Why Bangladeshis Are Unhappy With the Visit of India’s Top Diplomat?

Many in Bangladesh are criticizing the recent unannounced visit of India's Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla to Dhaka. Bangladeshis think India is pressing Dhaka to drift away from China.

Posted on 09/7/20
By Mohammad Zainal Abedin | Via ViewsWeek
(File photo) Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla meeting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid in Dhaka during his visit to Dhaka in March this year.
Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla arrived in Bangladeh on an unscheduled visit on August 18. Claims in the Indian media said Shringla brought a special message from Prime Minister Narendra Modi for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid. Reports say Bangladesh government was kept totally uninformed about the unscheduled hurricane visit. Indian foreign ministry didn’t even contact anyone in Bangladesh Foreign Ministry.

Such an abnormal and un-intimated visit has fueled a new wave of anger and suspicions among sections of Bangladeshis. Many called it a “violation” of their country’s sovereignty. “Indian leadership must openly say whether they believe that Bangladesh is an independent sovereign separate country or it is India’s client state where Indians can enter anytime as they wish. Seeing the attitude of the Indian leadership, it seems that  Bangladesh, in their psyche, is its satellite state, otherwise how  Shringla could come to Bangladesh without any prior intimation,” asks Najmul, a Jamaica, New York, based Bangladeshi. “Shringla would not have entered Bangladesh if he would have the slightest sense of etiquette and diplomatic norms.” Shringla, according to him, is a follower of RSS and ISKCON, shouldn’t have been allowed to enter Bangladesh, they way he entered.

Some frustrated Bangladeshis want their government to summon Riva Ganguly, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh, and tell her that no Indian visitor will be allowed to enter Bangladesh in the future if proper diplomatic protocols are not followed.  It is an internationally established norm that whenever any foreign official pays a visit to another country, the date, time, agendas, and even itineraries are discussed beforehand with the host country, no matter how urgent a visit may be. But in case of Shringla’s visit, this accepted norm was totally ignored.

Even before Sringla, some officials from India visited Bangladesh on so-called hurricane tours but those were intimated and discussed in advance. ‘Such visits take place when the host country is considered as a satellite state. India, seems to consider Bangladesh to that level. It is something like conveying instructions to their yes-men and evaluate their performance or give them warnings,” adds Najmul.

It was flashed in Indian meida that Shringla would stay in Bangladesh for some hours and leave for New Delhi the same day. But the reality was not so that was unofficially circulated via media. So Bangladesh virtually gave  no official importance to Shringla’s tour.

No official from Bangladesh foreign ministry went to the airport to greet Shringla. Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Reva Ganguly Das welcomed him. Shringla had to wait a long time in a hotel before meeting Sheikh Hasina. The meeting was supposed to be held in the afternoon, but delayed until night. None, even a photojournalist, was allowed to cover the meeting. The picture that was sent to the press was old that was photographed during Shringla’s previous visit to Bangladesh in March this year. No one knows what was discussed at the meeting. There was no trace of Modi’s so-called  ‘special message’ to Sheikh Hasina.

The online version of the daily Manabjamin of Dhaka said Modi’s alleged message was verbal. Knowledgable sources alleged the zest of Modi’s message was actually an excuse to send Shringla to Bangladesh, to intimidate Sheikh Hasina that she would lose her position if she continues close relationship with China.

Soon after the report of Shringla’s Dhaka yatra was flashed in the media, Bangladeshis hailing even from the remote areas, speculated all types of reasons. Topping such rumors was that Shringla was sent to Bangladesh to save the murderer OC Pradeep, who is under arrest for killing an Ex-Major Sinha. The second perception was to warn Sheikh Hasina that she might lose her position if she doesn’t retreat from China.

The Dhaka-based newspaper revealed more reasons that prompted New Delhi to send Shringla on such an unwelcome visit to Bangladesh. These are:

1. India is more concerned about China’s presence in Bangladesh.

2. China’s one-billion-dollar loan to Dhaka on the Teesta project upset New Delhi.

3. India’s concern heightened when Bangladesh agreed to allow the third phase of the Chinese vaccine trial.

4. India is also skeptical of Chinese funding for the Sylhet-Osmani International Airport project.

5. Telephonic conversations between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Pakistani counterpart Imran Khan aggravated India’s headache further.

6. India’s worry and anger multiplied when Bangladesh refrained from condemning the killings of 20 Indian soldiers by the Chinese in Ladakh.

India’s such reported concerns, objections and opposition uncover one reality that New Delhi does not consider Bangladesh as a sovereign country. The perception is gaining greater ground by the day among Bangladeshis that India’s policymakers think that their country has no right to have any kind of relationship with any country other than India or the country of India’s choice. Indian leaders want all the developmental works of Bangladesh must be performed by India whether India has the capability or not. “India has strong objections against Bangladesh’s deep ties with any country that does not care about India,” quipped Najmul.

“India cannot say openly that Bangladesh must not involve China in any of its developmental projects and Bangladesh must not maintain a deep relationship with China, as it is contrary to India’s geo-eco strategic interest. But it is China that is directly involved in constructing various infrastructures in India,” says Noorun Nabi, another New York-based Bangladeshi. He says India has no problem with China building the statue of Patel (tallest in the world) in Gujarat and also borrowing billions of dollars from Beijing.

According to ‘Anandabazar Patrika’, an Indian publication, Modi visited China more than all of his predecessors. Nehru, Rajiv Gandhi, Narasimha Rao, and Vajpayee visited China once during their respective tenures. Manmohan Singh visited China twice. Indira Gandhi never visited China. But Modi visited China five times. according to the newspaper, Modi visited China four times when he was the Chief Minister of Gujrat.

Despite the Chinese troops occupying Indian territory in the Ladakh sector and massacring 20 Indian soldiers, Modi did not utter a single word about China not to speak of condemning China. Being scared of leaking the secrets of receiving money from China, Modi told Indians:  “Kuch hua hi nahi (nothing has happened).” “None has entered our territory, or no one has occupied our territory,” he added, though Chinese authority shows no interest in withdrawing troops and they are very much inside the Indian territory at the time of (September 5, 2020) filing this article to the press.

“Having failed to oust the Chinese from his country, Modi now asks the Bangladesh government to move away from the Chinese who are engaged with the country in non-military commercial activities,” says Nabi. “India trembles seeing the Chinese in Bangladesh.” Bangladesh, he says, should have closer relations with China to safeguard its geo-strategic and economic interests. “China may benefit financially in Bangladesh, but it will not occupy our country,” he adds.

China is constructing most of Bangladesh’s infrastructure projects. Whereas India’s contribution is below 5 percent. Nabi says Indian leaders want all the developmental works in Bangladesh must be performed by India whether India has the capability or not. South Asia’s smaller countries feel threatened by India and are increasingly leaning towards China. t is not surprising to seee pro-China trend sweeping Nepal, Sri Lanka, Maldives, even Bhutan and Bangladesh. Though the governments of the Maldives and Bangladesh are known to be pro-India, the reality is totally opposite now.

India will lose more than it anticipates to gain if it continues to think that it can influence and control the smaller countries of South Asia. New Delhi’s continues its current dangerous expansionist policy is bound to weaken its own federation which it is holding together through sheer use of raw military power. remember Kashmir?


Mohammad Zainal Abedin is a New York-based Bangladeshi journalist and researcher.

Views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent those of the ViewsWeek.com. We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our articles. 

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