During Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June 2015, the two sides unveiled a 65-paragraph joint declaration titled Notun Projonmo — Nayi Disha. On Saturday, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in New Delhi, the two countries issued a joint declaration of 62 paras. A comparison of the two joint statements provides valuable insights into the ways in which the bilateral relationship has evolved over the last two years.
Defence was nowhere in 2015, it has found prominent mention in 2017. Nuclear was still at a exploratory stage in 2015; a foundational agreement has been signed in 2017. Space cooperation was limited to the South Asia satellite project; a space cooperation pact is in place now.
Indira Gandhi, who found a cursory mention in 2015, is nowhere in 2017. And on Teesta, there is status quo.
‘Modi’ figured 42 times in 2015; 23 times in 2017. ‘Hasina’ was mentioned 31 times and 30 times respectively. In 2015, ‘friendship’ figured 5 times; in 2017, 4 times. ‘Partnership’ has jumped from only once in 2015 to 6 mentions this time. And ‘development’ has fallen from 25 mentions to 12; ‘cooperation’ from 42 to 38.
A more detailed look:
DEFENCE: From zero mention to a substantive paragraph
2017: The two leaders agreed to foster mutually beneficial and deeper defence cooperation in the spirit of the joint operations by the two countries during Bangladesh’s war of liberation. They noted that the first ever visit by the Defence Minister of India to Bangladesh in November 2016 was a significant step towards taking cooperation to a new level. The two Prime Ministers stressed the need for greater military-to-military training and exchanges, and complimented the armed forces for their professional conduct during Joint Search and Rescue Operations in the Bay of Bengal leading to the rescue of a large number of fishermen from both sides.
2015: No mention of defence.
TERRORISM: From boilerplate para to detailed enunciation
2017: Recognising that terrorism remains one of the most significant threats to peace and stability in the region, the two Prime Ministers reiterated their strong commitment to combat it in all its manifestations, and stressed that there could be no justification for any act of terror. They expressed satisfaction at the cooperation on security, and strongly condemned the recent barbaric terror attacks in India and Bangladesh. To corner Pakistan, they expressed their conviction that the fight against terrorism should not only seek to disrupt and eliminate terrorists, terror organisations and networks, but should also identify, hold accountable and take strong measures against states and entities that encourage, support and finance terrorism, and provide sanctuary to terrorists and terror groups. They called upon the international community to end selective or partial approaches to combating terrorism, and for the UN General Assembly to finalise and adopt soon a Comprehensive Convention on International Terrorism. The two PMs recognised the need for urgent measures to counter and prevent the spread of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation in the region, and reiterated their commitment to ensuring that their territories would not be allowed to be used for any activities inimical to the other.
2015: The PMs expressed satisfaction at the unparalleled cooperation on security issues and reaffirmed their unequivocal and uncompromising position against extremism and terrorism in all forms and manifestations, as well as their commitment to cooperate with each other by sharing information about groups and persons indulging in terrorism. Modi expressed India’s appreciation for the cooperation extended by Bangladesh in security-related matters. The PMs expressed satisfaction at the conclusion of the MoUs on Prevention of Smuggling of Fake Currency Notes, Cooperation between Coast Guards and Prevention of Human Trafficking.
NUCLEAR: Big leap to civilian nuclear energy cooperation
2017: The PMs expressed their appreciation for the growing bilateral cooperation in the field of civil nuclear energy, especially in training and capacity building. They welcomed the signing of the inter-Governmental Agreement for cooperation in the field of Civil Nuclear Energy and other agreements related to nuclear cooperation.
2015: The PMs agreed to further enhance cooperation in the energy sector, particularly in renewable energy and nuclear energy.
SPACE: From South Asia satellite to detailed cooperation
2017: The Prime Ministers noted with satisfaction that India, Bangladesh and several other South Asian countries had decided to participate in the South Asia Satellite Project, which offers application of space technology for development of the region, including disaster management. Modi offered support and cooperation for the satellite programme of Bangladesh. An MoU was signed between Indian Space Research Organisation (ISRO) and Bangladesh Telecommunication Regulatory Commission (BTRC).
2015: Hasina announced Bangladesh’s first satellite, the Bangabandhu Satellite-I, was scheduled to be launched in 2017, and appreciated the SAARC Satellite project being undertaken by India.
GENOCIDE: The word makes a prominent appearance
2017: The PMs condemned the genocide that occurred in Bangladesh in 1971. They solemnly acknowledged the atrocities and called upon the international community to recognise and preserve the memory of those who lost their lives and suffered during the genocide. Modi thanked Hasina for her government’s gesture of recognising the sacrifices made by 1,661 Indian soldiers who died during Bangladesh’s war of liberation. Hasina personally handed over a citation and crest to the next of kin of 7 Indian officers and soldiers who sacrificed their lives in the war.
2015: The PMs underscored the need to preserve the memory and legacy of the war and the freedom fighters. Hasina sought assistance from India in bringing back the mortal remains of Bangladeshi freedom fighters who had been buried in Indian soil.
INDIRA GANDHI: From cursory mention to disappearance
2017: The former Prime Minister finds no mention.
2015: The PMs recalled with gratitude the role played by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and Indira Gandhi in finalising the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement.
TEESTA: No visible change since 2015
2017: Hasina requested Modi for the conclusion of the Interim Agreement on Sharing of the Water of Teesta as agreed upon by both governments in January 2011. Modi reiterated that his government is working with all stakeholders in India for an early conclusion of the Agreement.
2015: Hasina requested Modi for immediate conclusion of the Interim Agreement on Sharing of the Water of Teesta as agreed upon by both governments in January 2011. Modi conveyed that deliberations were under way involving all stakeholders.