Any summit level meeting between two neighboring countries usually promises solutions to bilateral problems and the promotion of mutual interests. But when it comes to a meeting between Bangladesh and India, thinking as well as patriotic sections of Bangladeshis get worried of the possible outcome of such summit level meetings, given the crudely selfish approach of the political and diplomatic establishment in Delhi.
This time, with the approaching visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in April 7-10 to India, the worries are more in Bangladesh, the apprehension that she might be intimidated to give in to India’s interest at the cost of that of Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina’s government, not installed through a proper election in 2014, lacks the strength of popular legitimacy; while Delhi stood by her when none at home and abroad had endorsed the farcical polls. The incumbents have paid back Delhi on many accounts, receiving in return almost nothing for the country, not even the due share of water from any of the 54 cross-border rivers.
Now, reports have it, during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India, Delhi aspires that Bangladesh sign with it various deals, including riverine, railway and highway connectivity, the use of Chittagong and Mongla seaports for transferring Indian goods from one part of India to another, a 500 million dollar defense purchase from India. Bangladesh, on the other hand, wishes to sign agreements on the due share of waters of the international rivers, removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers from various Bangladeshi products, removal of the unjust anti-dumping duty recently imposed on Bangladeshi jute exports et cetera.
However, there is no sign yet that India is going to address any Bangladeshi concerns in question. Instead, as regards water sharing issue, India is reportedly planning to initiate a new proposal for talks on ‘basin-wise river management’, which means, Delhi is to begin afresh a prolonged dialogue to avert whatever progress was made on the subject over the past decades. Delhi’s attempt to get Bangladesh to buy its defense material is not an innocent one, for one does not need to be a ‘security expert’ to understand that any country’s prime threat to its territorial integrity is perceived to be coming from its stronger neighbors, if any; and therefore, in Bangladesh’s case, India is to be perceived as the prime threat to Bangladesh’s independence and integrity.
Under such circumstances, any thinking person — civilian or military — is expected to clearly understand that it would be suicidal for the security of Bangladesh to use India as a source of military supplies, for no sane country could remain dependent upon a perceived enemy for spare parts of its weaponry or any other logistics. It remains to be seen whether Hasina would or wouldn’t meet Delhi’s self-seeking aspirations.
That the Indian political establishment remains extremely selfish in its attitude towards its smaller neighbors, particularly towards Bangladesh, is a known fact in the region. Still, Bangladesh does not regard itself to be as selfish as India when it comes to regional interests, for the people of Bangladesh, we believe, are inherently magnanimous towards its neighbors. However, the incumbents must realize that magnanimity towards a neighbor is one and giving away one’s national interest for the neighbor is another. The people have no reason to appreciate any suicidal deal with India, or any country, for that matter.
This editorial was first published in New Age, a Bangladeshi newspaper. Click here to go to the original.