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Maitri, Bandhan expresses increase frequency

Staff reporter, Dhaka

With a view to enhancing and improving people to people communication in a better degree, the authorities concerned have decided to increase the frequency of two Bangladesh-India passenger trains— Maitree Express and Bandhan Express.

The trains will bring changes to the previous schedule from four days a week to five days a week and from one day a week to two days a week respectively. 

The additional service of Maitree Express will commence from 11 February from Dhaka and return on 12 February from Kolkata.

While the additional trip of Bandhan Express will commence from 16 February from Kolkata and return on the same day from Khulna, says a press release.

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Two more Indo-Bangla train routes in discussion

Maitree, Bandhan to make more trips from next week

Bangladesh Railway will start discussion with Indian Railways soon to assess whether two more passenger train routes can be opened between the countries, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said yesterday.

One route would be Rajshahi-Kolkata via Rohonpur (Chapainawabganj) -Singabad (Malda) border and another Dhaka-Siliguri through Chilahati (Nilphamari)-Haldibari (Cooch Behar) border, he said.

The minister was addressing a press conference at Rail Bhaban organised to announce that the BR was going to increase the number of trips of Maitree and Bandhan express trains running between Bangladesh and India from next week.

On the Dhaka-Kolkata route, Maitree Express will run five days a week instead of four days from February 11 and Bandhan Express two days instead of one day on the Khulna-Kolkata route from February 16, he said.

The minister added that the prime minister is expected to lay the foundation stone for the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Railway Bridge over the Jamuna river on March 14 as all necessary formalities had already been completed.

NEW ROUTES

Sujan said Rajshahi City Corporation mayor and several lawmakers from the district have long been demanding passenger train service between Rajshahi and Kolkata. “We have also talked to the Indian side.”

In July 2017, Fazle Hossain Badsha, a Workers Party lawmaker from Rajshahi-2, sent a proposal to the Indian government through the office of Assistant High Commissioner of India in Rajshahi.

In a meeting with the railways minister in October last year, Riva Ganguly Das, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh, raised the issue, a railway official said.

The meeting also decided to carry out a feasibility study on the route, he added.

Sujan said the construction work of seven km broad gauge line between Chilahati and Chilahati border is expected to be done by June this year. A new passenger train route can be opened from Dhaka to Siliguri through Chilahati-Haldibari border, he said.

“We have expressed our interest in this regard and the Indian high commissioner also did the same in a meeting recently.

“We are considering to start discussion soon about whether Bangladesh-India connectivity can be established through these two passenger train routes,” he opined.

Railways Ministry Senior Secretary Mofazzel Hossain told The Daily Star that feasibility and traffic demand studies would be carried out if the two countries agreed to operate passenger trains on the routes.

MORE TRIPS

Currently, Maitree Express operates on Saturdays, Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays. The train service will also be available on Tuesdays from February 11, Sujan said.

On the other hand, Bandhan Express will operate on Sundays, in addition to Thursdays from February 16, he said.

In a meeting between Sujan and Indian Railway Minister Piyush Goyal on August 6 last year, the ministers agreed to increase the number of trips of the trains, railway sources said.

As per the decision, Maitree Express was supposed to run six days a week and Bandhan Express three days a week.

Asked about the matter, Md Shamsuzzaman, director general of Bangladesh Railway, said the Indian Railways authorities could not manage slots for Maitree Express running six days a week.

Besides, Bandhan Express cannot run for three days a week due to shortage of carriages, he said, “We will increase the trips in the near future.”

The operation of Dhaka-Kolkata train service resumed on April 14, 2008, ending the 43-year pause, as two passenger trains named Maitree Express started simultaneously from Dhaka and Kolkata.

Bandhan Express was launched on the Khulna-Kolkata route on November 16, 2017.

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NE-Bangladesh rail link to be ready by 2021: Jitendra Singh
PTI | Feb 9, 2020, 08.36 PM IST

NEW DELHI: The landmark railway line, connecting the northeastern region with Bangladesh, will be ready by the end of 2021, Union Minister Jitendra Singh said on Sunday.

Singh said when the construction of the railway line, between Agartala in Tripura and Akhaura in Bangladesh, will be completed, it will pave the way for running the first train from the northeast to Bangladesh on the eve of the 75th year of India's independence in 2022.

The landmark railway line between Agartala and Akhaura will be completed before the end of next year, that is 2021, Singh said here.

While briefing about some of the upcoming projects in the northeast, Singh, the Union Minister for Development of North Eastern Region (DoNER), said his ministry will bear the cost of laying 5.46 kms track on the Indian side while the cost of laying 10.6 kms track on the Bangladesh side is being borne by the Ministry of External Affairs. The railway link will connect Gangasagar in Bangladesh to Nischintapur in India and from Nischintapur to Agartala railway station.

Singh said the process of acquisition of land and handing it over to executing agencies in both the countries has been completed and an amount of Rs 580 crore has been sanctioned for the Indo-Bangladesh railway work on the Indian side.

Quoting engineers and experts, the minister said the soil condition on the Indian side is soft and therefore, the latest technology is being used.

Around 600 skilled workers are working round-the-clock to complete the work.

Referring to the high priority given to the northeastern region by the Modi dispensation, Singh said the kind of fast-track progress made in the last five years can be realised from the fact that when this government came in 2014, the rail connectivity was very poor and there were at least two states, Arunachal Pradesh and Meghalaya, where people had never seen a train.

Today, he said, there is a regular 'Arunachal Express' train running from Itanagar to New Delhi and a double-gauge track is being laid all across the region.

The train to Bangladesh will be one of the most glorious achievements of recent years, he said.

The work to extend air connectivity through new airports and surface transport through road networks is also proceeding at an equal pace, he added.

https://timesofindia.indiatimes.com/india/ne-bangladesh-rail-link-to-be-ready-by-2021-jitendra-singh/articleshow/74047777.cms

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187.34 acres to be acquired for BD-India oil pipeline

The government has taken a project for acquiring land and developing ancillary facilities to implement the Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline Project.

Meghna Petroleum Limited under the state-owned Bangladesh Petroleum Corporation will implement the project at a cost of Tk 306.2 crore by June 2022.

Some 187.34 acres of land would be acquired under the project to lay 125 kilometer underground pipeline for importing fuel oil import from Numaligarh Refinery Limited in Shiliguri of India to Parbatipur Depot in Dinajpur.

This was one of the nine projects approved by the executive committee of the National Economic Council at its meeting with prime minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair on Tuesday. 

Planning Division secretary Nurul Amin at a briefing said the ECNEC sent back a project proposal for network expansion of state-owned Teletalk Bangladesh Ltd as the prime minister asked to conduct a feasibility study by a third party.

Of the approved projects, five were new while the four others were revised projects, he said.

The new projects are upgrading of Baneshwar -Sarda-Charghat-Bagha-Lalpur -Ishwardi highway at a cost of Tk 554.30 crore, protection of an embankments in Habiganj with Tk 573.48 crore, maintenance and reconstruction of eight industrial estates of Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation at Tk 74.25 crore, establishment of 50-bed kidney dialysis centre at a medical college and a 10-bed kidney dialysis centre at a General Hospitals at Tk 255.22 crore.

