File photo of Sheik Hasina Wajed | David Greedy/Bloomberg News
File photo of Sheikh Hasina | Photo: David Greedy | Bloomberg News
Text Size:

There is every reason for India’s External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar to be worried. The Narendra Modi government’s efforts to grant citizenship to religiously oppressed minorities from the three neighbouring Muslim-majority countries should not undermine his ministry’s efforts in firming up the relationship between India and Bangladesh.

The protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA are because the provisions have been misunderstood and much misinformation about the law has been circulated by opposition parties with ulterior political motives. But an entirely domestic matter will have serious external ramifications if it is not handled properly and quickly.

Going by the negative publicity generated by the anti-CAA protests in India, it would be very easy for anti-establishment forces in Bangladesh to raise a false alarm about the possible exodus into that country from India. Although there is not even a remote possibility of an exodus, it will only take the rumour mills in Bangladesh a few minutes to demolish the friendly relationship that the two countries have carefully cultivated since 1971 against so many odds.


Also read: ‘Why should Bangladeshis get job here’ — RSS Muslim wing head Indresh Kumar at pro-CAA event


A lot depends on Bangladesh

Of the three countries named in the CAA, Bangladesh and Afghanistan are good friends with a long and cordial relationship with New Delhi. Bangladesh shares a long border with India and even longer historical and cultural relationship. From an economic and strategic point of view, no other country in the neighbourhood is as important as Bangladesh is to New Delhi. The success of the coveted Look East Act East policy and any regional trade forum in lieu of the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP) or the furtherance of the BIMSTEC agenda depends heavily on New Delhi’s relationship with Dhaka.

Both countries launched four new projects in March 2019 and inaugurated 36 community clinics and 11 water treatment plants. India also extended the National Knowledge Network to Bangladesh to connect independent scholars and research institutes to their Indian counterparts. In October, three more projects – import of LPG from Bangladesh, Vivekananda Bhavan at the RK Mission in Dhaka, and the inauguration of Bangladesh-India Professional Skill Development Institute at Institute of Engineers in Khulna, were rolled out.

While the South Block is no doubt busy churning out projects, the perception, probably due to past inertia, that India talks more and does little, seems to be amplifying the gaps in New Delhi’s relationship with Dhaka. None other than Minister Jaishankar himself has pointed this out, in his recent speech at the Raisina Dialogue 2020.


Also read: Mujibur biopic offers Modi govt another chance to mend ties with Bangladesh


The Chinese puzzle

It is no secret that economists managing the multi-trillion-dollar Chinese economy would want the entire world to be their market and have easy access to resources all over the world. Bangladesh is no exception. Beijing has upgraded its economic cooperation to a higher level of strategic partnership. This is far greater progress considering Beijing was not very comfortable with Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971.

But while moving closer to Dhaka, China has also tightened its grip over Pakistan through the China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), thus gaining total control over Gwadar Port. Now, China has two strategic outposts in the Indian Ocean – Chittagong and Gwadar – besides Hambantota in Sri Lanka, closely monitoring the important sea lanes of communication that extends from the Persian Gulf to the Malacca Strait.

More importantly, in what has been seen as a ‘blatant act of provocation’, China has invested $38 billion in Bangladesh and supplied Ming-class Type 035B submarines to Bangladesh Navy. Quickly responding to this deal, India has agreed to provide $500 million line of credit to facilitate Bangladesh Army to upgrade its defence systems and acquire more military hardware.


Also read: Modi govt wants Bangladesh to buy imported onions after states withdraw demand


Eyes on Bangladesh

Even as Beijing was courting Dhaka, India and Bangladesh signed a number of deals during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit. Besides signing as many as seven agreements, India agreed to assist Bangladesh with the issue involving Rohingya refugees who have had to flee Myanmar to escape persecution. During Sheikh Hasina’s previous visit in 2017, New Delhi and Dhaka had entered into a civil nuclear and defence cooperation agreement. India does not have a similar agreement with any other neighbour, which signals the importance of Bangladesh in New Delhi’s security calculations in the region. Over and above the existing $3 billion, New Delhi has extended $4.5 billion line of credit to Dhaka, which will take care of a number of infrastructure projects.

Notwithstanding all these initiatives, New Delhi still feels the heat of hostile public opinion that seems to limit the success of the relationship only to a possible signing of the Teesta water-sharing treaty. Another major irritant is the issue of illegal migrants, including the unwelcome Rohingya exodus rising to alarming proportions.

The Modi government must see to it that as it goes about quelling the anti-CAA protests, Bangladesh is in the back of its mind. Unlike China, the language and communication should not be a major hurdle for New Delhi to assure the academic and strategic community in Bangladesh that it is not in India’s interest or agenda to turn the area into an arena of fierce geopolitical contest between India and China.

The author is a member of the National Executive Committee of the BJP and former editor of Organiser. Views are personal.

