(Reuters) Prime Minister Narendra Modi will take border settlement and water sharing deals to Bangladesh next month as part of his drive to erode Chinese influence in South Asia, although Dhaka is likely to remain dependant on Beijing for military equipment.
India, which has had an uneasy relationship with China for decades, has long fretted over Beijing’s military cooperation with its South Asian neighbours, especially Pakistan.
It is also worried China is creating a so-called “string of pearls” across the Indian Ocean by funding port developments in Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Bangladesh.
Modi has won parliamentary approval for an agreement that will transfer a small amount of territory to Bangladesh that previous Indian governments failed to ratify for fear of a domestic backlash. The issue dates back to British India’s partition in 1947.
The prime minister has also persuaded a regional Indian leader to drop her opposition to share water equally from a key river that flows through India before reaching Bangladesh.
“There have been some contentious issues like the land border agreement which, frankly, we should have done years ago,” said an Indian official involved in Modi’s June 6-7 visit.
The migration of tens of thousands of people from Bangladesh into India has long been a sensitive issue in India, with Modi’s Hindu nationalist party making it a key campaign plank.
But since coming to power, Modi has fallen silent on the migration issue and has instead focussed on securing India’s strategic objectives in Bangladesh.
Srikanth Kondapalli, a China expert at New Delhi’s Jawaharlal Nehru University, said China had built close ties with Bangladesh as part of its South Asia diplomacy and that this was a concern for India.