The revised projects are widening and strengthening of Syedpur-Nilphamari Highway, 1st revised with an additional cost of Tk 217.08 crore, construction of multi-storey building of BSCIC at Tejgaon, 1st revised with an additional cost of Tk 30.35 crore, establishment of BSCIC plastic industrial estate, 1st revised with an additional cost of Tk 264.45 crore and further infrastructural development of Khulna University, 1st revised, with an additional cost of Tk 146.91 crore.

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India wants to provide spare parts for Klimov RD-33 of Mig-29 aircraft of Bangladesh

HAL seeking to export Su-30MKI and MiG-29 engine spares to ‘friendly countries’

Rahul Bedi, New Delhi - Jane's Defence Weekly

11 February 2020

India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) plans to export assorted spares and accessories for the engines that power the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI and Mikoyan MiG-29 combat aircraft to foreign air forces that also operate the two Russian-developed fighter types.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by HAL on 7 February with Russia’s defence export agency Rosoboronexport envisages the export of Saturn AL-31FP and Klimov RD-33 engine components and services to “friendly countries”.

“The parties will subsequently sign an agreement on mutually agreed terms and conditions,” the MoU states, without elaborating further.

HAL officials told Jane’s that possible customers for AL-31FP-related spares include Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, while those for RD-33-related parts comprise Algeria, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Serbia.

Link: https://www.janes.com/article/94225/hal-seeking-to-export-su-30mki-and-mig-29-engine-spares-to-friendly-countries

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Modi to visit Dhaka in March

Says AK Momen
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Dhaka in March on the occasion of birth centenary of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said yesterday. “The Indian prime minister has roughly confirmed his visit to Bangladesh in March but the exact date of his arrival has not been fixed yet,” he said in reply to a query of the journalists after the inaugural ceremony of the ‘2nd Brainstorming Session on Comprehensive Reform of the OIC’ at a hotel in the capital.  

The minister further informed that Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla would arrive in Dhaka on March 2 and everything would be finalised jointly. He also said there will be a bilateral meeting during Modi’s visit and different kinds of programmes would be set centering his visit. “We are working on it,” he added.

He said, “Our event will be held on March 17. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would visit Tungipara on that day. If he (Modi) comes a day before the event, it would be fine as our prime minister will then be able to receive him.” The Bangladesh government has taken various round the year programmes to celebrate ‘Mujib Year’ to mark the birth centenary of Bangabandhu. Earlier, on several occasions foreign minister Momen said distinguished persons including heads of states would join various programmes to celebrate the occasion.

He earlier said UAE Crown Prince Zayed Al Nahyan, former Indian President Pranab Mukherjee, Indian Congress Party President Sonia Gandhi and former UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon will also grace the ‘Mujib Year’ celebrations. Besides, Canadian Premier Justin Trudeau and Malaysian Prime Minister Dr Mahathir Mohamad will be among the global leaders who are likely to join the ‘Mujib Barsha’ cerebrations in Dhaka.

The countdown of Mujib Year began on January 10.

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Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin cancels India tour amid citizenship protests

 Ali Asif Shawon

 Published at 10:15 pm March 1st, 2020

The delegation was to include the speaker, chief whip, secretary of parliament secretariat, and other top officials of the government

Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury has cancelled her tour to India amid ongoing turmoil across the neighbouring country over their Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), parliament sources have said.

“Speaker Dr Shirin was scheduled to lead an 18-member delegation to India following an invitation from Lok Sabha, but the tour has been cancelled,” Noor-e-Alam Chowdhury Liton, chief whip of the parliament, told the Dhaka Tribune on Sunday.

The delegation was to include the speaker, chief whip, secretary of parliament secretariat, and other top officials of the government, he added.

“There will be special session of Jatiya Sangsad on March 22-23 on the occasion of Mujib Year. We need to prepare everything for the special parliamentary session. Keeping this in mind, the delegation led by the speaker will not be travelling to India,” he added.

The delegation will visit India in a convenient time after the special session is over, he added.

At least 42 people were killed in Hindu-Muslim violence in northeast New Delhi, amid mounting international criticism that authorities failed to protect minority Muslims.

The clashes began over a citizenship law that Indian Prime Minister Modi's Hindu nationalist government introduced in December providing a path to Indian citizenship for six religious groups from neighbouring countries - but not Muslims.

Critics say the law is discriminatory and comes on top of other measures such as withdrawal of autonomy for Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir, which has deepened disquiet about the future of India's 200 million Muslims.

Critics of the government however blamed this week's violence on members of Modi's BJP, which was trounced in local Delhi elections at the beginning of the month.

The violence morphed into street battles between Hindu and Muslim groups, with the police largely ineffective in ending the violence.

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India plans meshed steel fence along border

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:19, Mar 03,2020

India has expressed its intent to install meshed steel fence in at least 58 more places, within 150 yards of the zero line, along the border with Bangladesh.

The matter was last raised in a meeting in Dhaka on Monday between the foreign secretaries of the two countries—Masud Bin Momen of Bangladesh and Harsh Vardhan Shringla of India.

Shringla at a seminar on the Bangladesh-India relations in the day emphasised completing the fencing of a 165-kilometre stretch of the border with ‘modern cut-proof fence’ for a border security.

Shringla also raised the issue in a meeting with the Bangladesh side headed by the Bangladesh foreign secretary at the foreign ministry, according to Masud. 

India had brought up the matter earlier at least twice apparently for a wholesale use of the consent from the Bangladesh authorities applicable only for special cases, government officials said.

The earlier two meetings were held at the home minister level in August 2019 and at the level of border security force chiefs in December the same year.

The Indian central government has already started raising meshed steel fence on a pilot basis beyond 150 yards along the borders in  Assam and Mizoram states with Bangladesh. 

Meshed steel fences cannot be climbed and are effective against conventional hand-cutting tools. They also prevent objects being passed through small gaps.

The Indian government has already erected barbed-wire fences within 150 yards in at least 50 places along the border in last 10 years, the government officials pointed out.

But now they ‘have sought concurrence’ from Bangladesh to install meshed steel fences in 58 more places on the plea of ‘overhauling the security system’, the officials said.  

Security analyst M Sakhawat Hossain said that the government should strongly protest against the construction of meshed steel fences within 150 yards of the zero line along the border.  

The Indian government has already constructed double-layer barbed wire fences in most parts of the border for close surveillance, mentioned Sakhawat, a retired brigadier general of Bangladesh Army, told New Age over phone on February 6.      

He added that now the desire for setting up meshed steel fences ‘gives an indication of changes in their attitude,’      

India erects this sort of fence along its western border as they consider Pakistan as a hostile country, he said, adding that India’s relations with Bangladesh and Pakistan could not be compared as ‘we are not a hostile country’.

Sakhawat observed that in recent times there was a drastic change in the attitude of the Indian central government in order ‘to undermine Bangladesh’.

India’s Border Security Force has also been showing an aggressive attitude, he further observed, saying ‘but it is not clear from where they get instructions.’ 

The changes in the attitude of the Indian government have surfaced after the conduct of the National Register of Citizenship and the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act as they are in trouble with these issues, he offered.

The Bangladesh government has agreed, in 2009, to allow border fencing within 150 yards from the zero line between the two countries provided it is necessitated by humanitarian concerns and geographical realities.

India has now launched attempts for the blanket use of this ‘consent’ from Bangladesh, officials said. 

India has already erected barbed-wire fences along more than 3,000 kilometres of its 4,096.7-km-long border with Bangladesh.

