India’s policy towards Bangladesh would not change even if there is a change of regime in New Delhi after the elections, its high commissioner in Dhaka has said.
The Lok Sabha elections started on Monday and would continue for a month.
“….Interests don’t really change with the government,” Saran said while delivering a lecture at the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS).
The envoy was replying to a question on whether the relation with Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League-led government would remain same if BJP comes to power in India.
Bangladesh-India relations entered a new phase of positive engagement in the last five years when Awami League (AL) and India’s Congress Party, who enjoyed historical relation with the AL since 1971 when Bangladesh was born, ruled their respective countries.
Listing a whole range of relationships, the envoy said, they are not going to disappear on May 17 when India has a new government.
He said every country has interests and “those interests really don’t change”.
“We are not going to roll back the power lines,” Saran said. “We are not going to shutdown Maitree express (railway services)”.
“These are initiatives that have been put on the ground and they are the new reality,” he said.
He said India would continue with those initiatives “as long as there is receptivity in Bangladesh on those initiatives”.
“If we have a situation when government of Bangladesh says thank you very much, we’ll pack up and go home”.
“In another words we will take forward our relations with Bangladesh at a pace and in a manner that is convenient and acceptable to the people of Bangladesh”.
In the last five years of the Awami League-led government’s tenure, there had been extensive engagements between the two countries including visits of prime ministers and president.
India, for the first time, rolled out $ 800 million line of credit for different projects and granted $ 200 million to Bangladesh.
The visa regime has been eased and “significant” efforts had been made to curb border killings.
There was a perception that India strongly backed the Awami League government when it held Jan 5 elections despite boycott by the Opposition.
High Commissioner Saran, however, on Monday said India always dealt with the government of the day. “We try and build relationship with the government of the day”.
He said India does what they think “good for relations and what may help people of Bangladesh”.
“If those do not meet expectation of people of Bangladesh, we will certainly go back to the drawing board and ask ourselves are we doing something which is wrong,” he said.
He, however, maintained that as long as “the fundamentals of the relationship are strong and as long as our interests remain constant, policy remained unchanged”.
The envoy also insisted that the relations of the two neighbours should be viewed “beyond the government and the politics”.
He said India had reached out to all part of Bangladesh’s society, political parties and opinion makers.
He said the two countries were going “through a phase where circle of engagement are actually expanding much more than was the case 25 or 30 years ago”.
He, however, stressed on understanding each other.
“We may know each other but the question is whether we understand each other?”, a question he said “we need to ask ourselves every day”.
Despite growing relationships, ratification of land boundary agreement and Teesta water sharing treaty are still pending.
The envoy, however, regretted that Teesta water sharing treaty had not been signed and said it was also “unfortunate” that the land boundary agreement could not be ratified, despite the ruling Congress Party’s efforts.
He said India was committed to complete those pending issues and that there was “no ambiguity” in it.
He said the change of the government after the elections would not hold back the progress so far made to resolve those issues.
The high commissioner said the land boundary agreement ratification has been placed in the upper house “intentionally so that it does not expire with expiry of the Lok Sabha”.
He said it would remain “legally valid” even after a new government formed.