Bhutan beckons Modi, Bangladesh not yet
New Delhi correspondent,
Published: 2014-06-07 10:40:16.0 BdST Updated: 2014-06-07 13:03:28.0 BdST
India's new Prime Minister Narendra Modi will make Bhutan, India's all weather friend in the Himalayas, his foreign destination to visit after taking charge.
But to signal that Bangladesh is 'very high' on his priority, he is sending External Affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on a visit to Bangladesh this month.
This will be Sushma Swaraj's first foreign visit and she will pass on Modi's invitation to Sheikh Hasina to visit India.
Hasina had not been able to come to Modi's swearing-in ceremony because she was away to Tokyo on a pre-scheduled visit.
Speaker Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury had represented Bangladesh at that ceremony.
"Bangladesh is high priority for Modi but he wants the outstanding deals lined up before he himself goes to Dhaka," said a top official in the PMO.
He was not willing to be named.
Modi will first visit Bhutan on June 14-15 and Swaraj will visit Dhaka on June 26-27.
"The PM's inbox on foreign policy is full," said Indian ministry of external affairs spokesman Syed Akbaruddin.
He said Modi's second foreign visit will be to Japan in July after which he will meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping on the sidelines of the BRICS summit in Brazil.
Xi Jinping will visit India in September for a high level summit with Indian leaders.
Only after that Modi will visit the US which is now all set to welcome him and stamp the visa denied to him so far.
The US is trying hard to make up for the delay in catching up with Modi.
"Modi's priority is clearly the neighbourhood and Asia," said South Asia expert Sabyasachi Basu Roy Chaudhuri.
But why is he not planning a visit to Bangladesh as yet!
"Modi is a leader who wants to deliver. He will go to Bangladesh only when he is able to deliver the Teesta water sharing deal and carry through the land boundary agreement in the Indian parliament," said a senior MEA official, but she was not willing to be named.
The PM has asked his 'team' to start working on delivering the deals to Bangladesh, a process likely to be complex because it involves getting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee -- and some in his own party -- to accept the Teesta and land boundary agreements.
He has also asked them to work on some additional concessions in other areas that can be delivered to Bangladesh.
Banerjee's stand on the land boundary agreement has lately softened but BJP's Assam unit remains firmly opposed to it.
Modi is seeking to get Banerjee to agree to the Teesta deal by getting Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Chamling (Modi's close friend) to release more water on the Teesta.
He is also likely to offer Banerjee a special financial package that would include a moratorium on West Bengal's debt servicing for three years.
Bengal Finance Minister Amit Mitra will soon meet Indian finance minister Arun Jaitley in Delhi during the pre-budget consultations, during which Modi may get Jaitley to work the Bengal deal.
"Modi has been chief minister for 12 years, so he understands this Centre-State bargaining much better than Manmohan. He knows a state has to be given something to get something out of it," said a senior Bengali BJP leader.
But since all this will take a while, Modi will not go to Bangladesh until he can "give a very friendly neighbour something we have committed and not delivered so far".
"That is why perhaps he is sending Sushma Swaraj to reassure the Bangladesh leadership that all commitments made by India will be duly honoured but will take some time because of the compulsions of Indian federalism," says analyst Ashis Biswas.
"That is his style. He will not go empty-handed to a neighbour."
During his telephone talk with Hasina just before his swearing-in ceremony, Modi expressed great appreciation for Bangladesh's firm action against rebels from India's northeast and Islamic radicals.
When National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon stepped down to make way for his successor Ajit Doval, he not only mentioned the need to maintain 'the best possible relations with Bangladesh in view of what the present government has done for India's security' in his hand over note.
He also drove home that point in his briefing to Modi, who also received similar advice from President Pranab Mukherjee.
Menon's successor Ajit Doval, a former IB chief, has expressed great satisfaction at Bangladesh's continued efforts to neutralising smuggling of weapons into South Asia.
In his first weekly briefing to the PM, Doval has mentioned the RAB's successful busting a huge arms cache at Habiganj's Satccharhi, which has been a base for the All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF), a top PMO source said.
But Doval has briefed the PM about the kind of weapons seized -- rocket launchers, mortars, anti-tank guns -- and the possibility of such weapons reaching Indian insurgents like the Maoists and the ethnic rebel groups of Northeast.
"That would mean these groups are trying to achieve a qualitative upgradation of their arsenal to intensify their insurgent activity," Doval is believed to have pointed out.
"That should worry us and also our friends in Bangladesh if such weapons keep finding their way into our region," Doval is believed to have said.
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