Indian authorities are also considering now replacing the old barbed-wire fencing with meshed steel fences in phases, officials added.

India’s proposal on the meshed steel fencing is part of its plan to replace the barbed-wire fences, in phases, along the Bangladesh and Pakistan borders, according to Indian newspapers. 

India’s union home minister Amit Shah reviewed its preparedness, in a meeting on December 14, for bringing in technological solutions to the vulnerable stretches of the eastern and western borders. 

The Indian authorities asked the Border Security Force to ensure that meshed fence is installed along the borders with Bangladesh and Pakistan in a time-bound manner, according to Indian media reports.

 

http://www.newagebd.net/article/101110/india-plans-meshed-steel-fence-along-border

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4 minutes ago, Rezwan12 said:

India plans meshed steel fence along border

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:19, Mar 03,2020

India has expressed its intent to install meshed steel fence in at least 58 more places, within 150 yards of the zero line, along the border with Bangladesh.

The matter was last raised in a meeting in Dhaka on Monday between the foreign secretaries of the two countries—Masud Bin Momen of Bangladesh and Harsh Vardhan Shringla of India.

Shringla at a seminar on the Bangladesh-India relations in the day emphasised completing the fencing of a 165-kilometre stretch of the border with ‘modern cut-proof fence’ for a border security.

Shringla also raised the issue in a meeting with the Bangladesh side headed by the Bangladesh foreign secretary at the foreign ministry, according to Masud. 

India had brought up the matter earlier at least twice apparently for a wholesale use of the consent from the Bangladesh authorities applicable only for special cases, government officials said.

The earlier two meetings were held at the home minister level in August 2019 and at the level of border security force chiefs in December the same year.

The Indian central government has already started raising meshed steel fence on a pilot basis beyond 150 yards along the borders in  Assam and Mizoram states with Bangladesh. 

Meshed steel fences cannot be climbed and are effective against conventional hand-cutting tools. They also prevent objects being passed through small gaps.

The Indian government has already erected barbed-wire fences within 150 yards in at least 50 places along the border in last 10 years, the government officials pointed out.

But now they ‘have sought concurrence’ from Bangladesh to install meshed steel fences in 58 more places on the plea of ‘overhauling the security system’, the officials said.  

Security analyst M Sakhawat Hossain said that the government should strongly protest against the construction of meshed steel fences within 150 yards of the zero line along the border.  

The Indian government has already constructed double-layer barbed wire fences in most parts of the border for close surveillance, mentioned Sakhawat, a retired brigadier general of Bangladesh Army, told New Age over phone on February 6.      

He added that now the desire for setting up meshed steel fences ‘gives an indication of changes in their attitude,’      

India erects this sort of fence along its western border as they consider Pakistan as a hostile country, he said, adding that India’s relations with Bangladesh and Pakistan could not be compared as ‘we are not a hostile country’.

Sakhawat observed that in recent times there was a drastic change in the attitude of the Indian central government in order ‘to undermine Bangladesh’.

India’s Border Security Force has also been showing an aggressive attitude, he further observed, saying ‘but it is not clear from where they get instructions.’ 

The changes in the attitude of the Indian government have surfaced after the conduct of the National Register of Citizenship and the enactment of the Citizenship Amendment Act as they are in trouble with these issues, he offered.

The Bangladesh government has agreed, in 2009, to allow border fencing within 150 yards from the zero line between the two countries provided it is necessitated by humanitarian concerns and geographical realities.

India has now launched attempts for the blanket use of this ‘consent’ from Bangladesh, officials said. 

India has already erected barbed-wire fences along more than 3,000 kilometres of its 4,096.7-km-long border with Bangladesh.

Indian authorities are also considering now replacing the old barbed-wire fencing with meshed steel fences in phases, officials added.

India’s proposal on the meshed steel fencing is part of its plan to replace the barbed-wire fences, in phases, along the Bangladesh and Pakistan borders, according to Indian newspapers. 

India’s union home minister Amit Shah reviewed its preparedness, in a meeting on December 14, for bringing in technological solutions to the vulnerable stretches of the eastern and western borders. 

The Indian authorities asked the Border Security Force to ensure that meshed fence is installed along the borders with Bangladesh and Pakistan in a time-bound manner, according to Indian media reports.

 

http://www.newagebd.net/article/101110/india-plans-meshed-steel-fence-along-border

These Indians are disgusting. If they need to erect a meshed steel fences, why not do it inside their territory keeping 150 yards from the border?

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8 minutes ago, Dark Carnage said:

These Indians are disgusting. If they need to erect a meshed steel fences, why not do it inside their territory keeping 150 yards from the border?

Not unexpected from the Indians! However, why did the Bangladesh Government allow or gave consent in the first place?

Should have never allowed fencing with in 150 yards of the International border, as per International rules & regulations.

The Indian government has already erected barbed-wire fences within 150 yards in at least 50 places along the border in last 10 years!

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54 minutes ago, Rezwan12 said:

Not unexpected from the Indians! However, why did the Bangladesh Government allow or gave consent in the first place?

Should have never allowed fencing with in 150 yards of the International border, as per International rules & regulations.

The Indian government has already erected barbed-wire fences within 150 yards in at least 50 places along the border in last 10 years!

The thing is government has given so many benefits to them showing humanitarian reason which encouraged them to demand for even Bangladeshi land for their use (Agartala airport case). And the Bangladeshi people never showed any protest against them except some social media posts which has almost value in real life.

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On 2/15/2020 at 11:48 AM, Girls' Generation said:

India wants to provide spare parts for Klimov RD-33 of Mig-29 aircraft of Bangladesh

HAL seeking to export Su-30MKI and MiG-29 engine spares to ‘friendly countries’

Rahul Bedi, New Delhi - Jane's Defence Weekly

11 February 2020

India’s state-owned Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) plans to export assorted spares and accessories for the engines that power the Indian Air Force’s Sukhoi Su-30MKI and Mikoyan MiG-29 combat aircraft to foreign air forces that also operate the two Russian-developed fighter types.

A memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed by HAL on 7 February with Russia’s defence export agency Rosoboronexport envisages the export of Saturn AL-31FP and Klimov RD-33 engine components and services to “friendly countries”.

“The parties will subsequently sign an agreement on mutually agreed terms and conditions,” the MoU states, without elaborating further.

HAL officials told Jane’s that possible customers for AL-31FP-related spares include Algeria, Angola, Armenia, Indonesia, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, and Vietnam, while those for RD-33-related parts comprise Algeria, Bangladesh, Kazakhstan, Malaysia, Mongolia, Myanmar, and Serbia.

Link: https://www.janes.com/article/94225/hal-seeking-to-export-su-30mki-and-mig-29-engine-spares-to-friendly-countries

I don’t think BAF is interested about that.

