…it is evident that ISI is playing a role here with the right wing extremists and there are rebels making camps in Bangladesh for insurgency in India. These forces are a threat to both Bangladesh and India. To tackle them we need support and cooperation from the people of India. We need them to believe in us that we are not a threat to them as Pakistan is. Some incidents do not represent the mood of the whole country. And being a Bangladeshi, I will give my every drop of blood to resist the country from turning into another taliban-like Islami state. I would want a more secular government to run Bangladesh in the next election. India can play a positive role to pressurize Bangladesh in curbing these rightwing fanaticism. [Rezwan at Jivha]
Rezwan’s sentiments clearly indicate that India needs to take a strong foreign policy stance in favour of liberal democracy in its immediate neighbourhood. But an opinionated foreign policy would be rather gratuitous if India is not committed to help its neighbours’ quest for economic development. People-to-people contacts and business & investment seminars will be more worthwhile in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Nepal, Myanmar and Maldives than with Pakistan. Grandiose visions of a South Asian Union or a Saarc cricket team are just exercises in visionary fantasy – the practical solution is for India to improve trade and economic relations with its neighbours while maintaining a no-nonsense approach towards safeguarding national interests and promoting democracy.
Contrary to what many Indian politicians like to believe, freer trade with neighbouring countries is not a ‘concession’ – it brings mutual benefits. But unless India itself is committed to free trade, it is unlikely its persuade the smaller neighbours to do so.