Bengali diplomacy: Cornered Mamata now looks for a friend in Dhaka

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West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is set to visit Dhaka along with her entourage on Friday ahead of the International Mother Language Day. Though the reason is an occasion of linguistic solidarity, but Banerjee's Dhaka visit is nothing less than a CBM or confidence-building measure as it is known in the domain of foreign policy. [Can International Mother Language Day boost Bangladesh to do well against Australia in World Cup on Feb 21?]

Mamata dictated terms when a vulnerable coalition govt was at the Centre

Just as Banerjee was adamant of Manmohan Singh's vulnerable UPA government and dictated terms to cancel her trip to Dhaka in 2011 and put the Teesta Water Treaty in a jeopardy, she is as desperate this time to recover some lost ground after finding herself at an uncomfortable distance from both New Delhi and Dhaka in the wake of the Saradha scam and the revelation of Bangladeshi terror modules operating from the Indian soil. [Why AAP phenomenon didn't take place among intellectual Bengalis first]


Objection to water treaty, charges of terror connection increased gap between Dhaka and Kolkata

The objection to the water treaty didn't win Banerjee any friend in Dhaka and the Khagragarh blast and its aftermaths created more uneasiness in the relation between the two Bengals, something that Banerjee has always stressed to improve in the past.

Dhaka came closer to New Delhi in the meantime

In the meantime, the new government in New Delhi and Sheikh Hasina government in Dhaka have come closer over the last few months, thanks to Prime Minister Narendra Modi's focus on improvement of relations with the neighbours, putting Banerjee even under more stress.

Cornered Mamata then decided to make a turnaround

The Trinamool Congress chief has been seeking an opportunity to visit Bangladesh to mend the battered relationship but there was hardly any response from either New Dekhi or Dhaka.

The opportunity finally came ahead of February 21, a sentimental day for Bengalis and no other occasion could have been better than this for Banerjee to cement the bond between the two Bengals.

Mamata changed her stand on Indo-Bangla enclaves issue

It was only after the West Bengal chief minister softened her stand on the swapping of the Indian and Bangladeshi enclaves that the Centre decided to reciprocate and her visit to Dhaka thereafter became a reality. Both New Delhi and Dhaka now believe that if the mercurial Trinamool Congress chief at least shows a soft side on the Teesta treaty this time, then also the bilateral relation could progress to a distance.

The growing headache for the TMC at home over the Saradha chit fund scam and alleged connection to terrorists has left not much option for Banerjee but to soften her stand. The Bangladeshi side will expect her to take a step back on the Teesta issue as well.

Continuing rigidity could harm her in the 2016 polls, Mamata understood

Banerjee has understood that if she continues to take a stern stand on issues related to Bangladesh, then the BJP could use it to its advantage before next year's assembly election. With her friend circle thinning in Indian politics, Banerjee is now looking abroad to make friends.

Bangladesh still matters for a sizeable section of people living in West Bengal today for sentimental reasons. By crossing swords with Dhaka, Banerjee could annoy her constituency more. The occasion of the Mother Language Day makes it all the more apt.

Mamata reaching out to Bangladesh by soft means

Banerjee is set to meet PM Hasina and Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid on Friday. She is likely to ask the Bangladeshi leaders to lift the ban on export of Hilsa from Padma River in Bangladesh (yet another attempt to woo Bengali sentiments).

The West Bengal has already freed Bangladeshi prisoners from various jails in the state. Banerjee has also asked to start a honorary chair at University of Calcutta for Sheikh Mujibar Rahman, the late hero of the Bangladeshi Liberation War and father of the current Bangladeshi prime minister. Banerjee will invite Hasina to be present at the inauguration of the chair.

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