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Bangladesh doesn’t need India’s army team to deal with COVID-19: Foreign Minister


Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday said that Bangladesh did not require services of the Indian Army team for containing COVID-19 pandemic.

‘We do not need, rather we are sending teams to different countries,’ the foreign minister told New Age over phone, about an Indian media report on preparations of the Indian Army for deploying troops to several countries including Bangladesh for containing the disease.

Bangladesh armed forces have sent medical teams to Kuwait, he said.

Bangladesh also extended support to Maldives, Bhutan and China, the foreign minister added.  

‘The Indian Army is readying separate teams to be deployed in Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan to help those countries boost capabilities to deal with rising cases of coronavirus,’ Indian media The Print reported on Tuesday with reference to the state-owned news agency Press Trust of India.

The teams for Sri Lanka, Bangladesh, Bhutan and Afghanistan are being readied as part of India’s policy of extending helping hand to all friendly countries in the region to fight the pandemic.

Bangladesh diplomatic sources said that the Indian side did not inform anything about their plan to send Indian Army teams in COVID-19 operations. ‘Publishing a report by Indian state-owned news agency PTI is, however, significant,’ a Bangladesh official said. 

India has been playing a key role in pushing for a common framework in fighting the pandemic in the SAARC region.

As part of its policy to help friendly countries to deal with the pandemic, India is also supplying anti-malarial drug hydroxychloroquine to 55 countries, according to the report.

In the neighbourhood, India is sending the drug to Afghanistan, Bhutan, Bangladesh Nepal, Maldives, Mauritius, Sri Lanka and Myanmar, it added.

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Dhaka asks Delhi to alert BSF to avert untoward steps along border

Foreign minister AK Abdul Momen on Wednesday requested India to alert Border Security Force to avert untoward steps along Bangladesh border in future.

Momen made the request when Indian high commissioner Riva Ganguly Das called on the minister at the foreign ministry.

The BSF recently attempted to push a mentally retarded Indian woman into Bangladesh through the border on Feni River and it was unbecoming, he said. ‘Such attempts may create adverse impacts on friendly relations between the two countries.’

He also requested the high commissioner to take steps for quickly allowing trucks carrying imported goods to cross Petrapole border to enter Bangladesh.  

The minister welcomed the high commissioner’s proposal to for the use of train for transferring goods between the two countries.

He also requested India for joint steps in other countries where citizens of Bangladesh and India were co-workers.  

High commissioner Riva handed over 30,000 COVID-19 testing kits and other materials as humanitarian assistance to Bangladesh from India.   


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India plans to slap countervailing duty on Bangladesh jute goods

India has initiated an anti-subsidy investigation for imposition of countervailing duty (CVD) on imports of jute products, including jute sacking bags, jute sacking cloth and jute yarn, from Bangladesh.

Director General of Trade Remedies (DGTR) of India has already invited Bangladesh for consultation, a condition prior to starting such an investigation.

A country can impose countervailing duty on import of subsidised products from any other country to offset injury caused to local products due to the import of subsidised imports.

The consultation is supposed to be held through video conferencing by May 15.

Bangladesh commerce ministry has already requested India to defer the consultation until June 15 considering the prevailing situation of COVID-19 pandemic.

Trade officials and industry insiders said that the move would come as a huge threat to export of jute products to India, which is a large market for jute products, where Bangladesh’s export of the products has been dwindling since 2017 following imposition of anti-dumping duty by the country.

India in April, 2017 imposed anti-dumping duty ranging from $19 to $351.72 a tonne on import of jute products including jute yarn, twine, hessian fabric and jute sacking bags from Bangladesh for five years.

Bangladesh annually exports jute and jute products worth around $200 million to India.

Trade officials and industry insiders said that India had been creating barriers one after another to import of the products to hamper Bangladesh’s export.

Export of the products will be severely impacted if, in addition to the ADD, a CVD is imposed, they said.

Commerce ministry’s World Trade Organisation cell director general Sharifa Khan on Thursday told New Age that they had already sought time extension for consultation on the ground of coronavirus pandemic.

Holding consultation is a primary stage and a WTO-set condition of initiating any countervailing investigation, she said.

At the consultation, India may raise the issue while Bangladesh will provide its arguments, she added.

The Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission will carry out research activities and provide necessary supports to the commerce ministry in handling the issues.

