The relationship between India and Bangladesh is anchored in history, culture, language, and democracy. Despite other commonalities, the bilateral relationship between the two countries is the function of geography. With about 4,096 kilometers in length, Bangladesh shares the longest land border with India. Paced well below India’s Chicken neck (Siliguri corridor), Bangladesh holds geo-strategic importance for India. Considering strategic significance, India has treated Bangladesh with kid gloves. In every social, economic, political, or international scheme, India has favoured Bangladesh.
However, Bangladesh, in response, has never applied this condition to India. Using its two main weapons, geography and Islamic populations, the Islamic Republic of Bangladesh has constantly tried to blackmail India.
Wang Yi in Bangladesh
In between the recent geo-political overhaul, the Chinese Foreign Minister Wang Yi was on a visit to Bangladesh. During the visit, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is reported to have reaffirmed her country’s support for the ‘One-China Policy’. In response, Wang Yi has pledged to support the development of Bangladesh as a ‘strategic development’ partner.
During the visit, four memorandums of understanding in the field of disaster management, infrastructure, cultural exchange, and maritime science have been signed between the two countries. Further, the Chinese Foreign Minister has promised Bangladesh to support the country in the international forums on various issues and has pledged support for the repatriation of Rohingya to Myanmar.
China’s Strategic Presence in Bangladesh
In recent times China has increased its presence in Bangladesh. Considering the tremendous transformation of relationships, many in Bangladesh consider China as an ‘all-weather friend’.
Net Foreign Direct Investment from China to Bangladesh in financial year 2017 was about USD 68 million, which reached USD 1159 million in the financial year 2019. Although the trade is mostly in China’s favor, but the ‘strategic’ relationship is fructifying at a fast pace. Imports from China include goods like textiles, machines, and refined petroleum. With about 70% total share, exports to China consist mainly of textiles.
China has also invested heavily in Bangladesh’s power and gas sector. The Dragon is working on a Power Grid Network Strengthening project with USD 1.32 billion investment and with USD 2.04 billion, power system network. In 2017, China bought three natural gas fields in Bangladesh, which accounts for half of the country’s gas output. Further, China is also financing a 220-kilometer oil pipeline at the Chittagong refinery. Although due to India’s reservation with China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), Bangladesh cancelled the Sonadia deep-sea project, which was suitable for a future navy base. But, the relationship between the two has significantly increased in strategic areas, which is a deep cause of concern for India.
Bangladesh – Turkey Military Ties
In January this year, Bangladesh and Turkey signed a memorandum of understanding on various issues like security cooperation, counterterrorism, and countering drug trafficking. Initially reluctant to recognise Bangladesh as a country, the two Islamic countries in recent times have increased their cooperation in defense and security areas.
With about USD 60 million in weapon imports, Bangladesh is the fourth-largest defense partner of Turkey. Reports suggest that Turkey is supplying its popular Turkish Bayraktar TB2 unmanned combat aerial vehicles (UCAVs) to Bangladesh.
Further, many Turkish institutions and organisations like the Turkish Cooperation and Coordination Agency, the Turkish Red Crescent, the Directorate of Religious Affairs, and other Turkish NGOs have been working in Bangladesh. Under the shadow of humanitarian assistance, they run a huge racket of Islamic radicalism.
Saudi Arabia, Finances and Radical Islam in Bangladesh
In 2017, the news came out that Saudi Arabia has announced to invest USD 1.07 billion in Bangladesh with the purpose to build 560 mosques in the country. These mosques are the primary source of expansion of radical Islamic ideas. They coordinate and facilitate the promotion of religious bigotry in the region.
Reports suggest that since the late 1970s, Saudi Arabia has funded thousands of such mosques and madrasas, which has promoted religious extremism. Funded by Saudi Arabia, Hefazat-e-Islam Bangladesh, the Islamist advocacy group, controls over 14,000 mosques and madrasas. Where about 1.4 million students get Islamic education, which is the breeding ground of radical Islamic ideas.
Various reports suggest that most of the anti-Hindu processions and violence are carried out by the members of Hefazat-e-Islam funded by Saudi Arabia. The major Islamist group which is being funded by Saudi Arabia are Jamait-e-Islami, Jamait-ul-Mujahideen, and Islamic Chhatra Shibir, which has launched unending attacks on Hindu minorities in Bangladesh. These organisations use these funds to spread radicalism and motivate co-religious groups for Jihad.
India’s selfless support to Bangladesh
Despite the country’s repeated anti-India and anti-Hindu stand, India has helped them in every social, economic, security, and international issues. Just after a year in 2015, the Modi Government finalized the decade-old land boundary agreement with Bangladesh. With the amendment in the Constitution of India, the country transferred about 17,160 acres of area to Bangladesh in exchange for 7,110 acres. The enclaves exchange agreement of the Modi government marked India’s priority in the relationship.
Unlike China, India wholeheartedly accepted the Permanent Court of Arbitration’s decision to allot 19,467 km sq area out of 25,000 km sq area to Bangladesh in ending the 40-year-old New Moore islands dispute.
Despite being in the unfavourable condition of the Ganga Water Sharing Treaty 1966, India has constantly allowed Bangladesh to use the river’s water. Going opposite to the West Bengal government, India agreed to allot 36% of Teesta river water to Bangladesh under the Teesta Water Sharing Agreement.
In 2017, India operationalised the largest ever line of credit of about USD 4.5 billion to Bangladesh. With other financial and infrastructural support, India allocated Rs 3 billion in financial assistance for Bangladesh in the 2022-23 financial year. During the strict Covid-19 year, when the whole world was reluctant to help others, India became the first responder in the crisis.
India’s favourable development initiative in Bangladesh includes key sectors like power, railways, roads, shipping, ports, and other big-budget projects. These developmental supports are highly favourable. Unlike China, which through ‘debt diplomacy’ is slowly trying to capture strategic projects in Bangladesh, India’s line of credit is at a 1% per annum interest rate with 20 years of repayment plus a five-year moratorium extension.
Prosecution of Hindus
In spite of all these favourable policies and projects, Bangladesh constantly blackmailed India with China’s fear. The country let radicalism survive, consequently leading to mass exodus and killings of Hindus. In 1901, the Hindu population in Bangladesh was 33% of the total population. This reached 22% in 1951 and 18.50% in 1961. After the Bangladesh liberation war in 1974, Hindus in the country were 13.50% which has now reduced to 7.65% in 2022.
Considering the strategic importance, India never raised the issue of religious persecution of Hindus in Bangladesh. Under the economic patronage of India, Bangladesh revived its growth and surpassed Pakistan. With its economic sustenance, Bangladesh now seems to challenge India’s stand on regional stability.
Now, the time has come to make them realise the importance of India. Bangladeshi infiltrators have shipped deep into Indian territories and have captured the country’s limited resources. With the implementation of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the operationalization of the National Register for Citizens, India should start the process of deportation of every single Bangladeshi from India. The long borders with Bangladesh should be fenced with modern technology like the Line of Control. Surveillance and patrolling should be increased to stop the infiltration and trafficking from the Islamic country.
Using India’s favourable business policy, Bangladesh has benefited hugely in economic terms. Despite successive help, Bangladesh has backstabbed India. Relationships among countries are based on their respective interests. Quid-pro-quo is the defining philosophy of international relations. If India is not able to achieve what it wants from Bangladesh, then there is something missing in India’s policy towards them. Considering these circumstances, India, now, needs to change its relationship with Bangladesh.
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