LAST week, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India; and she had one and a half hour talks with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Twenty-two agreements were signed in the area of defence, nuclear energy, cyber security and media; however the two leaders witnessed the signing of only four pacts – on the judicial sector, a $4.5 billion development assistance line of credit, on outer space and on passenger and cruise services. In addition, India offered a new $500 million line of credit specifically for defence purchases. There is element of defence-related items in the so-called $4.5 bn development assistance line of credit, which has been downplayed due to pressure of the opposition parties and the people of Bangladesh. In fact, a great majority of people in Bangladesh are suspicious of India’s intentions. Anyhow, launch of three new transport links from West Bengal to Bangladesh was announced.
Reportedly, Indian Prime Minister raised the Teesta issue himself in his statement to the media. “Along with our shared land boundaries are our shared rivers. They sustain our people and their livelihood. The one that has attracted greatest attention is Teesta. This is important for India, Bangladesh and India-Bangladesh relations,” he said. In her statement, the Bangladesh prime minister added that not only the Teesta, but the Ganges barrage project was also discussed in the formal talks. “We discussed the issues of water resources management including sharing of water of common rivers, including Teesta, the Padma-Ganga barrage project and basin management of common rivers” she said. In 2015, Bangladesh government had expressed grave concerns on Indian government’s announcement of a scheme to link 30 rivers across the country, after protests of the farmers who were deprived of water due to India’s thievery.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Bangladesh had reiterated his commitment not to go ahead with the project if it affected Bangladeshi rivers. Delhi has overlooked a joint communiqué signed by two prime ministers of Bangladesh and India in 2010 in this regard. Prime Minister Narendra Modi had reminded Bangladeshis during his visit to Bangladesh that India had helped the country to get independence in 1972, so that they remain grateful to India. Of course, Sheikh Hasina daughter of Sheikh Mujib-ur-Rehman is grateful to India for its support to her government. Sheikh Hasina has gained complete control on all organs of the state through deceit and deception, and judiciary is no exception. Many Jama’at-e-Islami leaders have been executed after the verdict from so-called International Tribunal for alleged involvement in killing Bengalis and supported the then government during civil war.
It has to be mentioned that the Teesta water sharing accord has remained unfulfilled till date, thanks to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, causing acute embarrassment to the Hasina government, while the land boundary protocol signed during former Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka — on exchanging 162 enclaves — has not shown any satisfactory progress. New Delhi is facing trouble in clearing the impediments to the implementation of the treaty, which has to be ratified in Parliament. The Bharatiya Janata Party, opposed to the implementation of the 1974 border agreement, had expressed its strong views on the issue, and reportedly decried the land swap deal. Many see the BJP’s position as a roadblock to the emerging India-Bangladesh ties. In fact, both the Congress and the BJP are on the same page so far as India’s hegemonic designs are concerned.
In Bangladesh, opposition parties and conscientious and patriotic elements oppose defence deal or defence cooperation with India. Last month, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had warned that the people would not accept any anti-state defence deal with India during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the neighbouring country, reports UNB. “There’s a discussion among the people apart from the media reports that a defence agreement will be signed during the prime minister’s India visit. If Bangladesh adopts its defence policy as per India’s will, our independence will be at stake”, BNP senior joint secretary general Ruhul Kabir Rizvi told a discussion. He further said: “We’ll literally lose our independence, if we want to establish India’s defence interests sacrificing Bangladesh’s ones, and its consequence will be dire .The country’s people and the security forces won’t accept if any anti-state defence deal is signed, and they’ll come forward to resist it.”
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir had asked the government to disclose details of the defence deal likely to be signed between India and Bangladesh. “The media reports say that a security and defence pact is going to be signed between Bangladesh and India,” Mirza Fakhrul told a discussion meeting at the Dhaka Reporters’ Unit. The BNP leader was also critical of the government’s failure to ink the Teesta water sharing deal. He also said that a perception has gained currency among the international community that Bangladesh is turning to be a militant country, thanks to the government activities. Fakhrul alleged that the incidents (related with militant attacks and anti-militant drives) are not being investigated properly. He, however, said the BNP doesn’t negate all of those incidents. “But actions should be taken after proper investigation. The government must show acceptable logic.”
Bangladesh’s (BD) ruling party Awami League (AL) under Sheikh Hasina Wajid maintains an anti-Pakistan posture by expressing animosity, antagonism and unrestrained emotional flare-up. The aim is to exploit feelings of masses by keeping the “hate Pakistan” agenda alive to appease their mentor India. This enables AL and Hasina Wajid to divert the attention of the masses from their government’s failure to deliver. In other words, Hasina Wajid with a view to remaining relevant in Bangladesh and India uses vitriolic against Pakistan and its Armed Forces. Narendra Modi also uses every opportunity to defame Pakistan, and in a veiled reference while addressing a gathering at Maneckshaw centre, he said: “There is one ‘thought’ in South Asia that inspires and encourages terrorism. The thought’s priority is not humanity, but extremism and terrorism.” Indian media however said the reference was to Pakistan.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.