The visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India at a time when the globe is still reeling from the effects of Covid-19 and unrest in Europe is significant because both nations must work together to combat the effects of a slowing global economy.

The world is gradually heading towards recession, and economists are predicting gloomy times ahead. However, the harm from a slump could be reduced with careful planning. The Bangladesh prime minister’s visit at a moment of global socio-political turmoil emphasises the importance of making the most of the longstanding friendship between the two countries.

On the second day of Hasina’s four-day visit to India from September 5, seven memorandums of understanding were reportedly signed between Dhaka and New Delhi.

These related to:

1) The withdrawal of water from Kushiyara River by Bangladesh under Upper Surma-Kushiyara Project, Sylhet via Rahmipur.

2) Scientific cooperation between India’s Council of Scientific and Industrial Research and the Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research.

3) Cooperation between the National Judicial Academy, Bhopal, and the Supreme Court of Bangladesh.

4) Cooperation between India’s Ministry of Railways and Bangladesh Railway for training Bangladesh Railway personnel at the training Institutes of Indian Railway.

5) Cooperation between India’s Ministry of Railways and Bangladesh Railway for collaboration for IT solutions for Bangladesh Railway.

6) Cooperation between Prasar Bharati and Bangladesh Television.

7) Cooperation in the areas of space technology.

During their private discussions, additional topics like connectivity, trade and commerce, investment, water resource management, security, border, and lines of credit were also raised. Hasina referred to the relations between the two nations as a model for neighbourhood diplomacy.

She also stated that all issues regarding the sharing of the waters of 54 common rivers, including the Teesta water-sharing pact, would also be handled in reference to the signing of the memorandum of understanding on the Kushiara River between the two countries. Since disagreements over water sharing have frequently come up between the two countries, the removal of water from Kushiyara will be appreciated.

Lessons to be learned

The two nations have shared a history and culture since Bangladesh’s Liberation War in 1971, as well as mutual trust and respect, enduring friendship, and ongoing cooperation. Over the decades, the two nations have also reached agreements on a number of pressing problems in a friendly and cooperative manner.

Everyone can see that any benefits Bangladesh has received from India have been brought about by the Awami League administration. As a result, we wish that all concerns will be resolved at once. In addition to these, the two nations will need to strengthen their economies by learning from the Covid-19 pandemic and current world events.

This cooperation must include providing Bangladeshi scientists and researchers with cutting-edge knowledge that may be used for development, given the impressive advancements India has made in scientific research. Getting expertise from the Indian Railways, one of the top five rail networks in the world, will undoubtedly help Bangladesh improve its own system. The major focus should be on rail travel that can reduce traffic while also providing train rides that are solely for enjoyment.

The memorandum between Bangladesh Television and Prasar Bharati is the other one that is generating a lot of interest. It’s unclear if this will permit Bangladeshi programming to be aired in India. The exchange of cultures must be balanced and not only go in one direction.

Despite its relevance, the issue of Bangladeshi experts gaining the possibility to work in India tends to be ignored. While multinational companies and other businesses in Bangladesh use Indian specialists, Bangladeshis with sufficient skills are rarely seen working in India.

It might be said that Bangladesh now has a very dynamic and driven business culture with professionals who can compete with the best. The governments of the two countries must also work together to support Hindi- and Bangla-dubbed films to build a strong cultural bridge.

The long-running Rohingya problem was highlighted during the current trip. Bangladesh needs India’s firm position on this issue, not just diplomatic platitudes. India has agreed to support the safe, stable return of Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to Myanmar. India, a regional heavyweight, is in a position to put pressure on Myanmar to give the issue, which has remained unresolved for more than five years, the attention it deserves.

In order to assist Bangladesh in achieving progress, stability and prosperity, Prime Minister Narendra Modi said that New Delhi would continue to walk hand-in-hand with Dhaka. He also emphasised the importance of working together to combat terrorism and fanaticism.

In the days to come, the friendship and fraternity between Bangladesh and India will only grow stronger.

Samina Akhter is a gender- and human-rights activist.

This article first appeared on The Dhaka Tribune.