ThePrint is now on Telegram. For the best reports & opinion on politics, governance and more, subscribe to ThePrint on Telegram.

Subscribe to our YouTube channel.

29 Comments Share Your Views

29 COMMENTS

  1. “Although there is not even a remote possibility of an exodus” , very funny , India has becoming raciest apartheid like their newly found Israeli lovers

  2. I think audience of this article should learn more about Bangladesh, people in Bangladesh not starving at all or endangered to migrate a country like India. Rather Bangladesh is now 4th foreign currency remittance country for India. Hundreds of thousands people have been working in this country legally and illegally without even paying income tax.

  3. Well the point here in this article is quite indicating that upcoming days aren’t good for Indian even though they not agree to acknowledge that it’s their own producing issues…. Point to be noted bangladesh is no longer poor country its economy’s are get bigger even bigger and if u make some studies then u will find some sector’s bangladesh are far more advanced instead of India in terms of export… However in this edge no country can suppressed other countries by the sake of HISTORY… And with a due respect that India were only friend in our dark nights 1971 me as a citizen of Bangladesh we never forget that even our honorable prime Minister sheikh Hasina are always nice to with India and her strategy her generosity her diplomatic point of view was always unconditional regarding India… But as u can see now what feedback we got now!!!! I think modi govt should be more fantastic rather than fanatic to main and sustainability in the region….

  4. The actions and comments of BJP leaders and the CAA assume that:

    1- There are a large number of illegal Bangladeshis living in India
    2- Illegal, muslim Bangladeshis are termites destroying the structure of India
    3- Illegal, hindu Bangladeshis are here because of state-supported religious persecution

    If these are the assumptions, why do they want Bangladesh to be a friend of India?

  5. I think the writer is misinformed here ..neither politically nor strategically it’s possible for Bangladesh…hope the writers do go through an Asia map before writing…

  6. For the first time one sees a ruling party member accusing the people (since the protests have not been led by Opposition in any case) for a foreign policy mess! Why did the govt double down on this in the first place? Was there sufficient application of mind or the consideration was narrow self serving ideology rather than national interest. Mr. Chari will do well to ponder , better still counsel (if he has any hope of being listened to) the govt managers to at least now back off from this disaster.

  7. Modi is playing with fire and isolating India, neighbors are getting more close to China, economy is sinking, what are their priorities?
    Httsps://pvapoint.com/buy-gmail-accounts

  8. The ideologues of RSS find a scapegoat for the deeds of this Govt; since it came to the power in 2014 it was preoccupied with the actions targeting the minority communities, read Muslims; the Govt doubled down on the same since its return in 2019 in Modi-2.

    Amit Shah joined the PM Modi Govt in Ministry of Home with the lowering of any standing that the senior ministers had:

    1. Rajnath Singh who was No-2 in Modi-1 became nobody in the Govt,
    2. Arun Jaitely wasn’t in the Govt and soon passed away and
    3. Nitin Gadkari was always kept a few miles away from the power-centre,
    4. The Finance ministry was manned by a lady with merely five years experience in the Govt and before that she used to defend the BJP on TV which became Narendra Modi in 2013, and
    5, S Jaishankar, a non-political person was brought in to the Foreign Ministry and tasked to became English speaking and Three-piece suit-wearing PM Narendra Modi,
    6. Other ministers from Piyush Goel to Hardeep Puri became the defenders of PM Narendra Modi and Amit Shah in whatever they did,
    7. The Opposition that was nobody in the Modi-1 had died in Modi-2; the CBI, IT, ED and the other central forces were made to go after their leaders.
    8. The BJP Chief Ministers had already been voiceless also died,
    9.. The bureaucracy was facing the music from all the quarters.,
    10. The Modi-2 Govt was based in PMO and Ministry of Home.
    11. The abrogation of Article 370 was followed by the CAA and Amit Shah started trumpeting that NRC all over India will soon follow.

    Seshadri Chari and likes of him continued with their writings eulogising Narendra Modi and added Amit Shah also in their writings. This is where we are and Charis are continuing with singing Narendra Modi-Chalisa and Modi-Hare instead of saying that the actions with the emphasis of that targeted Muslim should have not been done.

    Let’s wait for the History to judge the Govt in India as it will judge the coming of Donald Trump and the damage that the Govt did to their own countries, their immediate neighbours, and to the relations of their countries to the world at large,

  9. Wow.. misinformation by the opposition is driving Bangladesh into China’s embrace! Nice way for the BJP to wash their hands off the foreign policy mess of their own making! Aapne chronology nahi samjhe?! Looks like Bangladesh did.

    By that logic, I would like to ask whether the opposition did anything to drive Nepal into China’s hands?!

    The government has only one approach to anyone who criticises or disagrees with them. Squeeze them to the ground!!

