Following the partition of India in 1947, some percipients stared at two different parts of Pakistan [West and East Pakistan], which was more than 1,000 miles distance from one another as India became a buffer state, and predicted that the country would not last for long while. In 1942, Allama Mashriqi, the pioneer of Khaksar Movement, who had always been an advocate of united India, told Mohammad Ali Jinnah that the proposed Pakistan of two parts almost 1400 miles apart could not last. The Pakistani rulers, however, did not look at the map after partition. They did not bother about it and treated East Pakistan as a land of subservient.
Just 23 years later, the predictions had turned true when Bangladesh emerged as a new nation through a full scale war of independence. Should the Pakistani rulers had been able to see the unnatural positioning of their eastern part, and would try to treat them in a civilized manner – the consequence would have been different. So, considering their regional politics, economy and military strategy, politicians anywhere should carefully look at the map. Because map matters!
Do we carefully see the India-Bangladesh-China bordering areas? I humbly ask Delhi to look into it. Now let’s take a little pause and think how important Bangladesh is to India-China near future strategic power struggle. If Delhi fails to realize the needed relations with Bangladesh, it could introduce a new phenomenon for India–could set a new field of India-China imbroglio.
Today, Bangladesh has very good tie with India. Bangladesh and India have never had enjoyed this level of juxtaposition. Mutually, they have been enjoying many business deals. They have minimized the long-standing land dispute without quarrel. The current Bangladesh government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the door for India — widely known as transit. By doing this – despite having serious opposition from large section of population, Sheikh Hasina sent a clear message of her utmost intention of have a genuine friendship with India, which had wiped-off almost all the bitterness that both India and Bangladesh experienced in the past.
India should recall the happenings that took place during the tenures of Bangladesh Nationalist Party and the time of military dictator Hussain Muhammed Ershad. During and after the tragic assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, despite the fact of India’s cooperation in the war of independence of Bangladesh, very unfortunately, Bangladesh has become an anti-Indian soil where a section of army Generals and radical Islamic politicians – in a word pro-Pakistanis had enthusiastically promoted anti-India notion.
For building a political platform against Awami League and securing his power in politics, military dictator President Ziaur Rahman had rehabilitated many pro-Pakistanis and anti-Indian politicians. He had created a new political doctrine named ‘Bangladeshi Nationalism’, which portrayed India as an adversary and India-bashing had become a practice among the supporters of BNP – Zia’s newly created political party. Although a considerable number of Hindu minorities opted of staying in Bangladesh following the 1971 war of independence – a growing anti-Hinduism however had forced many Hindus in migrating to neighboring India after Ziaur Rahman came into power.
Ziaur Rahman used political Islam as a tool of his political ambition. It was easier for the military dictator to marginalize Awami League’s popularity by using the policy of giving political shelter to Islamic forces that opposed to Indian friendship to Bangladesh. Moreover, Zia’s policy was the revival of support to northeast Indian insurgents that was earlier taking place during the Pakistan rule. It was Pakistan’s national policy to make northeastern India chaotic. Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, then ‘iconic’ leader of Pakistan, wrote in his book ‘Myth of Independence’ that it would be wrong to think that Kashmir comprised the only dispute between Pakistan and India, though, undoubtedly, it was the most significant one; another at least as nearly as important as Kashmir dispute, was that of Assam and some district of India adjacent to East Pakistan. His inkling was clear. Seeing this anti-India trend popular, Ziaur Rahman’s newly introduced party and almost all the subsequent governments have followed this anti-India policy. Zia’s doctrine has been aggressively followed by his wife Khaleda Zia, the two-term Prime Minister of Bangladesh and chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party. During her tenure, Bangladesh became a sanctuary of the Indian rebels, insurgents and terrorists.
With the help of Pakistani spy agency, Inter Service Intelligence (ISI), the top brasses of Bangladesh government had sent huge number of infiltrators into India for staging terrorist acts. Throughout the last term of Khaleda Zia, from 2001 to 2006, India had been nervously busy on its eastern border.
The scenario has been changed now. On 24 July, Border Security Force(BSF) stated that camps and hideouts of Indian insurgent groups across the country’s frontier on the Bangladeshi soil have been reduced to almost zero. DG, BSF K K Sharma thanked Bangladesh for that.
In geopolitical strategy, Bangladeshi domestic politics is deeply divided. It is well known that BNP and its ally believe in Pakistan-China friendship first while Awami League in India first policy. Both India and China are offering large sums of loans for infrastructural projects in Bangladesh. Although Awami League’s foreign policy is friendship to all malign to non – practically it depends on India more than China. How could China be friendlier which has blocked UN Security Council action to move against the ethnic cleansing in the Rakhine State by the Myanmar authorities? Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is very sensitive about country’s war of independence and she knows very well that China had been a blind supporter of Pakistan during this war.
A geopolitical competition is going on between the two Asian giants – India and China – in the Bay of Bengal. The domestic politics of Sri Lanka and Maldives have been seriously influenced by India and China. It should be noted that Bangladesh is far more important to both the regional players.
Indian High commissioner to Bangladesh has recently stated that India want to see a credible, free and fair election in Bangladesh. Okay, it is a good statement and democratic thinking as well. But India should not ignore the outcome of the election. Pakistan has got its new Prime Minister Imran Khan, who is trying to deepen relations with China. In his victory speech, Imran Khan said, “Our neighbor is China; we will further strengthen our relation with it.” The message is clear. Right after the election result, China offered 2 billion dollars as loan to Pakistan to appease its new friend. Being a nation, Pakistan deeply depends on China against India. Imran Khan’s predecessor Newaz Sharif had also said, “Our friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest see in the world.” But what is the relation actually? The enemy of enemy is my friend. Right after the ending of Sino-India war in 1962, China started building deeper relation with Pakistan.
On the other hand, BNP’s founder Ziaur Rahman believed in a One China Policy. In her two terms, 1991-96 and 2001-2006, Zia’s wife Khaleda Zia gave priority to improving relations with China. If BNP comes to power in Bangladesh, if not hypothetical, it would be a trio around India. BNP’s victory will be – a grand defeat of India and most likely – reemergence of insurgency and terrorism with the northeastern states in India.
Mohshin Habib is a writer, columnist and journalist in Bangladesh