Is it a new height in Dhaka-Delhi relations?

Abdul Hannan
Indian newspapers and apologists at home waxed eloquent of achieving a ‘new height’ and a ‘watershed’ in Bangladesh India relations by the recent  state visit of prime minister sheikh Hasina to Delhi. The statement frankly, is puzzling and beyond my comprehension.
To me, apart from the charm offensive of receiving our prime minister by  prime minister Modi at the airport and hosting her with the hospitality of a stay in the Rastrapati Bhaban and naming a Delhi road as Bangabandhu  Sheikh Mujibur Rahman road,  the visit achieved very little of substance.
Fall of expectations
Commentators in our TV talk shows have emphasised the importance of measuring the success of the visit by an analogy of a glass half full or half empty. But to me so far as gains of national  interests and priorities of Bangladesh is concerned, judging by careful scrutiny of 22 agreements reflected in the joint statement, the glass is empty.  The visit was a decline and fall of our expectation.
A done deal on sharing of water of Teesta river arrived at during the visit of prime minister Manmohan Sing’s visit to Dhaka in 2011 was stalled and aborted at the eleventh hour and has since stagnated on the lame pretext of West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s Intransigence. Yet, according to the Indian constitution, the central government has every right to enter into any treaty regardless of views of the provinces. Now after six years of foot dragging on the issue, India in a volte face climb down has declared that there is no water in the Teesta and has suggested other small river tributaries as alternative sources of water.
This, by all intents and purposes, is to send the Teesta water sharing issue to wither in the vines. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her disappointment when she reiterated our rightful demand for equitable share of all 53 rivers including Teesta.
Yet, India has taken full advantage of our traditional generosity and large heartedness to concede to every conceivable demand of India without a quid pro quo or reciprocity .We have responded positively to India’s security concerns in its Northeastern States by extending cooperation in apprehending and handing over its insurgents to India.
India wins more control
India has already received control of the use of our roads, railway, river ports , coastal river traffic and Chittagong and Mongla ports almost for free at insignificant revenue costs for transporting goods and passengers from its mainland to its seven Northeastern States saving huge costs and risk of traveling through insurgency infested Siliguri chicken neck.
And now, for a discerning eye of the newly 22 agreements and MOUs, India will take control of monitoring our cyber security and the peaceful use of our outer space apparently to prevent arms race, ensure  peaceful use of atomic energy and oversee our defence operation. There is no mistaking that none of the agreements is of our seeking. These are, excepting energy cooperation, all Indian agenda carefully crafted in documents to serve their immediate economic gains and far reaching security goals.
The $500 million credit to buy Indian arms hardware seemingly will be a wasted expenditure. There is nothing to feel euphoric about India’s pledge to offer $ 5 billion credit line to foot the bill of building road, river railway and port infrastructure to facilitate the transit and transport of Indian goods and passenger.
The breach of promise and bad faith by India is not new. Indira Mujib land boundary agreement on transfer in perpetuity of Tinbigha corridor to Bangladesh in exchange of Berubari festered over three decades till it was resolved.
It’s a one-way street
India dithered about sharing water of Ganges for a long time till a 30 year agreement was reached during Prime Minister Hasina’s previous government. Bangabandhu allowed trial run of commissioning of Farakka barrage over the Ganges river when Bangladesh used to get 54 thousand cusecs of water and after his death India continued to divert water upstream in Bihar, Urissa and Uttar Pradesh without any agreement with Bangladesh reducing water flow to a trickle and turning Northeastern Bangladesh in to sterile and arid land wiping out agriculture and ecological habitat. The matter was taken to the UN which called upon the two countries for a mutually agreed solution of the problem consistent with good neighbourly relation.
The same Indian intransigence happened for a long time about our maritime boundary dispute with India till it was resolved at last by intervention of international arbitration during Prime minister Hasina’s previous government. The offshore exploration of energy resources by foreign companies in 1974 in the Bay of Bengal within maritime jurisdiction of Bangladesh undertaken under Bangabanbdu’s instruction had to be abandoned at Indian protest.
The continuing protectionist tariff and para tariff trade barriers by India causing burgeoning trade imbalance of whopping $5 billion is now a well known story. India has imposed counter veiling duty on imports of Bangladesh garments. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina told her Indian hosts in no uncertain terms about the impropriety of anti dumping duties on jute goods. Eight lakh Indian citizens at work or doing business in Bangladesh send an annual remittance of about $4 billion and it is the fifth largest source of workers’ annual remittance income.
“Friendship is a flowing river”
India claims to be a friend of Bangladesh as a close neighbour. But what kind of friendship is it when it has raised 896 kilometers of barbed ware fence and watch towers along its border with Bangladesh in West Bengal, Assam and Meghalaya and is killing innocent poor civilian Bangladeshis at the border at regular intervals on the pretext of infiltration? The past painful saga of harbouring of Chakma Shanti Bahini insurgents in sanctuary in India, since stopped, is yet another infamous anecdote of Indian friendship.
The grabbing  with a show of force by Indian frigate named Andamans of  South Talpatti island – which clearly lies within Hariabhangha river stream of Bangladesh – claimed by India as Newmore island is yet another demonstration of litany of Indian friendship.  Prime Minister Modi’s anti Muslim rhetoric about infiltrators  from Bangladesh in electioneering campaign in Assam does not offer much credibility either of India’s professed friendship with Bangladesh.
We have given everything India has asked for with no holds barred. Our prime minister appropriately reminded the Hindu newspaper of India, ‘friendship is a flowing river’. Our friendship is bound to suffer and stumble by obstruction of the flow of Teesta.
Source: Weekly Holiday

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