The general secretary of ruling Bharatiya Janata Party has said India is not “a big brother” to the “special neighbour” Bangladesh.“We are partners. We are partners in progress, peace and prosperity,” Ram Madhav said in Dhaka on Friday, on his first-ever visit.He praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership and said “the way she protected Bangladesh’s democracy is quite laudable”.Madhav was critical of general strikes and violence in the name of democracy, in an apparent reference to opposition BNP-led programmes in Bangladesh last year.He said “democracy is the answer to all problems” between India and Bangladesh.Madhav, who is also a director of India Foundation, a BJP-aligned think-tank, was speaking at the inauguration of India-Bangladesh dialogue jointly organised by ‘Friends of Bangladesh’, and the Bangladesh foreign ministry.The dialogue, seventh of its kind, came on the back of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s Bangladesh visit last year when he and Hasina issued a joint declaration to give a new beginning to the relations.Madhav, who came to attend the dialogue with a high-profile delegation comprising experts, former diplomats, political leaders, journalists and activists, said he is here to reiterate the aim of the declaration.Foreign Minister Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam, and Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Harsh Vardhan Shringla spoke to take the relations to a new level.Referring to the settlement of the land boundary dispute between the two countries,Ali said it showed that “anything possible if political will is there”.
But water sharing still remains a thorn in the relations.“Water is a very sensitive and important issue in Bangladesh-India relations,” the foreign minister said, and hoped that it would be resolved “soon” in the spirit of “good neighbourliness”.The BJP leader Madhav said India and Bangladesh are “very natural” friends.“We are natural ally. Geography unites us. Geography cannot separate us. Our language connects us. Our history connects us. Our culture connects us.”“We are cultural and civilised cousins. Our growth and development story should be complementary.”He particularly mentioned trade and power issues, and said India would take every care to ensure “no injustice is ever done to Bangladesh on trade relations”.Madhav said India would also allow Bangladesh to bring power from Nepal. “India will give all sorts of support to Bangladesh.”He, however, quipped that things are “different” in cricket, in reference to the high-voltage Twenty20 Asia Cup final between India and Bangladesh on Sunday.“It’s a great connecting factor between the two countries. We enjoy the game of cricket that we are going to witness coming Sunday.“For us, playing the final with Bangladesh is a great joy, not war like with other neighbour. We enjoy it.”“We know your players are coming very well, defeating strong team in the neighbourhood.”He said democracy is also the answer to all problems between India and Bangladesh, the two big democracies.“This (with Bangladesh) relationship is very important to India. We are two big democracies of this region.”Bangladesh is doing “wonderfully well” in keeping democratic traditions under Sheikh Hasina’s leadership.“We are fully with you (the government) in this effort to uphold the democratic institutions in Bangladesh,” he said, criticising the burning of buses as well as public property in the name of freedom.“Our freedom is not absolute. Our freedom is a freedom within the framework of the constitution.”“Every freedom ends where the other man’s nose begins. My freedom is where the other man’s nose begins,” he said.The delegates of the both countries would discuss different aspects of the relations on Saturday.