Bangladesh Jute Mills Association secretary general Abdul Barik Khan told New Age that India had been taking various measures to hamper Bangladesh’s export of jute products to the country.

‘Bangladesh should impose duty on export of raw jute and make containerised export of the item through sea route mandatory to make India’s export of raw jute costlier as part of tackling the measures,’ he said.

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5 minutes ago, Kamikaze said:

Bangladesh should impose duty on export of raw jute and make containerised export of the item through sea route mandatory to make India’s export of raw jute costlier as part of tackling the measures

Do BD have the balls to do that?

Didn't we report them in WTO last year for similar reason? Any knows any update of that?  

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India to sail containerised EXIM cargo to Bangladesh from IBP for first time

Loading will start after getting clearance from customs, it said

India is set to sail maiden containerised EXIM Cargo from Haldia Dock Complex to Narayanganj, Bangladesh, via Indo-Bangla Protocol (IBP) route, the government said on Saturday.

This is the first time that cargo consignment is to being exported through IBP route, News 18 reported.

"In line with government's focus on strengthening regional connectivity through inland waterways, maiden containerised EXIM cargo consignment is set to sail from Haldia Dock Complex (HDC) to Narayanganj, Bangladesh," Ministry of Shipping said in a statement.

It said 64 TEUs (Twenty Feet Equivalent Units) of steel fillings/pig iron ingots, of West Bengal-based steel manufacturer Rashmi Metaliks Ltd will be exported to Bangladesh via National Waterway 1, National Waterway 97 (Sundarbans) and IBP Route.

Loading will start after getting clearance from customs, it said.

It is expected to open up possibilities for movement of other commodities on inland waterways between India and Bangladesh.

Currently, IBP route is mostly used for transportation of Bulk cargo like fly-ash, coal, stone chips and over-dimensional cargo for export to Bangladesh.

Shipping Minister Mansukh Mandaviya said, "The Maiden Exim cargo movement through National Waterways is a landmark moment and we are very delighted with our recent development in shipping sector. This environment-friendly mode of transportation would escalate business growth and contribute to the economic development of the country."

India's exports to Bangladesh in FY 2018-19 stood at USD 9.21 billion and imports from Bangladesh during the same period were USD 1.04 billion.
The government said given the trade volume, this movement is a welcome development as it will not only reduce the congestions on Land Custom Stations at Petrapole, Gojadanga etc but also reduce the cost of logistics, air pollution and GHG emissions.

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Bangladesh, India add 5 more ports of call


Bangladesh and India have added five more ports of call that would augment the trade and provide a stimulus to the economic development of the new locations and their hinterland.

The five new ports of call in Bangladesh side are Rajshahi, Sultanganj, Chilmari, Daudkandi and Bahadurabad, while in Indian side are Dhulian, Maia, Kolaghat, Sonamura and Jogigopha.

Bangladesh's Shipping Secretary Mezbah Uddin Chowdhury and Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Riva Ganguly Das signed the Second Addendum to the Protocol on Transit and Trade at the shipping ministry today.

Under the protocol, presently there are six ports of call. They are Kolkata, Haldia, Karimganj, Pandu, Shilghat and Dhubri on Indian side and Narayanganj, Khulna, Mongla, Sirajganj, Ashuganj and Pangaon on Bangladesh side.

Further, two more extended ports of call – Tribeli ( Bandel) and Badarpur on Indian side and Ghorasal and Muktarpur on Bangladesh side – have been added through this addendum. Now, total ports of call are 11 and there are two extended ports of call in both countries.

"Inclusion of Jogigopha in India and Bahadurabad in Bangladesh as a new Port of Call will provide connectivity to Meghalaya, Assam and Bhutan. Jogigopha also becomes important, since, a multimodal logistics park is proposed to be established there," said Indian High Commission in a statement.

The Protocol on Transit and Trade through inland waterways of India and Bangladesh, which was first signed in the year 1972, was last renewed in 2015 for five years with a provision of its automatic renewal for a further period of five years.

During the discussions between India and Bangladesh at shipping ministry level meetings held in October, 2018 in New Delhi and in December, 2019 in Dhaka, key decisions were taken on the extension of protocol routes, inclusion of new routes, and declaration of new ports of call to facilitate trade between the two countries.

These decisions have been made effective with the signing of Second Addendum to the Protocol. The number of Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes is being increased from 8 to 10 and new locations are also added to the existing routes.

