As the furore over Sunday’s historic land agreement between India and Bangladesh settles down, it is time to sit back and understand the bigger implications of the landmark settlement. On the face of it what this pact does is immediately gives a sense of belonging and statehood to nearly 50,000 people. By opening up the border spanning over 4000 km between the two countries, both India and Bangladesh have not just put to rest a long standing source of dispute but perhaps even opened a fresh chapter for India in terms of consolidating its position as a regional leader and consolidating the strategic location.
First and foremost this agreement gives India access to the strategic and commercially viable Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh. This will immediately cut down the 30-40 days travel time required for vessels to go all the way to Singapore and travel back to Bangladesh from there. Gaining access to the Chittagong port is not just a a major milestone economically but also a much better representation of the trust factor between the two countries. Experts have often feared China capitalizing on the port’s strategic proximity to India.
Modi’s thrust on connectivity as the primary theme driving India’s relationship with Bangladesh is seen as a major catalyst of development and stability in the region. The targeted 1000 MW power supply to Bangladesh in two years along with the $2 billion line of credit is likely to boost infrastructure, health, education and employment across Bangladesh. Not just that, the land deal will also improve connectivity of the north eastern part of India with rest of the country alongwith other nations like Myanmar, Singapore and the like.
So why exactly does India need to ensure development and better connectivity with its eastern neighbours? Well the biggest reason and the immediate cause of concern is stem the rising fears of the scourge of militancy reviving in the region. If the latest death of Army jawans in Manipur is any indication, serious steps need to be taken to curb their growing power. As a nation we have directed a major part of our defence resources to the western borders. In that context this Land agreement is perhaps the first and most important step towards engaging our eastern neighbours and slowly stabilising and securing our ever porous borders.