Foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla is visiting Bangladesh and is expected to meet Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina. The visit is important as it comes at a time when some strains have developed in New Delhi-Dhaka ties. The NDA government here pushing the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens last year that were seen as vilifying Bangladeshis as infiltrators and anti-Hindu has not gone down well there. Nor has certain BJP leaders’ rhetoric threatening deportation of “illegal Bangladeshis” helped matters. All of this has put Hasina in a spot as her good relations with India are being questioned in the context of New Delhi’s perceived anti-Muslim slant.
Meanwhile, China is working hard to pull Bangladesh into its strategic orbit through massive economic and infrastructure assistance. And given that New Delhi and Beijing are now engaged in their own strategic-security tussle, the Chinese would like nothing more than to drive a wedge between India and Bangladesh. Just as they have been trying to do between India and Nepal. In fact, China recently convening a quadrilateral meeting with the foreign ministers of Nepal, Pakistan and Afghanistan shows that it is trying to create an alternative South Asian grouping minus India.
Against this backdrop, India should resolve any misunderstandings with Bangladesh and strengthen the existing friendly relations. Shringla’s earlier stint as high commissioner to Bangladesh was extremely successful. It is hoped that he can mend any cracks in the bilateral relationship. Meanwhile, New Delhi must realise that its domestic politics is having an impact on its foreign policy. Thus, any communal polarisation should be eschewed in favour of national and foreign security.