Modi-fied India-Bangladesh ties: Small gestures go a long way

When Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s plane took off for Dhaka, Sheikh Hasina’s Foreign Policy Advisor said that it was to be a “landmark visit”. Living up to the expectations, the tour was very successful- Mr Modi met the political leadership across party lines and presided over the exchange of instruments of ratification on the historic land boundary agreement. The two neighbours came out with a 65-point joint declaration, signed 22 agreements and extended a whooping 2 billion USD credit line for developmental aid (regarded by some to be a coup on Chinese chequebook diplomacy in the region). Quite understandably, the media went gaga on either side, calling the visit a watershed moment in bilateral relations.

Hype apart, small gestures go a long way in building a relationship, but often remain unnoticed. In the slow moving wheels of international diplomacy, it is necessary to not see them merely as photo ops, but as genuine steps towards winning over the hearts of people, which in the long run generate tangible benefits. These measures, which go beyond the stuffiness of formalities and protocols which shroud diplomatic interactions, show a more humane face and build on people-to-people contacts, a major focus area for Mr Modi in his foreign policy efforts. With the savvy use of technology, and a strong social media presence, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj has been making it a point to highlight these aspects to build on India’s soft power.

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