United Nations: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina proclaimed that the India-Bangladesh agreement on enclaves has set an example for the world in solving bilateral problems.
Speaking on Wednesday at the United Nations General Assembly, Hasina said the implementation of the land-boundary agreement “brought to a peaceful end the lingering humanitarian situation” of 50,000 stateless residents in 162 enclaves.
“By doing so jointly with India, we have a unique precedent for the world,” she said.
Hasina listed terrorism along with climate changes as the twin greatest threats to the sustainability of human civilisation. She recalled her personal experiences saying that she had been the target of 19 terror attacks and her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and her mother had been killed by extremists.
“My government, therefore, maintains a ‘zero tolerance’ policy to all forms of terrorism, violent extremism and radicalisation,” she said.
“We are steadfast in tackling the extremists and the anti-liberation forces who remain active in destroying the democratic, progressive and secular ethos of our nation.”
Hasina also reiterated her determination to punish war criminals – an issue to which some Western nations have been lukewarm. In the spirit of upholding peace and the rule of law and ending the culture of impunity, Hasina said, “We are pursuing the culprits of war crimes, crimes against humanity, rape and genocide committed during our 1971 Liberation War.”
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an additional $500 million in credit for Bangladesh to buy military equipment from India during the visit to New Delhi by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
New Delhi, April 8, 2017: India and Bangladesh signaled deepening ties Saturday as New Delhi committed a $4.5-billion line of credit to Dhaka for development projects, and the two countries signed their first-ever pact on defense cooperation.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi announced an additional $500 million in credit for Bangladesh to buy military equipment from India during the visit to New Delhi by Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Calling India a “long standing and trusted development partner,” Modi said that the new credit lines “bring our resources allocation to Bangladesh to more than $8 billion over the past six years.”
Both leaders reaffirmed their close ties during the Bangladeshi prime minister’s first visit to India in seven years, with Modi speaking of a “golden era” in their friendship and Hasina saying their friendly ties would benefit South Asia.
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The two countries signed 22 agreements, including one on civil nuclear cooperation that aims to help Bangladesh develop its civilian nuclear program.
Many in New Delhi see the deal for defense cooperation over the next five years as the key breakthrough that will help reduce Bangladesh’s reliance on China for its military needs.
Worried by the growing Chinese influence in its neighborhood, New Delhi has made a concerted push in recent years to grow strategic ties with neighboring countries. Bangladesh’s purchase of two submarines from China last year deepened those concerns in India.
Calling the defense pact a feather in India’s cap, Sukh Deo Muni, a South Asia expert at New Delhi’s Institute of Defense Studies and Analyses, said,“India does not want China to consolidate defense ties just next to its belly, that is true.”
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Although the political opposition in Bangladesh has denounced the pact, independent analysts in Dhaka was optimistic that it will help achieve balance.
“Approximately 80 percent dependency at this moment you see on China, so it should be brought down. That actually reduces our vulnerability,” said Abdur Rashid, Executive Director of the Institute of Conflict, Law and Development Studies in Dhaka. “If one is interrupted we can depend on the other.”
A new rail link between the Indian city of Kolkata and Khulna in Bangladesh, and a bus link between Kolkata and Dhaka also were inaugurated, while another old rail link was restored to coincide with Hasina’s visit. The Bangladeshi leader said the greater connectivity is vital for the region’s development.
A key water-sharing agreement that Dhaka has long pushed for, however, eluded Hasina.
Although New Delhi favors such an arrangement, opposition from West Bengal state in India, through which the Teesta River flows into Bangladesh, has prevented the two countries from clinching a deal.
As Modi assured her of his commitment to conclude a deal, the Bangladeshi leader sounded a note of optimism. “I believe we shall be able to get India’s support in resolving these issues expeditiously,” said Hasina.
However, the change was obvious. It was Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his expert team of foreign ministry diplomats who worked relentlessly to improve India’s image in the subcontinent.