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7 minutes ago, Noor Musanna said:

I don’t think BAF is interested about that.

sure. ever1 knows that. look at the article where it was published. they were simply using that platform to advertise they can now 'support' 'high-end' products. even they gave sub-standard components while overhauling iaf su-30mki. iaf simply rejected to take that aircraft

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56 minutes ago, Girls' Generation said:

sure. ever1 knows that. look at the article where it was published. they were simply using that platform to advertise they can now 'support' 'high-end' products. even they gave sub-standard components while overhauling iaf su-30mki. iaf simply rejected to take that aircraft

Yeapp, my point exactly  

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An open letter to Harsh Vardhan Shringla

Taj Hashmi | Published: 00:00, Mar 07,2020

Dear Mr Shringla:

I have no reasons to remember names of Indian diplomats and senior employees of the country’s ministry of external affairs, in the past and present. However, despite my age-induced creeping amnesia, I don’t think I will ever forget names like Durga Prasad Dhar, Sujata Singh and, of course, your name, for the right or wrong reasons! While DP Dhar played an important role in formulating his country’s foreign policy with regard to the emergence of Bangladesh in 1971, Sujata Singh and you played the vital role in ‘convincing’ former military dictator Ershad to take part in the farcical parliamentary elections in Bangladesh on January 5, 2014 to ‘legitimise’ the process and the government that emerged in the wake of the so-called elections. I’m neither going to embarrass you further by giving details about how Ms Singh and you coerced Ershad into submission (despite what had appeared to be his stubborn resistance to take part in the elections), nor am I going to give details as to how Gowher Rizvi, the Oxford-educated Awami League adviser, worked in tandem with you, in the most undignified manner!

I write this open letter to question you most respectfully why you told a seminar in Dhaka on March 2 that the Citizenship Amendment Act passed by the Indian parliament last year was misunderstood by many, also in Bangladesh. Although I can’t disagree with you more that ‘this is a proactive legislation that has been undertaken on humanitarian grounds… the people who were refugees or faced political persecution and came to India within a cut-off time were allowed fast track citizenship’, yet I consider the whole thing is possibly an internal affair of your country. To me, the most important clause of the act, which only promises Indian citizenship to non-Muslim immigrants/refugees from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan is possibly also integral to India’s internal affair. However, the way you lectured Bangladeshis in the seminar smacks of your whole-hearted support for Hindutva fascism, which is disturbing indeed! You were condescending to the seminar audience, and also in a state of denial in support of the mini genocide that took place in and around Delhi last month.

You can rest assured, Mr Shringla, I write this open letter not to embarrass you for being a ‘patriotic’ Indian. However, patriotism in the negative sense of the expression often reminds us of Hitler and his cohorts! I’m sure it was not your naiveté, but a deliberate exercise to hoodwink Bangladesh into believing that India had been keen on resolving all the unresolved bilateral issues between India and Bangladesh, as your country had agreed to sign water sharing agreement on seven common rivers, including the Muhuri, Manu, Dharla, Khowai, Gumti and Dudhkumar, might be signed this year. Why I believe you were being deceptive and totally non-committal to resolving the main issues between the two countries, such as sharing the Teesta waters with Bangladesh, and killing of Bangladeshis by the BSF at the common border, you carefully avoided mentioning what BJP leaders had been telling the world that once the NRC was complete, India would ‘push back’ ‘Bangladeshi intruders’ into Bangladesh, almost two million from Assam alone.

I, however, don’t blame you for not mentioning some other problems that India had been creating for Bangladesh with active collaboration of the Bangladesh government, such as: using Bangladeshi roads and highways — which are not adequate for the country’s own needs — to transport goods between West Bengal and India’s north-eastern states (which could be used to transport troops and military hardware posing security threats to Bangladesh in the long run); establishing environmentally disastrous, coal-run power plants in close proximity to the Sundarbans in Bangladesh; and your country’s undue interference in the national elections in Bangladesh in favour of a particular political party since 2008. And, as I have pointed out at the outset, you were also a party to manipulating elections in Bangladesh, at least once, in 2014.

I can’t, however, exonerate you for telling something diplomatically unacceptable and in contradiction of the international law. You told the seminar that although the Teesta deal had been almost finalised in 2011, following objections from West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the deal was not yet finalised. ‘Given our federal system, an agreement can only be finalised on the basis of consensus among stakeholders. We certainly want to show you that we are working on concluding the deal as soon as possible’, you added. Your sharing some domestic problem of your country (about the lack of understanding between the central and provincial governments) with the Bangladeshi audience was simply unwarranted, undiplomatic, and something not acceptable in the international law and code of conduct. Mr Shringla, unfortunately your fig leaf was too flimsy to hide India’s unwillingness to resolve the Teesta water-sharing issue with Bangladesh. Unfortunately, Narendra Modi is on the same boat which Manmohan Singh was riding to bypass the Teesta issue by putting the blame on Mamata Banerjee. Although the present Bangladesh government seemingly is too willing to accept the ‘Mamata Banerjee story’ in this regard, I’m sure you know Mr Shringla, none having some ideas about international water sharing protocol would give any damn to what chief minister X or somebody else somewhere in India wants or doesn’t want in regards to the Teesta water sharing issue. And, since you and I know that Bangladesh deserves its due share of Teesta waters, you shouldn’t have justified India’s dillydallying in this regard. Your narrating the same ‘Mamata Banerjee story’ to an informed audience in the seminar was simply pathetic; or conversely, an arrogant assertion by the foreign secretary of a neighbouring country, which suffers from some the delusion of grandeur, or which wants to treat all the smaller countries in the neighbourhood as another Bhutan (which isn’t allowed to run its own foreign policy).

I’m sorry to write this, Mr Shringla, you spoke like a condescending representative of a colonial power or the ‘Big Brother’ in the Orwellian sense which no Bangladeshi at home or abroad (like me), having some self-respect, dignity, and love for the compatriots is going to like at all! Your finger pointing at Bangladesh as a persecutor of minorities in the past from 1975 to 1996 was beyond all norms of civility and diplomatic code of conduct too. Your denial of any potential adverse effects of the CAA and NRC (National Register of Citizens) on Bangladesh is simply untenable. So, many BJP stalwarts are haranguing on a regular basis that millions of Bangladeshi Muslims, or ‘termites’ in your rustic home minister Amit Shah’s parlance, have infested the polity of India. Modi government’s direct attacks on Bangladesh as a country, which maltreats and persecutes its minorities in defence of the CAA and NRC, violate all norms of decency and good neighbourly relationship. And, you were lecturing Bangladeshis in their own territory about the ‘innocuous nature’ of the draconian CAA and NRC!

As a historian-cum-security analyst having more than 50 years of research and teaching experience in modern South Asian history, politics, and culture, I have no reasons to believe in what your CAA and NRC apparently stand for. I know it well these are your government’s red herrings and well-thought-of long-term RSS programmes to establish Hindu-supremacy in greater India (from Afghanistan to Indonesia) by crushing the Dalits, tribesmen, Muslims, and other non-Hindus. These are old Nazi-Fascist tactics learnt from Hitler as well as the founding fathers of the RSS. And, Modi and many of his close associates have been RSS members since their youth. I also know it’s possibly only a question of time, given the opportunity, the Modi government is likely to turn India into a fully-fledged Hindutva fascist state. And that would pose an existential threat to Indian minorities, especially Muslims, and a security threat to countries across the Subcontinent, and beyond.

On this token, Mr Shringla, your unqualified support for the Modi regime transcends the boundaries of what a government servant is entitled and supposed to do. I assume you are educated enough to know how the Free World treated many of Hitler’s close associates, government employees, police and military officers and troops, and even petty prison guards in-charge of Jewish prisoners. Lynching Muslims in India, surreptitiously or in public, by Hindu fanatics, for allegedly eating or possessing beef, or just for their appearance as Muslims; and the genocidal attacks on Muslims in New Delhi by Hindutva fascists and Hindutva police for three days in late February, what Mamata Banerjee calls genocidal, can’t remain India’s internal affairs any longer! The UN has already registered its concern at the indiscriminate killing of Muslims in India.

