4 Comments
  1. Nitin Pai
    August 18, 2013 Last Updated at 21:49 IST
    States are stakeholders, not spoilsports

    India can no longer rely on politics as the sole mechanism to balance the states’ interests with those of the Union

    The benefits of a big deal with Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina government are obvious: India gets land transit through Bangladesh’s territory – bringing the northeastern states closer to the rest of the country – in return for sharing the waters of the Teesta river with Bangladesh. Such a deal will strengthen the pro-India forces in Bangladesh’s politics and help counter militancy and terrorism directed against India.

    New Delhi wants the deal. Sheikh Hasina wants it too. The window of opportunity, however, is fast closing and the chances of success, unfortunately, look rather bleak. That’s because Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, the upper riparian border state, is squarely against water sharing. She also opposes the land border agreement that would settle the vexed question of enclaves each country has in the other’s territory.

    It is easy to see Ms Banerjee’s actions as unreasonable, dogmatic and uncaring of the overall national interest. Yet, as chief minister of her state, she is discharging her primary responsibility in promoting (her perception of) the interests of the people of West Bengal. This is, no doubt, coming in the way of a foreign policy breakthrough whose overall benefits are undeniable. Yet if some people in West Bengal must bear the costs of this, then surely their concerns ought to be factored in. The processes to accomplish this have failed or are non-existent.

    The stalled deal with Bangladesh is just another manifestation of a relatively new development in India’s relations with the outside world: the role of states in foreign policy, especially concerning the subcontinental neighbourhood. This has introduced new tensions in federal relations because foreign policy is the exclusive domain of the Union government.

    Consider a few examples of engagements our states have had with neighbouring countries in recent months. In March, the Tamil Nadu Assembly moved a resolution demanding New Delhi intervene diplomatically on behalf of the Tamil minority, and even table a resolution at the UN Security Council seeking a referendum to carve out a Tamil Eelam state. Last week, Tamil Nadu Chief Minister J Jayalalithaa called for coercive diplomacy against Sri Lanka to address attacks against Indian fishermen.

    Pakistan has announced its readiness to buy power from Gujarat. In July, Salman Bashir, its high commissioner, said that the purchase process could start once the dialogue process between the two countries resumed.

    In the last three weeks, Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar hosted two Nepali politicians – Nepali Congress President Sushil Koirala and former prime minister Madhav Kumar Nepal – for dinner and lunch respectively. Among the topics they discussed were suppression of criminal activities along the border and the importance of political stability for economic development.

    In May, a thoroughbred buffalo arrived from Pakistan at the Attari border crossing and spent around a month in quarantine in New Delhi before being housed at a veterinary university back in Punjab. The university hopes to revive the indigenous buffalo in the state and boost the dairy industry. The said buffalo is a gift from Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister of Pakistan’s Punjab province and the result of Sukhbir Singh Badal’s visit to Pakistan last year.

    Globalisation, economic liberalisation, growth and geopolitics have thrust many traditional foreign policy issues onto the plates of state governments. States, though, lack the mandate, outlook and competency to deal with them. More importantly, beyond politics, our states lack a formal mechanism to negotiate these issues with the Union government.

    After independence, it was politics that lubricated New Delhi’s relationship with the states on foreign policy matters. That was relatively simple – though never quite easy – when a single party was in power in New Delhi and in most of the states. It became increasingly complicated when non-Congress parties came to power in the states, and then when Union governments came to be run by coalitions. In today’s competitive political landscape, partisan posturing often replaces genuine differences on substantive issues.

    We can no longer rely on politics as the sole mechanism to balance the states’ interests with those of the Union. For when there is a breakdown in politics – as in the case of the United Progressive Alliance government and the Trinamool Congress in West Bengal – things fall apart, opportunities are lost and grievances perpetuated.

    We need to constitute a Subcontinental Relations Council, headed by the prime minister and comprising the external affairs minister and chief ministers of all states that have an external border. Such a structure would both provide a formal platform for negotiating the states’ interests vis-a-vis the Union and encourage states to develop foreign policy competencies in areas that concern them.

    To be sure, a council like this will not be a silver bullet, but its deliberations will provide a better basis for negotiations between political leaders. It will also provide them useful cover when unpopular decisions have to be made.

    We should stop seeing states as spoilsports and start seeing them as legitimate stakeholders. Foreign policy is and should remain a subject on the Union list. This does not preclude setting up mechanisms that would make India’s foreign policy more effective by including the legitimate stakeholders.