The operationalisation of Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi route and its extension up to Aricha (270 km) will help the augmentation of infrastructure in Bangladesh as it would reduce the transportation cost of stone chips/aggregate to northern part of Bangladesh through this route. Further, it will also decongest land custom stations on both sides, said the statement.

Indian High Commission said as a path-breaking development, both sides have agreed to introduce trade between Chilmari (Bangladesh) and Dhubri (India) through the use of shallow draft mechanised vessels.

This initiative will allow export of stone chips and other Bhutanese and Northeast cargo to Bangladesh and easy access for the traders to the hinterland of Bangladesh, enhancing the local economy in Bangladesh and the lower Assam region of India.

Under this Protocol, inland vessels of both the countries can ply the designated protocol route and dock at ports of call in each country, notified for loading / unloading of cargo.

"There has been significant improvement in the movement of cargo vessels in an organised manner on the protocol route carrying both the transit cargo to Northeast region of India and vice-versa and export-cargo to Bangladesh," it said.

The Indian transit cargo is mainly coal, fly-ash, POL and ODC for power projects in Northeast region. The other potential cargo for movement is fertilisers, cement, food grains, agricultural products, containerised cargo etc.

On the other hand, the export cargo from India to Bangladesh is mainly fly-ash, which is to the tune of 30 lakhs MT annually. Around 638 inland vessels (including 600 Bangladeshi flag vessels) completed with approximately 4000 loaded voyages annually.

"It is expected that these additions to the protocol will greatly facilitate the bilateral trade, with improved reliability and cost effectiveness for the business community and the people of both the countries," Indian High Commission said.

Excellent connectivity provided by the existing and the newly added protocol routes is all the more pertinent in the present Covid-19 scenario as it will be instrumental in providing economical, faster, safer and greener mode of transport, it said.

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India backs away from Bheramara economic zone project

The Indian authorities have cancelled their plan to establish an economic zone at Bheramara in Kushtia.

They have already informed the Bangladesh government of their decision.

The Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) and Economic Relations Division officials said, ‍based on the feasibility study report, the Indian authorities think the economic zone in Bherama will not be convenient for investment. 

That is why they discarded the plan, officials said. 

According to the minutes of the meeting held at the Prime Minister's Office in February this year, India is not interested in establishing the economic zone in Bheramara. Instead, it is interested in establishing a tourism park near the Naf River and constructing  a cable car over the river. 

Indian officials said, at the joint working group meeting held on August 21 last year, that they no longer wished to consider the Bheramara site, and requested that an alternative site be considered.  

The project of establishing two economic zones in Mongla and Bheramara was taken under the Indian Second Line of Credit (LoC). India was supposed to lend $88 million to implement the project.

As the Bheramara project has been cancelled, Indian officials said the remaining funds of around $50 million will be used for a new project.

The project has not yet received final approval by the Indian authorities. That is why it has not yet been raised at the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) meeting.

Officials said the Bheramara project was cancelled but India wants to establish the economic zone in Mongla.

Beza said the Mongla project proposal was sent to the Indian government and is currently being reviewed. A memorandum of understanding was signed in February last year between Beza and the Nidar Group to set up the zone.

Also, 110 acres of land was allocated for the Mongla project, but an additional $30-40 million will be needed to develop the zone as per India's requirements.

On the other hand, another project titled Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpanagar in Chattogram's Mirsharai under the Second LoC is underway. It was approved by Ecnec in mid-2019, and is estimated to be finished by June next year. 

India is providing Tk914.59 crore of the Tk919.85 crore project. Beza officials said Indian investors would be able to invest there by next year.

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Bangladesh stops trading with India at land borders after India refused to allow Bangladeshi imports. This could be a retaliation by India for the Chinese allowing tax-free import of Bangladeshi goods.

If this continues Bangladesh will adopt stronger measures at diplomatic level and possibly take up the matter with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India benefits far more than Bangladesh does in terms of trade and ultimately Bangladesh will replace Indian imports with alternatives from China, Pakistan, Myanmar, Egypt and Turkey. Its really not wise for India to push this further as they will make their own population suffer because those Indian traders rely on exports to Bangladesh.

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3 hours ago, Syed Amar Khan said:

Bangladesh stops trading with India at land borders after India refused to allow Bangladeshi imports. This could be a retaliation by India for the Chinese allowing tax-free import of Bangladeshi goods.