Mr Shringla, I have reasons to believe the way you lectured some Bangladeshis at the seminar, your over-enthusiasm for the CAA and NRC crosses all limits of diplomatic decency. Although I don’t expect every Indian bureaucrat to become another Dr Harsh Mander, yet you could have relied on your discretion and sense of decency, expected of a qualified person like you. The audience at the seminar didn’t come to hear from you how many hundreds of thousands of people in India the Modi government will allow to apply for citizenship and how many thousands of Pakistanis the same government has allowed Indian citizenship. These are your internal matters; Bangladesh has nothing to do with them. By the way, as the news report which covers your seminar speech also reveals what prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s external affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi told the seminar as chief guest. I wish I could be as optimistic as Dr Rizvi that Bangladesh has nothing to worry about any adverse effect of the NRC only because the Modi government has assured Bangladesh in this regard.

Mr Shringla, your speech was ‘full of sound and fury, signifying nothing’, in the Shakespearean way of pooh-poohing some grossly overstated talks and ideas! Your indefensible defence of the BSF’s killing of hundreds of Bangladeshis at the border was simply a horrendous bundle of untruths. I quote, what you said, to refresh your memory (in case you have forgotten what you told the seminar): ‘There have been attacks on border guarding forces on both sides. Deaths on the border are not necessarily confined to the citizens of Bangladesh. There are equal number of Indian citizens.’

Mr Shringla, your assurance to Bangladesh that India was committed to offering the fullest support for any mutually-acceptable solution that would enable the earliest possible return of Rohingyas to Rakhine state in a safe, secure and sustainable manner is also baseless. You know India’s track record in regards to the Rohingya issue is anything but re-assuring for Bangladesh. And, you know there can never be a mutually acceptable solution between Myanmar and Bangladesh to the problem of expulsion of the Rohingyas by the former. You possibly know this could be the likely effect of the so-called NRC operation in India. Meanwhile, your assertion to whitewash Delhi massacre of Muslims by Hindutva-inspired and Delhi police-backed mobs last month tells a lot about what was the purpose of your recent visit to Bangladesh. You have conveniently manufactured a conspiracy theory about the recent Delhi massacre, which you said, could be ‘instigated by any third party’, not by the neo-fascist Modi government!

Mr Shringla, as an academic who has spent more than 50 years of his life studying, publishing, and teaching modern South Asian history, politics, culture, and international affairs, I would like to advance a few points for yo to ponder: (a) please, try to understand why India is the only country in the world (which Israel and South Africa used to be in the past) which is hated by all its immediate neighbours, from China to Sri Lanka, and Pakistan to Bangladesh; and (b) while Bangladesh have had strong reservations about the relatively civil Indian governments under the Congress party since the 1970s, the country doesn’t have the stomach to tango with a regime which is blatantly fascistic and hateful of Islam and Muslims. I hope you realise that India can’t win the hearts and minds of the overwhelming majority of people in Bangladesh by merely having a compliant government in the country. Historically, Bangladeshis have been a nation of rebels. India would be better off by not relying on a handful of unrepresentative ‘representatives’ of the people in Bangladesh.

With kind regards!

 

Sincerely,

Taj Hashmi, PhD, FRAS

Adjunct Professor of Criminal Justice

Austin Peay State University

http://www.newagebd.net/article/101447/an-open-letter-to-harsh-vardhan-shringla

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I doubt Modi will be attending and even if he does it will be a bilateral meeting with Sheikh Hasina mostly.

Mujib Barsha big event postponed, large public gatherings avoided over coronavirus scare

Published: 08 Mar 2020 11:34 PM BdST Updated: 09 Mar 2020 01:11 AM BdST

The authorities have postponed the key event of Mar 17 at the National Parade Ground in Dhaka designed to officially launch the celebrations of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary after Bangladesh recorded its first coronavirus cases.
All large public gatherings will be avoided during the celebrations of the day, Kamal Abdul Naser Chowdhury, the chief coordinator of the national committee to implement the Mujib Barsha programmes, said at a news conference in the capital on Sunday.

The decisions to limit the gatherings were taken in a meeting chaired by the committee’s chief and Bangabandhu’s daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her Ganabhaban residence. The other daughter of Bangabandhu, Sheikh Rehana, was also present.

“The decisions have been made to spare the people of sufferings as you know that public interest is the top priority of the prime minister,” Kamal said.

The programmes of paying respects to the Father of the Nation at the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhanmondi 32 and his grave in Gopalganj’s Tungipara, however, will go ahead like every year, Kamal said.

The nation was set to kick off the celebrations through a huge gathering at the National Parade Ground in Tejgaon on the 100th birth anniversary of the Father of the Nation. A countdown to the beginning of the celebrations has also been launched.

But the spread of the coronavirus from China to almost 100 countries made uncertain the plan for grand celebrations as the authorities across the world have put harsh travel restrictions and cancelled public events to contain the outbreak.

President Md Abdul Hamid, Hasina, her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, and many other leaders from the region and beyond had been scheduled to attend the programme.  

Kamal said the event has been pushed back considering the health risks.

He said small events on a limited scale will be organised to celebrate Bangabandhu’s birth centenary at the educational institutions and elsewhere, keeping the coronavirus situation across the globe in mind.

Other programmes to kick off the celebrations included a 31-gun salute in Dhaka and other places at sunrise, and hoisting of the national flag at all government and non-government buildings.

An event marking the National Children’s Day would be held in Tungipara, the birth place of Bangabandhu. Special prayers would also be held throughout the country.

The health authorities earlier on Sunday confirmed Bangladesh’s first three cases of the coronavirus, which has infected more than 106,000 people and caused over 3,600 deaths across the world after originating in China by the end of last year.

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BBC Bangla on yesterday said the SOUTH-BLOCK indicated 'some important' deals will be singed during Modi's state visit

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9 March, 2020 09:53:17 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 9 March, 2020 12:52:14 PM

Modi's Dhaka visit cancelled

The announcement comes after 3 coronavirus cases reported in Bangladesh

Independent Online Desk

Amid the growing threat of coronavirus in South Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be visiting Bangladesh's capital Dhaka after the birth centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were rearranged by Bangladesh government, reports India Today.

On Sunday, Bangladesh confirmed its first batch of coronavirus cases. Three people, two of whom had recently returned from Italy, tested positive for Covid-19 as per official authorities.

To contain the spread of the virus, the Bangladesh government has decided to redesign the celebrations for Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's centenary birth anniversary on March 17.

Kamal Abdul Chowdhury, the Chairman of the Celebration Committee told media that events related to the birth centenary celebrations are either being postponed or scaled-down due to public health considerations related to Covid-19.

"We have redesigned the event....it's a year-long celebration.

The celebration will continue throughout the year but we will avoid large public gatherings ...Since we have many smaller events later in the year, foreign dignitaries have the option of attending later," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to travel to Dhaka on March 17 in the midst of rising concerns in Bangladesh over CAA and the proposed NRC as well as the coronavirus scare.

