India’s eastern neighbour, Bangladesh in clear words and through its firm actions has sent a message to both China and Pakistan that despite their best efforts to turn Dhaka against New Delhi, the Sheikh Hasina administration is standing ever so stronger with the Narendra Modi government. Reportedly, in what comes as a major development, India has now gained access to the crucial Chittagong Port after it was offered by the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to the north-eastern Indian states of Assam and Tripura for trade and uninterrupted commerce.
The announcement came after External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar met the Bangladeshi PM for a brief meeting in Dhaka on Thursday. During the meeting, Hasina told Jaishankar that enhanced connectivity through the Chittagong Port was needed for mutual benefit which would particularly benefit India’s north-eastern region.
She said, “If the connectivity is increased, the Indian north-eastern states -like Assam and Tripura- can have access to the seaport in Chattogram.”
New Delhi invites Hasina
Returning the favour and thanking Hasina for the reception, Jaishankar on PM Modi’s behalf, extended the invitation to Hasina to visit India. He said, “I conveyed (her) that we look forward to her visit to India at a time of her convenience.”
The EAM also took to Twitter to remark, “Thank Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her warm reception. Conveyed personal greetings of PM @narendramodi . Our bilateral relations are moving from strength to strength under the guidance of the two leaders.”
Thank Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for her warm reception. Conveyed personal greetings of PM @narendramodi.
Our bilateral relations are moving from strength to strength under the guidance of the two leaders. pic.twitter.com/3KAV8P1c0g
— Dr. S. Jaishankar (@DrSJaishankar) April 28, 2022
It is pertinent to note that the Chittagong Port is the main seaport of Bangladesh located in the port city of Chittagong on the banks of the Karnaphuli River. The port handles 80% of Bangladesh’s export-import trade and has been used by India, Nepal, and Bhutan for trans-shipment.
China’s string of pearls strategy
As reported extensively by TFI, when it comes to the maritime tussle between India and China, the past one decade has been all about the “String of Pearls”– Beijing’s strategy of jeopardising India’s interests in her own vicinity by building naval bases in the strategically located points of the Indian Ocean Region.
The Dragon has been concentrating on the Strait of Malacca, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, the Maldives and the Strait of Hormuz in order to checkmate India in the area of its traditional influence, viz. the Indian Ocean Region (IOR).
China usurping control of Hambantota and Gwadar Port
It was under this strategy that China usurped control over Sri Lanka’s Hambantota port and Pakistan’s Gwadar port. Thus, Bangladesh and its strategically important ports also appeared to be the next target for Beijing.
However, New Delhi, in recent times has upped its bilateral engagement with Bangladesh and managed to outpace China. As reported by TFI last year, Gowher Rizvi, international affairs advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had remarked that Dhaka was more interested in joining the “Indo-Pacific relationship”, rather than being a part of Beijing’s neo-colonial Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).
Gowher had said, “India is our most important partner and you cannot conceive of anything different. It would be suicidal to think differently.”
Gowher also pointed out that China had a role to play in Bangladesh’s growth story but it didn’t come at the expense of New Delhi. “China has a role in Bangladesh. They are an important part of our many development projects. But this is not in any way at the expense of our relationship with India.”
New Delhi extending credit line to Dhaka
Moreover, in December last year, India extended a $500 million line of credit to Bangladesh, under which Dhaka will soon import Indian defence equipment. China sells substandard defence equipment in the name of cutting-edge defence technology to Bangladesh. By extending the credit line, India is aiming to nullify China’s control and bring the Eastern neighbour closer to its corner.
With India gaining access to the Chittagong Port, China’s evil ambition of surrounding India has been dealt a cruel blow. In fact, New Delhi is on a red-hot form currently regarding its foreign policy. It has already sorted Nepal and Sri Lanka despite China’s desperate attempts to breed chaos. Similarly, the bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh are at their highest in recent history.