Thursday, February 2, 2023
HomeOpinionGlobal PrintModi in Bangladesh, Jaishankar in Dushanbe show India's neighborhood swagger is back

Modi in Bangladesh, Jaishankar in Dushanbe show India’s neighborhood swagger is back

By honouring Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with the Gandhi peace prize, Modi is also showing that he is completing the task that the Congress forgot to do over the last 50 years.

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By honouring the Sultan of Oman, the late Qaboos bin Said bin Taimur al Said, and Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman with the Gandhi peace prize for 2019 and 2020, respectively, Prime Minister Narendra Modi is clearly indicating that he won’t let his foreign policy be hijacked by domestic politics.

Moreover, by honouring Mujib, 50 years after the birth of Bangladesh, Modi – who heads the Gandhi peace prize jury – is also showing that he is completing the task that the Congress-led governments forgot to do over the last 50 years.

Also read: Stop seeing Bangladesh as ‘East Pakistan’. Last 50 years are a missed opportunity

India’s diplomatic past

India never bothered to award Mujib — either with the Gandhi peace prize or the Jawaharlal Nehru Award for International Understanding — during the four years he was alive after the creation of Bangladesh.

By August 1975, Mujib was dead – the Jawaharlal Nehru award for that year went to Jonas Salk, the US virologist who created the polio vaccine.

Modi must be given credit for resurrecting the Jawaharlal Nehru award for international understanding by awarding the Omani Sultan with the Gandhi peace prize. Evidently, the announcement for the 2004 version of the Nehru award was made in 2007 by the Manmohan Singh government.

Another attempt to honour the reclusive Sultan was made in 2012, by inviting him as chief guest for India’s Republic Day ceremonies — evidently, both countries had agreed on all the bombast, but then the Sultan announced one day that he wasn’t coming.

So, India scurried to Bhutan, its best friend and neighbour, to bail it out – and Jigme Khesar Namgyal Wangchuk agreed to save face for Delhi and the Manmohan Singh government.

So much better not to ask anyone at all – like earlier this year, when UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson was invited to the 26 January celebrations, but cancelled at the last minute because of the deteriorating Covid-19 situation.

The Gandhi peace prize is India’s most coveted award, with a cash prize of Rs 1 crore (10 million), while the Nehru award is worth Rs 25 lakh. And while both awards have primarily been given to foreigners, there are some exceptions to the rule – the Gandhi peace prize has been given to both the Akshaya Patra foundation as well as the RSS-run Ekal Vidyalaya Sangathan.

But it is the award given to Mujib that is of some significance. Not only is Modi laying claim to Indira Gandhi’s legacy with regards to the Bangladeshi statesman, he has also dropped all mention of the contentious National Register of Citizens and Citizenship (Amendment) Act in the ongoing Assam and West Bengal elections. It isn’t clear whether he is dispensing with them altogether or this is just temporary.

Also read: No Bangladeshis, no Pakistan, no terrorism. Why Modi-Shah BJP has changed its poll pitch

India-Bangladesh ties

As the Bangladeshi foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told me in an exclusive interview, none other than Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had asked PM Modi about CAA-NRC while visiting India two years ago.

Whatever profit was being accrued on the home political front, Modi decided that the relationship with Bangladesh is too precious to be damaged again. He knows that if he and the BJP go down the CAA-NRC road again, at least as far as it affects Assam and West Bengal, and neighbours of Bangladesh, it will impact his relationship with Hasina.

Home Minister Amit Shah’s description of so-called Bangladeshi infiltrators as “termites” was met by a derisive laugh by Abdul Momen. “We are not termites,” he said in the same interview.

Of course not. Modi is sending a message that he will not allow the India-Bangladesh relationship to be damaged.

At the same time, External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar is unlikely to meet his counterpart, Shah Mehmood Qureshi of Pakistan. The meeting has neither been accepted nor conveyed – at the ongoing Heart of Asia meeting in Istanbul — to discuss the way forward in Afghanistan.

In the wake of the Pakistan army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s peace moves, it was speculated that the two foreign ministers would meet to take this process further, but Modi has shown no signs of bending.

Perhaps Modi is laying store by the fact that his improved relationship with the US has given him a new clarity, focus, and swagger in India’s neighbourhood. It has also allowed him a spot on the Afghan table – neither Pakistan, nor its patron China would have wanted it. From Dushanbe, Jaishankar will go to Istanbul for a new round of intra-Afghan talks, where the US will also announce a new exit plan for its remaining 2,000 troops by 1 May.

Views are personal.

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  1. The problem with Sonia and Rahul Gandhi is that they are not able
    to distinguish between insulting our Prime Minister and our country (Matri Bhumi)

  2. The present dynastic leadership of Congress is not against Pakistan because Pakistan and China appear to think that Congress can be in their interest. But this position is diametrically opposite what Indira Gandhi stood for. Modi stands for what Indira Gandhi stood for but dynasty is not.

  3. I would like to lodge a strong protest against this author for wrongly attributing to the home minister a lie that he called ‘Bangladeshi People’ as termites. This is a lie & falsehood & against all journalistic principles. Home Minister called illegal infiltrators as termites, and all illegals are indeed termites on a nation & its resources. A lie even if peddled a thousand times wont become a truth. Your website has been making this ‘termites’ effort since long, you will fail as usual.

  4. The creation of Bangladesh is actually the further partion of India into Pakistan and Bangladesh.Eventually East Pakistan retained by Pakistanis and West Pakistan retained by Bangladesh and this partition was created by British Dogs.However the Gandhi and Nehru Awards given to Bangladesh gives more advantage to Congress and more damage to british janwar party trolled by illterate tea hawker modi.Now chances of Congress coming back to power is initiated by modi himself by visiting Bangladesh.

    • Sir, Your language describes you aptly. If you think rationally, then you would realise that people of the country are not Modi Bhakts. Actually they detest the present dynastic dispensation of the Congress Party. Till a true grassroot leader doesn’thead the grand old party, till then people will continue to vote for Mr Modi.

  5. First, curse people of Bangladesh as Termite and then pretend as if nothing happened. And here you are praising the foreign Policy.
    Do you think people are so naive to believe you? Using Godi Media, Moi can fool the Bhakts. Using Ardha Godi media like yours, you can fool centrist intellectual bhakts but can you fool the world?

  6. Support the action taken by Modi, India Bangladesh should be closest of friends and promote moderation of religious views

  7. A global rerating of India is on. One is not sure if it sustains swagger at this stage. However, it is good for India to be seen as a responsible, constructive presence. Especially in Afghanistan.

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