    [http://www.business-standard.com/article/opinion/states-are-stakeholders-not-spoilsports-113081800638_1.html]

  2. Boosting ties with neighbours BD’s foreign policy priority: minister
    [http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/2015/04/12/88605]

    Strengthening relations with neighbours is Bangladesh’s foreign policy “priority”, Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali has said, stressing that no country can prosper in isolation. “It is our firm commitment to set an example of good neighbourliness in the region, create a legacy for our posterity, and improve the lives for the millions of our people,” AH Mahmood Ali said on Sunday. Opening the conference in Dhaka University on Bangladesh’s engagement with its 2 neighbours India and Myanmar, he said countries of the region, facing common developmental challenges, “must work together to fight common enemies such as inequality, deprivation and poverty. We (Bangladesh) believe in the region’s collective development and prosperity,” he said. Dhaka University and Maulana Abul Kalam Azad Institute of Asian Studies (MAKAIAS) have jointly organised the conference with the support of a Bangladesh-based NGO, Research and Development Collection, and the India-Bangladesh Foundation. Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran, Myanmar ambassador Myo Myint Than, and MAKAIAS director Dr Sreeradha Datta spoke at the inauguration chaired by the university’s vice-chancellor Prof AAMS Arefeen Siddique. The opening of the conference follows a session on the Bangladesh-India-Myanmar relations in which former Indian foreign secretary Krishnan Srinivasan, President of Bangladesh History Congress Prof Muntassir Mamoon, and India’s deputy high commissioner in Dhaka Sandeep Chakraborty are to take part. Conference coordinator Prof Mesbah Kamal said the meet would discuss a whole range of relations with a special emphasis on trade and connectivity, maritime boundary, sub-regional cooperation, and tourism and culture. The foreign minister said, because of its “unique” geographical location, Bangladesh was poised to play its “natural role” as a bridge between South Asia and South East Asia. “Bangladesh is keen to have economic integration for the whole region, particularly with India and Myanmar, and thereby bring about unprecedented prosperity for all the three countries,” he said. “For this very reason, we have launched the sub-regional cooperation involving Bangladesh, India, Bhutan and Nepal – the ‘growth quadrangle’ as I call it. “Bangladesh is also taking an active role in the BIMSTEC process, hosting the Secretariat in Dhaka. All these are testimonies to our intention to achieve a more prosperous neighbourhood,” he said. “Bangladesh’s relationship with the countries in the region, particularly its immediate neighbours, is characterized by intensive engagements”. He particularly mentioned the current leaderships in Dhaka and Delhi, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her counterpart Narendra Modi, and said the relations had scaled “new heights” and attained “a new maturity” based on the “appreciation and understanding” of each other’s perspective. “Our bilateral policies with our neighbours are specially geared towards complementing and consolidating our ‘neighbourhood policy’ and ‘regional policy’”. Though Bangladesh’s engagement with India was widespread, the Rohingya refugee issue still remained a major stumbling block in its relations with Myanmar. Bangladesh has given shelter to thousands of refugees who fled Mynmar’s Rakhine province after sectarian clashes over the years, but Myanmar refuses to recognise them as its nationals. Yet, Bangladesh has peacefully settled its maritime boundary disputes with both Myanmar and India. The foreign minister, however, did not mention any irritant with Myanmar. He said the relations with Myanmar had also seen a “fresh start” after 2009, when Hasina came to power. “Myanmar is a gateway to connect South Asia with the ASEAN countries in the Southeast and East Asia. “Therefore, it is imperative for Bangladesh and Myanmar to continue to maintain a peaceful and congenial relationship for enhancing regional cooperation, trade and investment that will ultimately benefit the two peoples,” he said. “The power and energy sector cooperation has opened a new window of opportunity for strengthening of bilateral relations,” he said, according to a news agency.

  3. ‘India’s NE important for BD to connect with other states’

    Foreign Minister A H Mahmood Ali said on Monday India’s Northeast is an important area of diplomatic focus for Bangladesh, reports bdnews24.com.

    “Within the general framework of developing close bilateral relations with India, we are also seeking to develop intimate relations with Indian states bordering us,” Ali told the agency on the sidelines of a recent seminar organised by Asiatic Society of Bangladesh.

    “India’s Northeast is important for us because it has resources we need and also because it can help us connect to other countries.”

    Mr Ali said Bangladesh is interested in the economic growth of India’s Northeast.

    “India is augmenting its electricity output in the region, especially by utilising its considerable hydroelectric power potential. So we may be able to get some of the power we are looking to import from India, from its northeast region.”

    He said Bangladesh has much to gain if Northeast India develops.

    “If purchasing power of the people of Northeast India increases, Bangladesh can export a wide range of its products to the region.”

    “Our quality electronics, motorcycles, textiles and other consumer durables will enjoy competitive cost advantage in the Northeast.”

    He said the ‘border haats’ have served the purpose of developing trade between Bangladesh and the Northeast Indian states.

    “There is a demand for setting up more such haats and for expanding the list of items to be traded as well as for increasing the volume of trade,” he noted.

    The foreign minister said Bangladesh is well on course to establish a deputy high commission in Guwahati, Assam.

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