Tense situation between Bangladesh and India 

There has been of late rethinking in the administration of Bangladesh to go along with Indian administration of BJP led government of Narendra Modi following introduction of controversial citizenship law in India. The bill was passed in Lok Sabha on 8 January of 2019 while the bill was not passed in Rajya Sabha, writes Mohammad Amjad Hossain.

Practically India has started witch hunting against Muslim in particular. This has been reflected as many as several bilateral visits from Bangladesh to India have been of late postponed. It seems strange that India felt the urgency to introduce controversial citizenship law after 72 years of independence from the British in 1947. By any stretch of imagination BJP in fact opened Pandora’s box.

The controversial citizenship law reminds me of riots in Indian province of Gujarat in February of 27,2002 when Narendra Modi was the chief minister of the state. According to an independent reporters’ group reportedly claimed that 5000 Muslims were killed while 50,000 Muslims were made homeless, several hundreds of mosques and around dozens of hotels, shops owned by Muslims were destroyed. I recalled that former chief of Indian Navy Mr. L. Ramadas in an open letter to Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee had condemned the anti-Muslim riot in India describing it as genocide and a Pogrom while he demanded the Chief Minister of Gujrat be dismissed for his involvement in the riots and a ban on extremist right wing organization like the VHP, Bajrang Dal and RSS. The demand came from no less than one person but from a former chef of Indian Navy. The United States banned the visit of Narendra Modi to USA in February of 2002 for genocide in Gujrat.

This being the situation in India recently Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is reported to have said that the bill for citizenship was not necessary while five bilateral visits from Bangladesh have been postponed and the Prime Minister is reported to have declined to meet Indian Ambassador to Bangladesh while she was on transfer to India on completion of her assignment. This attitude of the Bangladesh Prime Minister is not acceptable in diplomatic norms.  The Hindu of India reported quoting Bhorer Kagoj of Dhaka on 25 July,2020 that Sheikh Hasina did not honor the request of Indian High Commissioner Riva Ganguly to grant audience on her departure to join as Secretary (East) in the Ministry of External Affairs of India. In diplomatic parlance that is not acceptable.

India is reportedly worried about growing relations between Bangladesh and China in particular and China and Sri Lanka as well too.

This being the situation in international arena but Prime Minister Narender Modi added another dispute with the Muslim community in India by laying foundation stone of temple in the northern city of Ayodhya on 5 August 2020 but the place has been claimed by Muslims for century for old mosque which was dismantled by radical Hindus on 6 December of 1992. It was known as 16th century Babri Mosque but radical Hindus claimed that Ram temple was located in the same place without any historical proof.

India should think twice about relations with her neighbor: Bangladesh is very important because Bangladesh in fact granted access to India to reach landlocked seven northern states of India through Bangladesh with unfettered movement of people and goods on 8 August of 2010.

Having seen the situation with its close door neighbor that she is moving in a different direction that China was awarded for construction of Sylhet Osmani airport instead of India. The administration in New Delhi thought this was the fourth snub by Bangladesh; she dispatched its Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shrihghla to Bangladesh to patch up any misunderstanding that may have with Bangladesh. Foreign secretary who served in Bangladesh as Ambassador recently handed over a letter from Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh appreciated Indian offer of ten railway locomotives but expressed its indignation for not extending support to Bangladesh to persuade the government of Myanmar to repatriate Rohingya refugees from Bangladesh.

The visit of Indian Foreign secretary is viewed against the backdrop of China reportedly proposing to provide nearly one billion dollars to Bangladesh for a project to maintain the level of Teesta River during the dry season. Sharing of water from the Teesta river becomes an irritant between Bangladesh and India. Teesta River which originates in the Himalaya flows through Sikkim and west Bengal into Assam and Bangladesh draining 2,8oo square kilometers. On 7 June of 2015 Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi declared on his maiden visit to Dhaka that” water sharing is above all a humanitarian issue as it affects life and livelihood. I am confident that we can reach a fair solution.” Water sharing from both Teesta and Feni remains unresolved till today. Incidentally, this writer accompanied by grandson of Poet Nazrul Islam—Shuborno Kazi visited Assam sometime in 2009 and witnessed river bed was full of waters. There is no reason to share waters from Brahmaputra. Meanwhile, Civil aviation authority of Bangladesh has signed an agreement with Chinese Construction group for construction of Osmani International airport terminal in Sylhet.

Assigning Chinese more construction projects might have caused irritation in Indian administration. China has begun constructing the Padma multipurpose bridge project which is a multi-purpose rail way bridge across the Padma river. Its projected cost would be $ 1.1 billion. There is no doubt that India’s controversial citizenship law makes it uneasy in the administration of Bangladesh.

(Mohammad Amjad Hossain, retired Diplomat from Bangladesh and former President of Nova Toastmaster International Club of America, writes from Virginia)