If this continues Bangladesh will adopt stronger measures at diplomatic level and possibly take up the matter with the World Trade Organisation (WTO). India benefits far more than Bangladesh does in terms of trade and ultimately Bangladesh will replace Indian imports with alternatives from China, Pakistan, Myanmar, Egypt and Turkey. Its really not wise for India to push this further as they will make their own population suffer because those Indian traders rely on exports to Bangladesh.

India lacks the necessary instruments to think outside its reactionary policies. 

Looking at Modi's proclivity to soothe its nationalist base and utter disdain of their neighbor's diplomatic maturity, india is not thinking the way it needs to.

Its disappointing that india will let loose of all its baggage onto us. It opens a lot of doors to them to delve into coercive actions to muddy up the water.

Here are few factors that might play out in near future:

1) India with its current trajectory (right after Ladakh) will allow US control some part of its narratives. Americans will take them for a ride, just like the way they did with Pakistan.

2) Given the current government's status over last 11 years in power, india would like to exploit the fault lines in Bangladesh's electoral processes. 

3) There's always the Hindu minority card india can go back to, any time & when ever it wants.

4) This ad-hoc approach from india is designed to exact more concessions from us in near term. Going forward, india's action towards its neighbors, i.e- Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal will be more punitive in nature.

In this current juncture, I can't see how india can come out on top against China.

But lets be honest, India can't provide the same tariff break as China can. India's market is simply not as matured and developed as China's. 

Since 2005, india failed to invest fully in manufacturing the way China did. Now the country is trailing behind, its rather a wishful thinking that under the mercy of Protectionist Americans they will get some semblance of strategic manufacturing capability. While in reality, its China who is contributing to manufacturing flights from its own territory to its more favorable trade partners. 

Modi is making moves it to sooth his own base, he knows the pit fall of continuing in this path for far too long!! In this unprecedented time, Modi needs to make his quick fix to come out as strong man here!! But he would like his base to forget about this incident as soon as possible!! That's his wish



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India's foreign policy is rather shallow and under Modi its becoming more insular because it has withdrawn very much from its international commitments. Hamstrung by US and Israeli alliance it has become a new milking cow for Western military hardware manufacturers who are using their servile agents in India to create a big fear factor in Indian society about the threat from China. From banning of Chinese origin mobile apps to boycott of Chinese products they are going backwards daily.

China does not have to defeat India militarily. It will just buy India out of everything. Moreover China will now exploit India's poor relations with its neighbouring countries to further hem it in.

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Indian envoy failed to meet Hasina despite requests: Dhaka daily

It also reported that all Indian projects have slowed down since the re-election of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2019.

A prominent newspaper of Bangladesh has said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina did not meet India’s High Commissioner despite repeated requests for a meeting in the last four months.

Bhorer Kagoj, a prominent daily, has reported that all Indian projects have slowed down since the re-election of Prime Minister Hasina in 2019 with Chinese infrastructure projects receiving more support from Dhaka.

“Despite India's concern, Bangladesh has given the contract of building an airport terminal in Sylhet to a Chinese company. Indian High Commissioner Riva Ganguly Das tried for four months to get an appointment with the Prime Minister of Bangladesh but did not get it. Bangladesh has not even sent a note of appreciation to India in response to Indian assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic”, said the newspaper's editor Shyamal Dutta in an article on the recent tilt of Dhaka towards Pakistan and China.

Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG) has received the contract for building a new terminal in MAG Osmania Airport of Sylhet that borders India's northeastern region and is, therefore, considered a sensitive area for New Delhi.

A diplomatic source from the Bangladesh High Commission here has confirmed that the Indian envoy had sought an appointment with Ms Hasina but it did not materialise. However, neither India’s High Commission in Dhaka nor the Ministry of External Affairs(MEA) responded to questions from The Hindu. A diplomat from the Indian mission said Ms Ganguly Das has gone out of Dhaka on a tour.

Imran Khan’s call

Ms. Hasina received a phone call from Prime Minister Imran Khan of Pakistan on Wednesday. Though Dhaka refused to give more details of the conversation, Pakistan’s official news agency reported that Mr. Khan informed Ms Hasina about the situation in Kashmir and sought “resolution” of the dispute. India, in response on Thursday, appreciated Bangladesh saying that Dhaka considers Kashmir an internal matter of India.

