There has been a huge ruckus in the national news about Nawaz Sharif’s visit to India for Narendra Modi’s oath taking. Much has been made of the rhetoric of peace talks, but all the chips seem to be in Modi’s hands as India primps and primes the SAARC countries for better trade relations and non-discriminatory market access. Lets not forget that while all eyes were on Sharif, Karzai was also present and Afghanistan is hungry for a foothold to counter balance Pakistan. And while Sharif’s visit led to no juice being squeezed on important issues like water and Kashmir, Modi’s first official visit is scheduled to be Bangladesh. The oath taking invites were part of Modi’s show, and here is the trailer for the next episode.

The Bangladehsi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has a great stake improving bilateral relations with India. She needs continued Indian support for her regime to offset US pressure for free and fair elections. She also needs India to sign the Teesta water sharing treaty and implement the land boundary agreement which Singh could not pull through on. Hasina has proven herself to India with an effective crackdown on northeast Indian separatists and Islamic radicals. She will have to manoeuvre dialogue such that Modi does not fulfil his poll promise of pushing out illegal Bangladeshi immigrants from India. Such a move on Modi’s part puts pressure on her from Khalida Zia’s opposing Bangladesh National Party (BNP).  The BNP is just waiting for Hasina to trip-up, which may well happen if Modi and his Hindu-nationalism sparks anti-Indian sentiments in Bangladesh. This will be a blessing for Khalida Zia to revive her party as well as the allied Jamaat-e-Islami, which is still sore over its senior leaders facing death or life sentences over 1971 war crimes.

The BJP’s manifesto mentions that South Asia will be a focus. In the case of Bangladesh it will be easy to take the relationship to a higher level because the government is willing and has played smart with India. Hasina’s government has taken a secular stance and restored trust in relations with India by being responsive to its concerns on terrorism. She needs India for her survival and Modi will be greeted by sunshine and flowers. Visiting Bangladesh first underlines the importance India attaches to its neighbours, and sends a signal that India is the centre of South Asia and will reward good behaviour.