Earlier this month, PM Modi's visit to Brussels to hold a summit meeting with the European Union was postponed in view of the global spread of coronavirus. 

 

http://m.theindependentbd.com/post/240184

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19 hours ago, Rezwan12 said:

9 March, 2020 09:53:17 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 9 March, 2020 12:52:14 PM

Modi's Dhaka visit cancelled

The announcement comes after 3 coronavirus cases reported in Bangladesh

Independent Online Desk

Amid the growing threat of coronavirus in South Asia, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will not be visiting Bangladesh's capital Dhaka after the birth centenary celebrations of Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman were rearranged by Bangladesh government, reports India Today.

On Sunday, Bangladesh confirmed its first batch of coronavirus cases. Three people, two of whom had recently returned from Italy, tested positive for Covid-19 as per official authorities.

To contain the spread of the virus, the Bangladesh government has decided to redesign the celebrations for Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's centenary birth anniversary on March 17.

Kamal Abdul Chowdhury, the Chairman of the Celebration Committee told media that events related to the birth centenary celebrations are either being postponed or scaled-down due to public health considerations related to Covid-19.

"We have redesigned the event....it's a year-long celebration.

The celebration will continue throughout the year but we will avoid large public gatherings ...Since we have many smaller events later in the year, foreign dignitaries have the option of attending later," he said.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi was scheduled to travel to Dhaka on March 17 in the midst of rising concerns in Bangladesh over CAA and the proposed NRC as well as the coronavirus scare.

Earlier this month, PM Modi's visit to Brussels to hold a summit meeting with the European Union was postponed in view of the global spread of coronavirus. 

 

http://m.theindependentbd.com/post/240184

bd sent new schedule where he willnt r go any public place. india is yet to answer. source: bbc bangla

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11 minutes ago, Girls' Generation said:

bd sent new schedule where he willnt r go any public place. india is yet to answer. source: bbc bangla

Indian media has already reported that he is unlikely to visit. The visit will be postponed.

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20 minutes ago, Girls' Generation said:

bd sent new schedule where he willnt r go any public place. india is yet to answer. source: bbc bangla

12:00 AM, March 10, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 PM, March 10, 2020

Modi defers Dhaka visit

Our Correspondent, Delhi

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's Dhaka visit for attending the launch of Bangabandhu's birth centenary celebrations on March 17 has been deferred, Indian External Affairs Ministry said yesterday.

In response to queries, Raveesh Kumar, spokesperson for the ministry, said, "We have received formal notification from the Government of Bangladesh that a decision has been taken by them to defer the public events being organised to celebrate the centenary of the birth of the Father of Bangladesh, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, on account of the detection of cases of coronavirus in Bangladesh, and the larger global public health situation in this regard.

"The impact of this deferment applies also to the large gathering planned for March 17 at which the [Indian] Prime Minister of India was invited."

He said, "the Government of Bangladesh has advised us that fresh dates for these commemorative events will be conveyed later.

"In this context, Prime Minister's visit to Bangladesh next week at the invitation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is being deferred."

He also said, "While expressing understanding of the circumstances that necessitates this deferment, India is ready to work with Bangladesh, as partners, to combat the spread of this disease in our shared neighbourhood." 

 

https://www.thedailystar.net/frontpage/news/modi-defers-dhaka-visit-1878598

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Modi’s canceled Bangladesh visit is an opportunity

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Bangladesh’s decision to cancel the public celebration event of ‘the Mujib centennial’ due to public health concerns after the detection of three cases of coronavirus in the country is a welcome development and deserves appreciation, but it has also saved the government from a political embarrassment. The centennial of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—the leader of the nationalist movement which established independent Bangladesh in 1971—was planned by the government headed by his daughter, Sheikh Hasina. The government declared the year beginning March 17 “the Mujib Year.”

The inaugural public event was supposed to be attended by several international dignitaries, including the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s visit became a controversial issue and provoked large-scale demonstrations and protests in Bangladesh. In the past week, left wing political parties, Islamists, some members of civil society, and students demonstrated and demanded that the government of Bangladesh withdraw the invitation. Protesters had planned further demonstrations in the days ahead of Modi’s arrival at Dhaka.

The large-scale demonstrations against Modi and scathing criticisms of the invitation have surprised many observers outside the region. The governments of Bangladesh and India have described the current relationship as in a “golden era.” Modi’s previous visit to Dhaka in 2018 caused no such reactions. Such massive protest against an Indian prime minister’s state visit in any country was unprecedented. This reaction in Bangladesh should give a pause to the Indian government. Although spurred by recent events in India, Bangladesh’s domestic political environment and the widespread perception of the Bangladesh-India relationship undergirded these protests. The cancellation of the event and Modi’s visit will push the issue out of the news cycle, but ignoring it will be a mistake. Instead, it provides both Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League and the Indian policymakers an opportunity to assess the underlying aspects.

The opponents of the visit highlighted the recent actions of the Modi government against the Muslim community in India, including the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as the reasons for their campaign. Violence against Muslims in Delhi by the BJP activists in February galvanized last week’s protests in Bangladesh. The Indian government repeatedly assured that the NRC and CAA will not affect Bangladesh, but such assurances have not convinced Bangladeshis, as there are reports of Indians migrating to Bangladesh in fear of being persecuted and the virulent rhetoric of BJP leaders that ‘illegal migrants’ are from Bangladesh; BJP leaders have described them as ‘termites’ and threatened to throw them in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladeshi officials have echoed the Indian position that the NRC and CAA are India’s internal matter, yet their discomfort is palpable as Hasina commented that ‘it was not necessary,’ and Bangladesh cancelled trips of several ministers since the passage of the CAA and Delhi violence.

In the wake of these protests, the ruling Awami League doubled down on the invitation and the Secretary General Obaidul Quadir said that, “refraining from inviting the Indian prime minister would have been an act of ingratitude.” The ruling party and their supporters have alleged that their opponents are trying to disrupt the “Mujib Year.” Criticism of Mujib has become a sensitive issue since Hasina returned to power. The draconian Digital Security Act (DSA), enacted in October 2018, has made “negative propaganda” about Sheikh Mujibur Rahman a punishable offence. Several people have been arrested under the law in the past year.

Many protestors had couched their opposition in language which they hoped would appeal to Mujib’s daughter and protect them from being labeled as “anti-government,” a potentially dangerous label. They insisted that Modi’s divisive communal politics are inconsistent with the secularist ideals of Sheikh Mujib. It failed to sway the government. Tying the criticism to Mujib’s ideals to avoid persecution is a testimony to the remarkable shrinking space for dissent in Bangladesh.

Since the 2014 election—boycotted by opposition—the country has taken a turn to electoral authoritarianism. The 2018 election—described by The New York Times as “farcical” and The Economist as “transparently fraudulent”—  exacerbated the situation as freedom of press and assembly has diminished, opposition has been neutered, and extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have skyrocketed. The government and the ruling party activists have previously ruthlessly quelled grass roots movements such as the road safety movement in 2018. In the absence of a robust opposition party which can take on the government, issue-based social movements have become the means to vent resentment against the government. The demonstrations against Modi’s visit were in part fueled by this domestic political environment. Many Bangladeshis view the invitation as an unqualified endorsement of India by the Hasina regime. Expressing criticisms of India has become perilous. Last October, an engineering student was tortured to death in his university dormitory by student activists from the ruling Awami League after posting a comment on Facebook critical of the agreement signed between India and Bangladesh during Hasina’s visit to India.

