Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Indo-Bangla relations

Sarwar Hussain

With unalloyed support for independence and strong opposition against the barbarism committed by Pakistan in 1971, India, no doubt, contributed much to the establishment of Bangladesh, showing great neighbourly approach to the war-stained people of the latter nation. With the passage of time, the relations, however, between the two countries have been termed as a 'complex' one, as there has been fluctuation, if not bitterness, between them.

Bangladesh, being almost entirely encircled by India via a land border stretching 2400 kilometres, considers its relations with India to be vital for political and economic reasons. During Mujib government the relations with India were at the peak but with the fall of the government mentioned, bilateral issues concerning the interest of the two neighbours, slowly but surely, started experiencing, in most of the cases, dissatisfaction. Issues such as South Talpatti Island, the Tin Bigha corridor and access to Nepal, the Farakka Barrage and water sharing, border killings and the construction of a fence along most of the borders gave birth to mutual misunderstanding. But the issues never turned extremely serious.

In recent years, India increasingly complained that Bangladesh does not secure its border properly, though many small pieces of land such as Padua, a part of Sylhet division, and South Talpatti Island, belonging to Bangladesh along the border region are still under Indian military occupation. However, India fears an increasing flow of economically depressed Bangladeshis to its territory and it accuses Bangladesh of harbouring Indian separatist groups like ULFA and alleged terrorist groups. India estimates that over 20 million Bangladeshis are living illegally in India, which has no reasonable footing. The Bangladesh government has consistently denied these accusations

Tipaimukh barrage issue has recently been a much talked about topic and managed to cause a hue and cry, for it is entirely concerned with mutual interest. The Indian government has planned to construct a controversial dam and a barrage on the upstream of the trans-boundary river Barak, with the intention of stopping the flow of water to Bangladesh which will, no doubt, cause a devastating effect in the latter nation. Bangladesh water experts, environmentalists, politicians and people in general protested the move in a peaceful manner. But their counterpart seems paying no heed but showing 'Big-brotherly' attitude, making the issue worse.

On top of that, Indian High Commissioner Pinak Chakrabarty has not only undermined the people concerned for their opposition to construction of the barrage but also termed 80 percent of the Bangladeshis seeking Indian visa as 'touts and brokers' at a conference in Dhaka. Regrettably enough, he delivered the highly objectionable and arrogant comments in front of high officials including the foreign minister herself with no protest.

Diplomatic relations among nations can never be developed blowing hot words and showing a 'Big-brotherly' attitude. If diplomats create a gap, who will bridge it?

(Sarwar Hussain, Dept. of Computer Science & Engineering, University of Chittagong).

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