Ms Ganguly Das has been appointed as the next Secretary in charge of the eastern hemisphere in the MEA and she is expected to take her new post in the coming days. She was met by foreign minister Dr. A K Abdul Momen on July 14 for a farewell meeting.

The article in Bhorer Kagoj said that a section of Ms Hasina’s office is actively supporting stronger ties with China. This angle was visible in the rapid improvement in ties with China’s ally Pakistan in the last 10 months. Bangladesh opted for Pakistan’s onion supplies in November 2019 after India imposed a ban on its export.

This was the first time that Bangladesh imported agriculture items from Pakistan in the last 15 years. Dhaka-Islamabad ties went cold after Ms Hasina’s government hanged Jamaat E Islami Bangladesh leader Motiur Rahman Nizami for the 1971 war crimes in 2016. Pakistan had angrily protested against the execution and for two years (2018-'19) Dhaka did not host a Pakistan High Commissioner.

NRC, CAA issues

India’s ties with Bangladesh in the meantime was also hit by the National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA), which aims to give amnesty to minority religious groups from Pakistan, Afghanistan and Bangladesh. Dhaka has maintained that instances of religious bigotry has gone down in the country and that the NRC and the CAA are internal matters of India.

The issue, however, has created a wave of concern in Dhaka, as prominent leaders of the ruling BJP spoke about “sending back” undocumented citizens to Bangladesh. In recent weeks, media in Dhaka has also been vocal about increased number of casualties along the India-Bangladesh border because of reported firings by the Border Security Force (BSF). Growing differences with India were viewed as opportunity for groups that are aligned with Pakistan and Chinese interests in Dhaka.

In this backdrop, Bangladesh-Pakistan diplomatic ties resumed earlier this year with the arrival of new Pakistan High Commissioner Imran Ahmed Siddiqui in January. Mr Siddiqui secured a special meeting with Dr. Momen on July 1.

The article in Bhorer Kagoj also said that a section of officials in Bangladesh was trying to use cricket to normalise relations between the two sides that continues to be vitiated by the memory of widespread human rights violation and war crimes committed by the Pakistan military against the people of the erstwhile East Pakistan that led to the revolt and ultimately the creation of Bangladesh in December '71 through the Indo-Pak war.

Ms Hasina’s increasing diplomatic interactions with Pakistan and Pakistan’s traditional supporter China is also being viewed as a move to bargain with India on issues of Dhaka’s special interest, especially the CAA, which remains a sticking issue for Bangladesh as it is weary of hosting more refugees in addition to the 1.2 million Rohingya from Myanmar currently residing in Chittagong’s Kutupalong.

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ইমরান-হাসিনার টেলিফোনে কথা! ইন্দো-বাংলা সম্পর্কে ফাটলের শঙ্কা দিল্লির

তাদের মত, "বাংলাদেশ-পাকিস্তানের প্রধানমন্ত্রীর ফোনে কথা এবং জম্মু-কাশ্মীর ও সীমান্ত নিয়ে আলোচনা খুব দুর্লভ।"


চলতি সপ্তাহের প্রথমে টেলিফোনে কথা হয়েছে বাংলাদেশ ও পাকিস্তানের প্রধানমন্ত্রীর (Pak-Bangladesh telephonic conversation)। আলোচনার বিষয়বস্তু ছিল ইন্দো-চিন ও ইন্দো-নেপাল সীমান্ত সমস্যা। এমনটাই জানতে পেরেছে নয়াদিল্লি (New Delhi)।  পাশাপাশি সূত্রের খবর, পাক প্রধানমন্ত্রী "ভারত অধিকৃত জম্মু-কাশ্মীর" নিয়েও শেখ হাসিনার কাছে অভিযোগ করেছেন। আর এতেই কিছুটা উদ্বেগ বেড়েছে ভারতের। তাদের মত, "বাংলাদেশ-পাকিস্তানের প্রধানমন্ত্রীর ফোনে কথা এবং জম্মু-কাশ্মীর (Talks on J&K) ও সীমান্ত নিয়ে আলোচনা খুব দুর্লভ।" যদিও বাংলাদেশের তরফে কাশ্মীর বা সীমান্ত প্রসঙ্গ উত্থাপন করা হয়নি। শুধু সে দেশের বন্যা ও করোনা সংক্রমণ নিয়ে কথা হয়েছে।

