India fears losing Bangladesh to China, Pakistan

India fears losing Bangladesh to China, Pakistan

NEW DELHI: Shamsher Islam, a journalist working for a Bengali daily in Dhaka, told T*he New Indian Express* over phone that New Delhi faces the danger of “having put all its eggs in one basket.”

According to him, Sheikh Hasina faces increasing resentment and anti-incumbency in Bangladesh which goes to the polls later this year, and if her main rival, Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia -- who is currently in jail for graft—returns to power, “all bets are off.” She is regarded as pro China and Pakistan.

Indian Foreign Secretary Vijay Keshav Gokhale will arrive in Dhaka on Sunday on a two-day visit during which he will meet the top Bangladeshi leadership and discuss various bilateral issues including a summit between Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina, progress on the long-standing Teesta water sharing deal and the Rohingya crisis.

According to sources familiar with his schedule, Gokhale will land in Dhaka at 4:00 pm Sunday, and hold separate interactions with some Bangladeshi think tanks, civil society leaders and the media.

On Monday, he will participate in a bilateral conclave organised by a local think tank on “India-Bangladesh Relations: Deepening Cooperation and the Way Forward” with Sheikh Hasina’s foreign affairs adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi. He will also meet Foreign Minister AH Mahmood and foreign secretary Md Shahidul Haque, with whom he is expected to hold a comprehensive review of bilateral relations, sign some Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) at Meghna, the state guesthouse, and make a press statement.

Among other things, the two foreign secretaries are likely to discuss plans for Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh's tour likely in May, and the proposed meeting between Modi and Hasina during the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in London April 16-20. Gokhale will call on Prime Minister Hasina in the evening.

Sources in Dhaka said the Bangladeshi side would raise issues like the Teesta water accord, non-issuance of national identity cards to the Muslims from Bangladesh in Assam, the Indian army chief's recent remarks over the growing menace of Bangladeshi migrants in the state and the repatriation of Rohingyas.

On his part, Gokhale is likely to raise Bangladesh's growing engagement with China, steps to ramp up civil nuclear cooperation and the fight against terrorism. On March 1, India, Russia and Bangladesh had signed a trilateral deal on civil nuclear cooperation.

Despite Modi’s assurance that it would be signed soon, the Teesta water sharing agreement is dead in the water because West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has refused to endorse it. Dhaka also expects New Delhi to exert diplomatic pressure on Myanmar to start taking back Rohingya refugees who now live in large camps in Bangladesh. Despite these issues, the relationship between the two nations has been “increasingly friendly and cordial.”