The widespread perception that the relationship between these two countries have become unequal and that Bangladesh had given more to India than it had received is bolstered by unresolved issues between the two countries. Killing of Bangladeshi civilians on the India-Bangladesh border has increased three-fold to forty-one in 2019 despite repeated promises of the Indian authorities to the contrary. In the past five years, 158 Bangladeshis have died in the hands of the Border Security Force. Recent claims by the Indian foreign secretary that the killings are of equal numbers of Indians and Bangladeshis is not borne out by facts and has irritated Bangladeshis further. A water sharing treaty for the Teesta river—supposed to be signed in 2011—has yet to see the light of day. Bangladesh, however, has allowed India to withdraw water from the Feni River. Since Hasina came into power, Bangladesh has allowed India to transit its goods through Bangladesh and permitted transshipment of Indian goods via Bangladeshi seaports without charging customs duties and transit fees. Bangladesh has enabled Delhi to set up coastal surveillance system radar in Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. India’s support to Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis, however, does not augur well with Bangladeshis.

Recent demonstrations in Bangladesh against Modi’s visit speak volumes, literally and metaphorically. Instead of dismissing them as a conspiracy, both countries will be better served if their policymakers listen and take this opportunity to reassess their relationship and the domestic political environment in Bangladesh.

New Atlanticist by-Dr. Ali Riaz is a nonresident senior fellow at the Atlantic Council South Asia Center and a distinguished professor at Illinois State University.

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Modi’s canceled Bangladesh visit is an opportunity

Bangladesh’s decision to cancel the public celebration event of ‘the Mujib centennial’ due to public health concerns after the detection of three cases of coronavirus in the country is a welcome development and deserves appreciation, but it has also saved the government from a political embarrassment. The centennial of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman—the leader of the nationalist movement which established independent Bangladesh in 1971—was planned by the government headed by his daughter, Sheikh Hasina. The government declared the year beginning March 17 “the Mujib Year.”

The inaugural public event was supposed to be attended by several international dignitaries, including the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi’s visit became a controversial issue and provoked large-scale demonstrations and protests in Bangladesh. In the past week, left wing political parties, Islamists, some members of civil society, and students demonstrated and demanded that the government of Bangladesh withdraw the invitation. Protesters had planned further demonstrations in the days ahead of Modi’s arrival at Dhaka.

The large-scale demonstrations against Modi and scathing criticisms of the invitation have surprised many observers outside the region. The governments of Bangladesh and India have described the current relationship as in a “golden era.” Modi’s previous visit to Dhaka in 2018 caused no such reactions. Such massive protest against an Indian prime minister’s state visit in any country was unprecedented. This reaction in Bangladesh should give a pause to the Indian government. Although spurred by recent events in India, Bangladesh’s domestic political environment and the widespread perception of the Bangladesh-India relationship undergirded these protests. The cancellation of the event and Modi’s visit will push the issue out of the news cycle, but ignoring it will be a mistake. Instead, it provides both Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League and the Indian policymakers an opportunity to assess the underlying aspects.

The opponents of the visit highlighted the recent actions of the Modi government against the Muslim community in India, including the National Registry of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) as the reasons for their campaign. Violence against Muslims in Delhi by the BJP activists in February galvanized last week’s protests in Bangladesh. The Indian government repeatedly assured that the NRC and CAA will not affect Bangladesh, but such assurances have not convinced Bangladeshis, as there are reports of Indians migrating to Bangladesh in fear of being persecuted and the virulent rhetoric of BJP leaders that ‘illegal migrants’ are from Bangladesh; BJP leaders have described them as ‘termites’ and threatened to throw them in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladeshi officials have echoed the Indian position that the NRC and CAA are India’s internal matter, yet their discomfort is palpable as Hasina commented that ‘it was not necessary,’ and Bangladesh cancelled trips of several ministers since the passage of the CAA and Delhi violence.

In the wake of these protests, the ruling Awami League doubled down on the invitation and the Secretary General Obaidul Quadir said that, “refraining from inviting the Indian prime minister would have been an act of ingratitude.” The ruling party and their supporters have alleged that their opponents are trying to disrupt the “Mujib Year.” Criticism of Mujib has become a sensitive issue since Hasina returned to power. The draconian Digital Security Act (DSA), enacted in October 2018, has made “negative propaganda” about Sheikh Mujibur Rahman a punishable offence. Several people have been arrested under the law in the past year.

Many protestors had couched their opposition in language which they hoped would appeal to Mujib’s daughter and protect them from being labeled as “anti-government,” a potentially dangerous label. They insisted that Modi’s divisive communal politics are inconsistent with the secularist ideals of Sheikh Mujib. It failed to sway the government. Tying the criticism to Mujib’s ideals to avoid persecution is a testimony to the remarkable shrinking space for dissent in Bangladesh.

Since the 2014 election—boycotted by opposition—the country has taken a turn to electoral authoritarianism. The 2018 election—described by The New York Times as “farcical” and The Economist as “transparently fraudulent”—  exacerbated the situation as freedom of press and assembly has diminished, opposition has been neutered, and extrajudicial killings and enforced disappearances have skyrocketed. The government and the ruling party activists have previously ruthlessly quelled grass roots movements such as the road safety movement in 2018. In the absence of a robust opposition party which can take on the government, issue-based social movements have become the means to vent resentment against the government. The demonstrations against Modi’s visit were in part fueled by this domestic political environment. Many Bangladeshis view the invitation as an unqualified endorsement of India by the Hasina regime. Expressing criticisms of India has become perilous. Last October, an engineering student was tortured to death in his university dormitory by student activists from the ruling Awami League after posting a comment on Facebook critical of the agreement signed between India and Bangladesh during Hasina’s visit to India.

The widespread perception that the relationship between these two countries have become unequal and that Bangladesh had given more to India than it had received is bolstered by unresolved issues between the two countries. Killing of Bangladeshi civilians on the India-Bangladesh border has increased three-fold to forty-one in 2019 despite repeated promises of the Indian authorities to the contrary. In the past five years, 158 Bangladeshis have died in the hands of the Border Security Force. Recent claims by the Indian foreign secretary that the killings are of equal numbers of Indians and Bangladeshis is not borne out by facts and has irritated Bangladeshis further. A water sharing treaty for the Teesta river—supposed to be signed in 2011—has yet to see the light of day. Bangladesh, however, has allowed India to withdraw water from the Feni River. Since Hasina came into power, Bangladesh has allowed India to transit its goods through Bangladesh and permitted transshipment of Indian goods via Bangladeshi seaports without charging customs duties and transit fees. Bangladesh has enabled Delhi to set up coastal surveillance system radar in Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. India’s support to Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis, however, does not augur well with Bangladeshis.

Recent demonstrations in Bangladesh against Modi’s visit speak volumes, literally and metaphorically. Instead of dismissing them as a conspiracy, both countries will be better served if their policymakers listen and take this opportunity to reassess their relationship and the domestic political environment in Bangladesh.

