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It’s Time to Deliver

June 25, 2014

In her first maiden visit to abroad as an External Affairs Minister, Sushma Swaraj is coming to Bangladesh. Hopes are high that her visit will solve the outstanding bilateral issues. Foreign affairs experts, however, have admonished us not to be too optimistic.

On the eve of Sushma’s visit, C Rajamohan, India’s leading strategic thinker, has written an op-ed column on Indian Express. The column solicited NDA regime to view Bangladesh as a test case for solving problems with Pakistan. Wrapped up with connectivity and economic integration, Indian strategic and security interests turn out to be key issue of the column.

More or less, all the Indian regimes, current and past, view Bangladesh from its security perspective. Bangladesh already did too much to address Indian concerns: it nabbed the key secessionist leaders, destroyed their hideouts, allowed a duty free transit of food grain and power plant to Tripura, and awarded an off-shore block to Indian state owned oil and gas exploration company [Many see it as an Indian watch post in the south-eastern part of Bay of Bengal].

In exchange, Bangladesh saw very little reciprocity from India. Growing difference between words and actions has become a bone of contention in Indo-Bangladesh relationship. Whims of a politician derailed Teesta water treaty agreement at the last minute and weakened the prospect of land boundary agreement.

Ground reality is completely different when it comes to the security interest of Bangladesh. More Bangladeshis died at the hands of Indian border guards than in terrorist incidents in last 5 years. There is an upsurge of cross border Mafia rackets who straddled between both sides of borders since the present regime assumed power back in 2009. These rackets have made Bangladesh ‘a lawless Bollywoodian Bihar’. Small businesses, entrepreneurship, public transport system and financial sector are affected by them. So is the everyday life of ordinary man. Culprit of Narayanganj 7 murders Nur Hossain’s arrest in West Bengal and BJP parliamentary team’s probe report on Uttar Chabbish (North 24) Pargana post election violence are the pertinent examples.On top of that black money and drug money, generated by them and their protectors, are feeding the anarchic politics and violent agitations in Bangladesh.

Apart from security concern, bilateral trade has also become one-sided. Though Bangladesh exports to India in terms of volume and monetary value increased, it is still insignificant compared to Indian exports to Bangladesh. Moreover, it is often obstructed by para tariff barriers.

All this unnecessary delay in delivering the promised output and failure to address Bangladeshi security concern are contributing to the anti-Indian sentiment.

Indian domestic problem sometimes cast shadow on Bangladesh. BJP government is poised to settle the illegal Bangladeshi immigrant issue. Subramanian Swamy most outspoken about the issue reiterated his devotion to the cause in an NDTV talk show. BJP has to tread carefully dealing with such a sensitive issue. Certainly, it’s a problem for India; but to address the problem with a tunnel vision without doing much homework may have unprecedented consequences. Its fallout could jeopardize Indo-Bangladesh relations and stoke communalism across the region. BJP has to think how it can deal with illegal immigrant issues without hurting Bangladesh.

Bangladesh has long been waiting for the due promises to be delivered. It is now time for India to address them. Bangladeshi goods’ barrier-free entry to Indian market can be the easier one to address first.

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From → Analysis

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