by Nadeem Qadir in Dhaka
Those of us who value Bangladesh, India ties had no option but to be elated to see COVID-19 vaccine gift reach Dhaka from Bombay instilling the faith indeed our big nuclear-powered neighbor is a true friend as it is helping its smaller neighbor to fight the pandemic as it did in 1971 to defeat the occupation Pakistani army.
If one is not elated by this historic development, than one should shut up and at least say “Thank You India for being beside us for the second time in another time of crisis after 50 years.”
Bangladesh has become one of the first countries in the world to get vaccine to fight COVID-19 and that gave the bilateral ties a huge fillip after a brief period of a “dented one” over a number issues. We can thank India for correcting the situation and undertaking the repairing job very swiftly confirming that both the countries need each other for the welfare of their people as well as counter unwelcome elements from within and outside South Asia to destabilise the region.
These elements are using cash in supporting development efforts or backing Islamic militants.
The gift of 2 million vaccine is not just a fight against COVID-19, but a loud statement against such elements which will surely bring another victory for India and Bangladesh as both has taken off significantly on the economic front.
Indian Foreign Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar tweeted “Touchdown in Dhaka. # VaccineMaitri reaffirms the highest priority accorded by India to (its) relations with Bangladesh.”
His Bangladesh counterpart Dr. AKM Abdul Momen, looking visibly delighted as he received the gift from Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, Vikram Doraiswamy saying “India stood by Bangladesh during the liberation war and now during the global pandemic … This proves the true friendship between Bangladesh and India.”
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has thanked her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi for the gesture as she has aptly played her part like a statesman in telling New Delhi that unless taken care of, bilateral relations were nose diving.
In reply to Jaishankar’s tweet, noted Indian human rights activist Salil Shetty, wrote “Might need more than vaccines to mend fences,” while significant Indians drew attention about the state of those belonging to the minority Hindu faith in Bangladesh.
True, New Delhi must solve outstanding bilateral issues with Dhaka that provides “anti-India” sentiments in Bangladesh, including border killings and sharing of water of Teesta river mainly. For Dhaka, it must address the minority Hindu issues to uphold its stated pillar of being a secular country.
For both, it is the friendship that should not face any dip on the future that would require repairing and more than that, it is the strong ties which is a need of the time as global politics coupled with COVID-19 pandemic has taken a new multi-dimensional turn in all diplomatic or security strategies.
To end, I quote High Commissioner Vikram Doraiswamy’s recent tweet “Republic Day Parade 2021. First time ever to host to host Bangladesh contingent in our Parade. Together We Fought, Together We March, proud of 50 years of a friendship beyond strategic partnership.”
And we must march together
Nadeem Qadir is a Dag Hammarskjold Fellow with interest in Foreign Affairs and a senior journalist.