যদিও বিষয়টি লঘু করতে দেশের প্রাক্তন বিদেশ সচিব কে শ্রীনিবাসন বলেছেন, "দুই আঞ্চলিক দেশের প্রধানমন্ত্রীদের মধ্যে কথা বলায় কোনও আকস্মিকতা নেই। আর যেহেতু দু'টি দেশই ইসলাম অধ্যুষিত। সেখানে কাশ্মীর প্রসঙ্গ থাকবে। এটাই বলাবাহুল্য।"

এদিকে, এই ফোন বৈঠক প্রসঙ্গে বিদেশ মন্ত্রক শুক্রবার বলেছে, "বাংলাদেশের সঙ্গে ভারতের সম্পর্ক ঐতিহাসিক ও দীর্ঘ। আমরা জম্মু-কাশ্মীর নিয়ে ওদের স্থিতাবস্থাকে সম্মান করি। কাশ্মীর প্রসঙ্গ ভারতের অভ্যন্তরীণ ইস্যু, এটা ওরা বরাবর মেনে চলেছে।" যদিও সংশোধিত নাগরিকত্ব বিল নিয়ে ভারতের বিরুদ্ধে কিছুটা ক্ষোভ উগরে দিয়েছে ঢাকা। পাশাপাশি চলতি মাসের প্রথম সপ্তাহে ঢাকায় নিযুক্ত পাক রাষ্ট্রদূতকে উষ্ণ অভ্যর্থনা জানিয়েছে শেখ হাসিনা সরকার। আর এতেই উদ্বেগ বেড়েছে ভারতের।

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Hasina’s vision and Indian failures

by M Serajul Islam | Published: 00:00, Jul 26,2020

SHEIKH Hasina offered India a complete assurance on its security concerns about the secessionists in the north-eastern states or the Seven Sisters using Bangladesh’s territory for their destructive activities immediately on her assuming office in January 2009. She offered land transit in the name of connectivity subsequently, conscious that the concessions were extremely important to India. She offered the concessions with the vision to bring about a paradigm shift in Bangladesh-India relations expecting that her vision would encourage India to reciprocate on issues of interest to Bangladesh such as water sharing, trade, border killings, et cetera.

More than a decade has elapsed meanwhile during which India has largely failed to match Hasina’s vision. There has been zero movement on water sharing and no benefit has thus far come from land transit that was supposed to bring Bangladesh fabulous economic benefits as the connectivity hub of the region. Analysts of Indo-Bangladesh relations have been left wondering why India being the much bigger and more powerful neighbour has failed to match the vision of a much smaller and weaker neighbour. Some analysts believe that perhaps India did not fail and that it viewed its relations with Bangladesh differently. Revisiting the history of Bangladesh-India relations particularly India’s role in Bangladesh’s liberation war would clarify the question at a time when Bangladesh-India relations appear to have hit a roadblock.

It was not easy for India to be directly involved in the Bangladesh liberation war when it started. The war occurred during the cold war when the sovereignty and territorial integrity of a member state of the United Nations was sacrosanct. Biafra’s attempt to become independent was brutally crushed in pursuance of that reality. The world did not lift a finger for Biafra because it was a matter of Nigeria’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. India thus limited its involvement in the Bangladesh liberation war when it started to be a sanctuary to freedom fighters or Mukti Bahini and supplying them with an an inadequate amount of arms and ammunitions.

India intervened directly at the fag end of the war after the Mukti Bahini had weakened the Pakistani military considerably. India took two steps before interfering directly. First, it signed the Treaty of Friendship with the Soviet Union in August 1971 to strengthen its position internationally. Second,  Indira Gandhi visited several European countries towards the end of October and early November and convinced their leaders that Pakistan had attacked India by pushing 10 million of its citizens to its territory. India Gandhi further convinced them that India would not be violating the principles of sovereignty and territorial integrity of a member state of the United States if it intervened directly in the Bangladesh liberation war to send the refugees back to their homeland.

Thus, India formed the Mitra Bahini or the Joint Command of Indian Armed Forces and the Mukti Bahini under Lieutenant General Jagjit Singh Aurora on November 21, 1971. India thereafter engaged itself in the third India-Pakistan war on December 3, 1971. The war ended on December 16 with the surrender of the Pakistan forces in Dhaka on the war’s eastern front leading to the liberation of Bangladesh on December 16, 1971.