    Dadagiri seems to be the keyword in our foreign policy. But even local dadas are nice to people in their immediate vicinity, something we apparently are not!

    5 lakh Muslims are supposed to be infiltrators in Assam. If, as the author says, they will not be sent back, putting them in detention camps is not going to make Bangladesh feel any better.

    You can’t say one thing, and do another. People are not fools. Nothing can be ‘said’ to prevent the ‘string of pearls’ from tightening around us. The government must simply ask itself whether winning one state election is worth losing India’s entire neighbourhood!!

  10. “The protests against the Citizenship (Amendment) Act or CAA are because the provisions have been misunderstood and much misinformation about the law has been circulated by opposition parties with ulterior political motives. ”

    For how long will BJP keep reiterating this bullshit?!

  11. Bangladesh can sit on the lap of China but make no mistake, China will not allow a single illegal Bangladeshi to enter China. And for exporting fanatic ideology? China has camps ready made, and no democracy, and hence the world will never know if someone disappears.

  12. China can always do better than India with any country! So India will have to carefully weigh pros and cons of any relationship. While what Mr. Chari says makes sense -that complex internal issues of India such as CAA and NRC can have external implications, it also requires Bangla Desh leadership to be able to handle these issues in a balanced manner. Otherwise, India will always be on weak terms compared to China. Of course, there are limits to what Chinese can do for Bangla Desh and conversely, Bangla Desh will soon realize unacceptable costs of being a Chinese pawn. Hopefully, both sides are able to handle the issue maturely and Bangla Desh continues its India friendly policies as before. The present state of relations between the two countries is excellent and it should continue to grow further.

    While title of the article is indeed provocative in typical The Print style, the contents are mature, as expected from Mr. Chari!

  13. What can one expect from Chari who defends everything the Hindu extremists do. You don’t need to read his article to get the message. It is very unfortunate that thinking people like him are blindly supporting inhuman policies and practices of the right(?) wing .

  14. It is funny that Chari thinks CAA is innocuous and the opposition is drumming up protests against it for political gains. He wants protests to stop, but no reversal of CAA to allay the fears of Bangladesh. Does he think that all Bangladeshis are fools?

    Very few termites are coming from Pakistan and Afghanistan. So majority termites are from Bangladesh and many of their relatives may be still living in that country. Forget about relatives, their countrymen will feel embarrassed when their people are made stateless in India. It will be an affront to their self-respect. The whole idea of CAA is our fellow feeling for persecuted Hindus in Muslim countries. Can anyone think that the reverse is not applicable?

    CAA is demonitisation of citizenship. Earlier it is withdrawn, better for the country.

    • Millions of Indian staying in Bangladesh doing job illegally. Bangladeshi people will not go India where they have chances to go many other country. India cannot feed their country .how it possible that Bangladeshi feel Comfort there.when it is figured out all neighbour province of Bangladesh economic condition is poorer then Bangladesh. You said half country will go India. Lol

    • Why don’t you write and explain why Hindus are leaving in such a large number for other countries, and why the Hindus would leave Hindu India altogether, leaving it empty, if the countries like the US, UK, etc. throw their doors open to them.

  15. if India opens its door to Bangladesh, half of Bangladesh would move to India and then another Kashmir movement will start. the author is so naive or intentionally clever.

      • What country are most of Europe’s illegal migrants coming from? You might think Syria or some other war-torn nation. You would be wrong. According to the International Organization for Migration, the top “sending” country is a democracy that claims to have made strides in human development: Bangladesh. The Washington Post

    • Oh give me a break..there are and will always have problems between any neighbouring countries in the world. Canada and USA both are rich countries and there are some people always crossing illegally between Canada and USA and vice versa.
      Illegally crossing by the citizens of any neighbouring country is a very nominal problem and rich or poor countries are not immune from it either.
      Now when comes to Bangladeshis, we are very proud people ( in fact citizens from every country should be proud of their country). We will never go anyplace if we are not welcomed there. But this only happens in books and movies. Every human being has the same rights to the mother earth. If given a choice, I am sure no one would want to go leaving his/ her motherland.
      So please have empathy in your heart. Count the blessing that you are not in the same position like those crossed illegally. Don’t demonize the people. They are the same people like you and I.
      I still say that not half the people will go to India given a choice rather some people will go to India. Remember we, the Indian, Bangladeshis and Pakistanis are not rich people on average.

  16. It’s an unwanted situation for India to be in. That said, without CAA, relationships with our neighbors will always ebb and flow AS China has a long-term plan of wooing India’s neighbors to its side with its loan-diplomacy, there by strangling India from all directions. CAA has been introduced at a very inopportune time complicating things further. The consequences of it will be clearly felt 20-30 years down the line.

  17. It is not enough to be “ worried “. The foreign policy implications / costs of domestic politics is something the diplomatic corps, now so ably headed by one of their own, should constantly, effectively sensitise the government to.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here