THE outcome of the Indo-Bangladesh summit during the just concluded three-day official visit of Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia to India is seemingly reassuring. If it has set the tenor of the future of bilateral relations of the two countries, one has reasons to be happy about. Nobody expected that all outstanding bilateral issues, accumulated over the years due to myopic handling of mutual relations could be resolved in three days. The wise words of the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, that it is in India's fundamental interest to see Bangladesh as a "strong, stable and economically strong" country making contribution to regional development carry promises that the future relations would be better. Taking this as a policy statement, one may hope that all outstanding issues will be resolved without taking a unduly long time in a spirit of mutual respect and common understanding setting an example of good neighbourliness.
On the substantive side, the visit resulted in the signing of the revised trade agreement and an agreement for mutual co-operation for preventing illicit trafficking of narcotics and psychotropic substances and related minerals. According to news reports, the revised trade agreement aims at expanding bilateral trade and economic relations on the basis of equity and mutual benefits by trade facilitation through expansion and diversification. The two sides have reportedly committed themselves to make mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of their waterways, roads and railways for commerce between the two countries and passage of goods between places in one country through the territory of the other. The latter provision seems to have been carefully crafted to avoid binding the two countries to an irrevocable commitment to controversial arrangements like transit as the inclusion of the phrase "to make mutually beneficial arrangements for the use of their waterways, roads and railways" for whatever will require future negotiations. The other agreement about joint efforts for prevention of illegal trafficking of narcotics will hopefully lead to an end to the seemingly unending flow of phensidyl and other harmful drugs from across the border. It will help modify public perception in this country about the actual intention of the nation's giant neighbour.
According to the joint press release issued at the end of the visit, the two sides agreed that meetings of the bilateral institutional mechanisms like the joint economic commission, the joint boundary working groups, the joint rivers commission and the home secretary-level talks will be held more frequently to ensure movement of related issues in a positive direction and their outcome will be monitored by the political leadership in a continuous manner. Whether it is security, trade or sharing of waters, the two prime ministers reaffirmed their commitment to work closely together to find mutually satisfactory solutions. This commitment from the two sides underlines a common understanding about the pressing need to resolve the related outstanding bilateral issues.
The unfounded charges raised by some quarters in New Delhi about Bangladesh harbouring terrorists and Indian insurgents and that these terrorists were involved in the recent bomb blasts in some places in India appear like an effort to spoil a feast while foods are in the process of preparation. Finance Minister Saifur Rahman was right in telling an Indian journalist that "as long as you have this erroneous impression, relations between the two countries cannot improve." However, the said terrorists could be the wanted persons in Bangladesh, who, Dhaka has long complained, have been sheltered in India. The decision to make the Sealdah-Jaydevpur rail link operational will intensify the people-to-people contact between the two countries to enable the Indians to realise that these charges are groundless. One should wait and watch how far the wise words of the Indian prime Minister, quoted earlier, find reflection in the shaping realities of the days ahead.