India thus played a decisive role in Bangladesh’s independence. Bangladeshis across their political divide have acknowledged India’s role gratefully although they also believed and continue to do so that they would have achieved their independence even if India had not intervened but that would have taken much longer than the nine months in which India helped them to win their liberation. The Awami League’s call for independence united all Bangladeshis as a monolith like a few other liberation wars in history that had made Bangladesh’s liberation inevitable and just a matter of time.

India, however, was afraid that if it allowed the war to linger, the leadership would not have remained with the Awami League that it did not want. India never forgot its role in Bangladesh and it did not allow Bangladesh to forget it either. India made a major mistake out of such a mentality when it started relations with an independent Bangladesh. It chose the Awami League as not just its favourite; as the years passed by, it became an open secret that India wanted the Awami League to be in power and was willing to interfere in the country’s politics to see its favourite political party in power and to retain it once in office.

Bangladesh’s national election in 2014 flagged India’s abnormal ‘all eggs in one basket’ policy and why it was not the right. The visit of the Indian foreign secretary Sujata Singh to Dhaka just before the elections and the details of her meeting with president Ershad that the latter released almost verbatim to the media documented India’s design to help the Awami League return to power through an apology of elections and keep the BNP and its allies out. That was one of the most blatant examples of interference of a bigger and more powerful neighbour in the affairs of a smaller and less powerful one in history.

In retrospect, India’s interference in the 2014 elections destroyed the country’s hopes of emerging as a liberal democracy at a time when it could have if New Delhi had encouraged the Awami League to hold free and fair elections that it had the ability to do, instead of interfering to the contrary. That interference created in the Awami League a dependence on New Delhi for returning to power without legitimate elections that was not good for either country and unhealthy for conducting bilateral relations, a point that was proved unequivocally when the Awami League was in more desperate need of Indian help in the 2018 elections and developments thereafter.

The BJP-led government did not come to the Awami League’s assistance as the Congress in 2014. Instead, it asked the Awami League to hold the elections with all political parties. The BJP believed that the Awami League would return to power anyway and come back to it. The Awami League returned to power as New Delhi thought it would but it did not go back to it. Instead, a week after returning to power, Hasina dropped many pro-Indian heavyweight ministers from her new cabinet much to New Delhi’s bewilderment and disbelief.

New Delhi subsequently downgraded Hasina’s visit to India in July 2019  from a state visit to an official one. Subsequently, the Awami League went deeper towards China to the extent that China has now occupied the strategic space that New Delhi had vacated albeit inadvertently or perhaps due to failure of its intelligence or from a sense of overconfidence.

Meanwhile, Dhaka-Islamabad relations are thawing, after being in the cold storage for the past few years due partly to New Delhi’s encouragement. Pakistan’s prime minister Imran Khan called Sheikh Hasina this week to inquire about the pandemic and the flood, a call in which Indian media have sensed a Chinese-encouraged Bangladesh-Pakistan plot against India. A human chain in Dhaka to protest at the recent Chinese attacks on India and the death of Indian soldiers drew only a handful, underlining the fact that India’s acceptance in Bangladesh has now hit a nadir that is obvious from the political distance between New Delhi and Dhaka while an AL government is in power in Bangladesh.

The ball, as the cliché goes, is in India’s court to find and address why even with an Awami League in power, there is such a distance for which its popularity in Dhaka has fallen to an all-time low. India must keep in mind that it helped Bangladesh in 1971 to emerge as a democratic country and yet helped destroy democracy there in 2014. India must stop playing favourites in Bangladesh’s highly partisan politics and keep the history of Bangladesh’s emergence in the library. And India should give Bangladesh space to pursue an independent foreign policy keeping in perspective that China has stepped into Bangladesh in a major way and according to the grapevines may have weakened its influence significantly.

And while addressing the above for better relations with Bangladesh, the BJP-led government should focus on two more issues. First, why it failed to reciprocate on Sheikh Hasina’s vision and concessions and, second, what was it thinking when its leaders and supporters were using Bangladesh’s Muslim majority as a bait for Hindutva.


M Serajul Islam is a former career ambassador.