Progress on outstanding bilateral issues got hindered by bureaucratic inertia and lack of political will on India’s part. Bangladesh has repeatedly sought an Indian response to its demand for the removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers on Bangladeshi products. Little diplomatic steps were taken on the Land Boundary agreement and on a water-sharing agreement for the Teesta river.
Under the last Manmohan Singh-led regime, India failed to meaningfully reciprocate Bangladesh PM Hasina’s overtures. Meanwhile, the India-Bangladesh cordiality under Hasina faced flak from the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which has never failed to lambaste the government for perceived subservience to India.
A $1 billion loan deal with the Hasina government, the largest line of credit received by Bangladesh under a single agreement was not enough to win the hearts of the Bangladeshis, who claimed that India’s one-sided withdrawal of Teesta water would turn their country into a desert.
Modi’s success in marshalling the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) in Parliament has undoubtedly settled a 41-year-old border dispute with Bangladesh which facilitated the exchange of enclaves between the two countries.
Modi’s dynamic foreign diplomacy has embalmed the Bangladeshis who were duly upset with the slow pace in the implementation of these agreements.
Notably, both sides signed a number of deals including enhancing connectivity to ensure greater people-to-people contact during Modi’s visit earlier this year. Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina flagged off the bus service between Kolkata and Agartala via Dhaka and the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati bus service.
The two countries also inked a coastal shipping agreement to facilitate sailing of small vessels from India to various ports in Bangladesh which now go via Singapore. India will also push for the involvement of Indian companies in setting up of ports in that country.
The issue of Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement also featured in the Modi-Hasina dialogue. The agreement, sans Pakistan, is likely to be inked soon.
India feels improving connectivity with Bangladesh will help in linking the North Eastern region with Southeast Asia. And with the positive approach from Bangladesh, the issue will see the light of the day very soon.
“The numbers tell the story – or at least part of it. After India’s Partition, Hindus were almost a third of the East Pakistan population, according to Pakistan’s 1951 census. When East Pakistan became Bangladesh in 1971, they were under a fifth; 30 years later less than a tenth; and according to reliable estimates, less than eight percent today.Throughout that time, there was a steady flow of reports on anti-Hindu atrocities there; atrocities that include religious desecration, land grabs, property destruction, beatings, forced conversion to Islam, child abduction, rape, and murder. Bangladeshi governments not only refused to prosecute the perpetrators, but also maintained openly discriminatory laws.”- Dr Richard L Benkin
The minorities, especially the Hindus, in Bangladesh have been subjected to categorical atrocities since the country achieved Independence in 1971. The paradigm of ethnic cleansing is well portrayed in the havoc discrimination and slaughter against the Hindus. The relentless war crime like activities by a Bangladeshi quarter has led to the exodus of Hindus from the country. Hindu masses in the country are regularly subjected to horrific incidents of violence, hidden discrimination, violation of basic rights and encroachment of property rights.
The Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government that spring-boarded to power with alleged
backing from the then Congress government (UPA) of India does nothing to protect the Hindu masses that are gradually vanishing. The Hindu population which contributed 31 per cent of the total population in 1971 now stands at a meager 8 per cent. A biased Constitution with minimal provisions for the minorities along with the government’s fathomless reluctance to address the issue have resulted in a dramatic decline in the Hindu population. Alike Pakistan, barbaric chapter of violence against Hindus was evident in Bangladesh following the infamous Babri Mosque incident. Bangladesh claims to be a secular country, but in reality it is a moderate Muslim country. However, this in no way ensures equal existence for all or eclipses the society’s hostile attitude towards Hindus.
Frequent vandalizing of Hindu shrines and temples (reportedly by Jamaat-e-Islami cadres), rampant land grabbing (by Awami League backed mafias) and harassment of Hindu women folk point to the fact that Bangladesh has failed miserably to recover from the hangover of the Pakistani influence. The country seems to overlook the fact that a Hindu-major neighbor literally single-handedly liberated it from the clutches of a tyrannical regime. These facets have largely contributed to the waning Hindu population in Bangladesh.