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Unequal Bangladesh-India relationship

Golam Mustafa | Published at 12:00am on March 15, 2020

For the diplomatic relationships between the two countries to be considered as friendly and equal, any agreement should be negotiated on equal footing by both parties. That has not been the case of India and Bangladesh, writes Golam Mustafa

THE bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and India has been a cause of public concern, particularly among students. In 2020, a number of events have further stirred the debate including the escalation of border killings by the Indian Border Security Force (in January, at least 15 Bangladeshi citizens are killed), the controversial Citizenship (Amendment) Act and National Registrar of Citizens and subsequent protest in India and finally, the government’s invitation to India’s prime minister Narendra Modi, defying public sentiment against him for birth centenary for the founding president of Bangladesh, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

For the diplomatic relationships between the two countries to be considered as friendly and equal, any agreement should be negotiated on equal footing by both parties. One country should not meddle in the neighbouring country’s policy and internal affairs. One country should not spread propaganda about the other nation. However, our relationship with India is mostly one-sided. Every bilateral agreement has mostly served the interests of India.

Nearly 50 years have passed after the independence but we are yet to get the fair share of water of the River Teesta. However, a few months ago, during the India tour of the prime minister, the government had signed a MoU allowing India to take 1.82 cusec water from the Feni River, but the issue of River Teesta’s water deal was not even on agenda of bilateral meeting. Why? There are plenty of examples which demonstrated how the Bangladeshi power quarters, for their partisan interest, compromised the national political and economic interest and served Indian interests. It is because of the India appeasement policy of the government, people of Bangladesh has been a victim of India’s aggression for a long time.

Bangladesh, as a state, has been failing over and over again to negotiate an equal and dignified relationship with India. India’s dominance over Bangladesh explicit in the unequal trade deals, cultural aggression, unjust intervention in Bangladeshi politics, border killings and the unresolved water share deal of 54 trans-border rivers. A major reason for these is the Bangladeshi power quarters’ tendency to appease India sacrificing the sovereign interest of the nation.

Whenever Indian power quarters pass controversial laws or policies that go against the public and face local and regional pressure, they start spreading propaganda against Bangladesh. Indian citizens are not even well informed about the border killings because of their corporate controlled media. Indian media pays biased attention to the story BSF presents.

India is currently facing severe job crisis. More people are unemployed than any time in their history. Their economy is at a dangerous juncture. One of the top banks of India is bankrupt. Many Indian economists say the lowest growth rate after 1978, in 2019, the government is engaged in the politics of polarisation. The Bharatiya Janata Party led government wants to return to power by hiding their failure. So, to secure their vote banks, the government passed the sectarian, which many termed as anti-Muslim and fundamentalist, laws like CAA-NRC.

A prime reason behind these laws is keeping Muslim as the second class citizens in India. The Bharatiya Janata Party, in order to remain in power, has resorted to communal hatred, anti-Muslim sentiments and communal violence. Religious sentiment and nationalism is being deliberately woven together for the propagation of the political agenda. Muslim citizen’s criticism of the government is portrayed as seditious, ‘anti-India’ or ‘anti-nationalist speech’.

BJP activists launched attacks on the students of Jawaharlal Nehru University and left over 30 union leaders and members, as well as teachers injured in January, 2020. A recent ruling bans foreign students from taking part in any political activities at any Indian university. A few days ago, a Bangladeshi student was rusticated for capturing photos. There is no scope for the foreign students to express their opinion.

Politics of identity, in the name of racial purity, is becoming part and parcel of populist politics not just in India, but globally. People with different ethnic or religious identity are deliberately made enemies of the majority. Hate crimes are committed with the backing of the state and political parties. Which court will roll trial of these hate crimes? This is called fascism. A world driven by money and power cannot create congenial and equal atmosphere for all.

However unpleasant it sounds, when India is going through oppressive system designed by the BJP government, Bangladesh is experiencing something similar — the rule of the Awami League led government. Student wings of these two parties — Akhil Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishad and Bangladesh Chhatra League — resort to violence to maintain their dominance. We have seen how BCL launched attacks on the Dhaka University Central Students Union vice-president Nurul Hoque Nur, similarly, the ABVP’s masked activists left JNU VP Oishi Ghosh and her fellows injured.

A number of Indian states have recently experienced ‘communal’ violence where more than 50 people were killed. Why international quarters are silent at these grievous crimes of the Indian government? South Asian and world leaders should take necessary measures to stop the killings. Bangladesh government should protests at the killings and mobilse international support to pressure India to stop the attack on its citizens. Otherwise, as Bangladesh shares land border with India, effects of such violent and sectarian policies will come to our country.

Protests sparked across India against the CAA-NRC. I think that all the neighbouring countries will be affected by these. In the current context, if any Hindu becomes victim of any situation in this region, the BJP government would capitalise on it by spreading further communal hatred. Different quarters in Bangladesh would also capitalise on the situation. Meanwhile, after mosques were attacked in India, a Hindu temple was vandalised in Chittagong. In cases of violence on Hindu or ethnic minority communities in India, there are some Islamic political groups and parties in Bangladesh who would try to ‘retaliate’ and further this politics of hatred. From history, we know, communal violence has snow-ball effects and hatred begets more hatred. We should be deeply concerned, alarmed and act quickly to not fall in the ideological trap of BJP.  

India constructed damns on trans-border rivers and unfairly controlling the water flow causing distress to Bangladesh farmers and ordinary citizens. By violating international water laws, India made Farakka damn, Teesta damn, Tipaimukhi damn and Ganga damn. They keep the gates closed during winter seasons and opened them during monsoon creating floods and draught in Bangladesh. Meanwhile, the government in Bangladesh sees India as friend.

The foreign policy of Bangladesh has allowed trade deficit with India, China and other states which should be reduced. Such deficit in trades between India and Bangladesh is in fact increasing and currently hovers between USD 8-10 billion. In the black market, this deficit is several times higher. Millions of Bangladeshis are unemployed while nearly half a million Indian’s are working in Bangladesh and a mere 10 per cent of them are legal. Man power exchange should be done protecting the interest of both the countries.  

Bangladesh signed an agreement with India allowing them to establish radar system in the Bay of Bengals to stop foreign invaders. Interestingly, Indian authorities will look after the system and they would ‘allow’ Bangladesh to have the information upon request. Now the question is we are surrounded by Indian land on three sides, so only intrusion we can expect is Indian intrusion. In this sense, allowing India to establish radar system to refrain them from entering Bangladesh exposes our weak-willed foreign policy.   

Bangladesh government seem unmoved by the rising number of border killings. In the January 2020 alone, BSF killed more than 15 Bangladeshi citizens and Bangladesh did not take any step. In the last decades, India’s border forces killed more than 1300 Bangladeshi citizens and no one has ever faced trial for the killings. Our state has failed to address this issue. Under such hostile scenarios, labelling India as friend is nothing but a mockery to the family of the victims.

Bangladesh power quarters prefer getting help from states like China, India, the USA, Russia or even Myanmar to secure their power, instead of creating a congenial democratic political atmosphere inside the country. To ensure the dignity of the citizens and sovereignty of the state, the power quarters should reduce their dependency on foreign government. The government is bound to build an equal relationship with India and the citizens should create pressure on the government to do so.

We can call India friend only when they stop all aggression on Bangladesh. All the border killings should see judicious trial and verdict. Water distribution of the 54 shared rivers should be resolved. Bangladesh should stop employing Indian citizens when local youths are unemployed. The government should ensure that we can form a relationship of dignity and equality with India where both the country’s interests are ensured.

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