Bangladesh and India are closely involved in history, geography, politics, economy, and security. This relationship has crossed the line and reached another height under the Awami League government.
During the 1996-2001 rule of the Awami League government, the most significant success of Bangladesh-India bilateral relations was signing the long-standing unresolved Ganga Water Agreement. Bangladesh’s relations with India became sour during the BNP-Jamaat coalition government. Ten truck weapons were seized in Chittagong, brought for India’s separatist organization ULFA (United Liberation Front of Asom). Indian establishment doesn’t take it easy; that’s a direct threat to India’s national security.
Later, when the Awami League formed the government in 2009, relations with India continued to improve. The Awami League took the initiative to control India’s concerns, especially rebel groups in the Northeast, handed over the fleeing rebel leaders.
Over Bangladesh, India’s northeastern states have given land, water, sea transit for economic development. India is not as sincere in the interest of Bangladeshas as the Awami League government has sought for India,
The recent visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh on the golden jubilee of independence has given a different dimension to Bangladesh’s anti-Indian sentiment. The Leftist, Nationalist, and Islamist Party had opposed the Modi visit to Bangladesh. The protest turned into deadly violence on 26th and 27th March.
The Teesta river water distribution agreement has been in place for a long time. The Teesta treaty has not yet seen the light in the dispute between the Centre and India’s State government. The distribution of water to the common rivers flowing between the two countries is yet to be reached. Sheikh Hasina, on the other hand, has allowed India to use Feni river water during her visit to India. Opposition parties are saying that it is unacceptable to give transit to India without bothering about public opinion. The use of derogatory words about “Bangladeshi illegal infiltrators” from India’s high leadership position angers Bangladesh’s people.
It is established that India has strong support for establishing an authoritarian government in Bangladesh through the last two decorated elections. According to political scientist Ali Riaz, “Democratic institutions are weak, and the Prime Minister has become the center of all power in a “systematic” way.
India’s indirect support for Myanmar, which is guilty of the Rohingya issue, has left people frustrated. Under The Citizenship Act of India, It is not acceptable to the people or the Bangladesh government to Identify Bangladesh as a country in many oppressing countries like Pakistan. Indian Border Security Force (BSF) is killing unarmed people on the border. Besides, Indian politicians and diplomats argue in favor of border killings without stopping them, which has added fuel to Bangladesh’s anger.
Bangladesh has become critical to Indian policy-thinkers for a few things in recent times. Firstly, Bangladesh is vital in the context of India’s national security. The present government has extended a helping hand to suppress the separatists in India’s Northeast, which has been appreciated in India’s quarters. That proves that Bangladesh is a key strategic ally to pursue the peach in India’s north-east region.
Secondly, India thinks Bangladesh is an essential economic partner in light of growing economic development. Bangladesh is ranked fifth in terms of the country to send remittance to India. A large number of Indians are engaged in various sectors of Bangladesh.
Thirdly, Bangladesh is the most trusted country to curtail China’s influence in South Asia. India thinks that regional security in South Asia as an emerging regional power is closely associated with India’s national security. China’s presence in the closest neighboring country is a threat to India’s national security, resulting in Bangladesh dismissing China’s proposal to build deep sea port on Sonadia island. Bangladesh is yet to approve China’s proposal to manage and store water in the Teesta river due to India’s objections.
“The question that has to be answered by the ruling party of our state is whether we, as independent and sovereign states, will not be able to take up projects independently in our interest,” said Moinul Islam, Bangladesh’s top economist. Mutual faith and trust are the basis of friendly bilateral relations between the two neighboring countries. Sadly, in the last 12 years, India’s behavior toward Bangladesh’s overall cooperation has not been visible. This fundamental lack of trust and confidence is not helpful for sustainable relationships. The lesson that Indian policymakers should learn from the last few days’ mass protests- the relationship between the state will be based on equal dignity and mutual respect.