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Rivers in north swell again as India opens 3 barrages

Fresh areas flooded, Brahmaputra, Jamuna may keep swelling

Emran Hossain with Rezaul Karim Manik in Lalmonirhat | Published: 00:34, Aug 13,2020

Parts of low-lying north in Bangladesh went under water overnight on Wednesday, less than a week after they came out of over a month-long flooding, as India opened three barrages causing major northern rivers to swell rapidly.

The sudden release of water caused embankments to collapse in four districts of Rangpur division where many villages got flooded overnight, affecting 51,000 people.

Over a third of the inhabitants of Challish Shal Char at Gangachara of Rangpur have evacuated their houses while the rest were preparing to leave as major northern rivers such as the Teesta, Dharla and Brahmaputra swelled up to more than half a metre over the last two days.

‘The rise in the rivers is temporary but might extend flooding in parts of northern and central Bangladesh,’ Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre sub-divisional engineer Sarder Udoy Raihan told New Age.

Central Bangladesh districts including Dhaka are still experiencing flooding of six rivers with hundreds of thousands of people still stranded in their houses and over 30,000 people at flood shelters.

Many of the 654 chars or shoals in the north were still under water while others surfaced less than a week ago revealing a trail of destruction left behind by receding rivers.

Draining much of the vast Ganges-Brahmaputra-Meghna river basin experiencing an unusually wet summer, flooding in Bangladesh already entered 47th day on Wednesday because of a steady onrush of huge amount of water from upstream that caused the rivers downstream to swell.   

Water Development Board north zone chief Jyoti Prashad Ghosh said that India passed 4,200 cusecs of water through the Gazaldoba Barrage, 12,074 cusecs through the barrage in upstream on the River Karatoa and 12,704 cusecs through the Deonai barrage.

‘The situation is likely to worsen for the barrages are likely to stay open for a few more days,’ said Jyoti Prashad.

Since June 27, the Gazaldoba barrage was opened more than six times and the other ones multiple times, causing the rivers to rapidly rise and burst their banks over a vast area. Official estimate shows over 23,000 families lost their houses to erosion largely around the time the rivers swell and fell.

‘I was home just for four days before witnessing the river rising again,’ said Shahidul Islam, who along with 2,500 others left his Challish Shal Char home to seek shelter on an embankment.

The shoal has 6,000 inhabitants and all of them are preparing to leave their houses.

‘What wretched life we are living here,’ quipped Rabeya Bewa, another displaced inhabitant of the Challish Shal char. In Rangpur, Gaibandha, Kurigram and Panchagarh embankment collapsed at four points, flooding vast areas.

The Teesta eroded river banks so badly in Gangachara it threatened the integrity of a bridge in Rangpur connecting four Lalmonirhat upazilas with their divisional headquarters.

In the 24 hours, until 9:00am on Wednesday, the Dharla swelled 30cm, while Jamuneshwari 65cm, Teesta 9cm, Punarbhaba over 1 m, Atrai 68cm, Jadukata 2.55m and Bhugai 3.27m.

A Flood Forecasting and Warning Centre bulletin showed that the Brahmaputra and the Jamuna swelled across all gauging stations over the same time. The bulletin issued Wednesday morning said that the rivers might continue to swell over the next two days.

The bulletin said that the Padma might keep receding through Thursday but the rivers in Meghna basin might swell during the same time.

Floodwater might recede from flood-affected Dhaka city through Thursday, said the bulletin.

The health emergency control room said that four people died because of drowning and snakebite in as many districts in the last 24 hours until 8:00am on Wednesday taking the death toll from flood-related causes to 202.

Boat still remained the only means of communication for thousands of people in central districts including those living in the flood-affected Dhaka city areas.

Some of them were even using banana raft to move for the offices resumed fully operating as the government lifted lockdown restrictions enforced because of the coronavirus crisis.

Those who returned their houses from where floodwater receded found that floodwater not only washed away their houses but also dumped tonnes of mud there and on the field they cultivated many crops.

Waterborne diseases became a source of worry for the extensive flooding contaminated thousands of tube wells destroying the source of drinking water for many.

The flood had affected 5.5 million people at its peak and swept away vast lands.

Amid continued heavy rain upstream and inside Bangladesh, forecasters already warned about further flooding at the end of August, just two weeks after they predicted the ongoing flood to end.

In northern Bangladesh the FFWC recorded up to 168mm of rains in the 24 hours until 9:00am on Wednesday while heavy rain continued in upstream areas across the border as well.



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