Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent two-day state visit to Bangladesh has been pathbreaking in more ways than one. Not only is Singh's visit to Dhaka the first by an Indian prime minister since 1999, Singh is the first prime minister from India's 126-year-old Congress party to visit his country's eastern neighbor in nearly 40 years.
Bangladesh, formerly East Pakistan, won independence in 1971 with Indian military help. But relations between the two South Asian nations have since been bedeviled by mutual mistrust and border clashes that have thwarted any attempts at substantive commercial or political engagement.
Until recently, New Delhi viewed its eastern neighbor as no more than a nettlesome perpetrator of illegal migration and terrorism on its border. For its part, Dhaka saw India as a regional heavyweight, insensitive to its concerns and interests. This prevented the two sides from fully leveraging the benefits of mutual cooperation.