Incumbents need to let go of ‘friendly’ India illusion
THE foreign minister of the Awami League-led government, Dr Dipu Moni, indeed echoed public sentiment when she said on Monday that repeated killings of Bangladeshis on the border by the Indian Border Security Force were ‘in no way pardonable’, ‘not expected’ and ‘very unfortunate’. Her statement may also have been the strongest yet from the incumbents, in reaction to sustained atrocities and excesses perpetrated by the Indian border sentinels. According to a report front-paged in New Age on Tuesday, Dipu Moni told a regular press briefing at the foreign ministry that her government wanted to bring border killings down ‘to zero level’, with both sides taking effective measures in this regard. She also said Dhaka had always lodged strong protests against border killings after verification from the Border Guards Bangladesh. However, there are reasons to believe that her statements, assertive they may have been though, are unlikely to inspire confidence in the people.
First of all, phrases such as ‘in no way pardonable’, ‘not expected’ and ‘very unfortunate’ are essentially vague generalities until and unless supplemented with a well-defined plan of action. Second, whatever plan that the incumbents have, to bring border killings down ‘to zero level’, seems to be predicated upon effective cooperation from New Delhi, which, unfortunately, has not been forthcoming thus far. The foreign minister said herself that Dhaka had lodged protest against each killing, and all it seems to have received from New Delhi is ‘assurances from the highest political level’. Suffice it to say, after nearly 1,000 killings by the BSF in ten years, such assurances seem inconsequential, if not cruel jokes altogether. Regrettably, however, the incumbents seem to have made hoping against hope a habit of a sort, and find the illusion of India being a friendly neighbour too difficult to let go of.
Beyond the official rhetoric and regardless of the AL-led government’s persistent claims, there can hardly be an instance which may indicate, even faintly, that the Indian political establishment regards Bangladesh as equal. On the contrary, there are reasons to believe that New Delhi has, since Bangladesh’s independence more than four decades back, consistently sought to take undue advantage of the gratitude that the government and the people of Bangladesh feel for the support it extended during the 1971 war of independence. It has, on the one hand, done precious little to resolve the long-standing disputes, most of which it itself has given rise to, with Bangladesh and, on the other, coaxed or coerced Dhaka into entering into asymmetric agreements.
In such circumstances, the incumbents need to realise that the time may have come for Bangladesh to make India acknowledge its genuine grievances and undertake serious and sincere efforts to address those. Hence, they need to take these issues to the international forum and bring international opinion to bear on New Delhi; after all, the Indian political establishment has proved again and again that reciprocity may not be in its vocabulary. Ultimately, the incumbents need to let go of the illusion that India is a friendly neighbour; it may have been during the war of independence but no longer seems to be.
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