Time for Modi to rethink ties with Bangladesh: analysts
June 23rd, 2020 at 12:25 pm
Modi has to recognise his country’s limitations and come out of the “big power mind-set” to approach its neighbours, especially Bangladesh.
Time for Modi to rethink ties with Bangladesh: analysts

Nadeem Qadir;

India’s beleaguered Prime Minister Narendra Modi is apparently in a tight spot after the skirmish with China in Ladakh province with both regional and internal situations going against him, analysts here said Tuesday.

They said Modi needs to rethink his policies with “trusted friend” Bangladesh as the bilateral ties have dipped especially among the populace over the Indian media’s comments over trade issues between Dhaka and Beijing.

M. Shahiduzzaman, an expert in international affairs, told newsnextbd that China is very important for Bangladesh for its development and it is unlikely that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will move away from Beijing as per New Delhi’s wishes.

Bangladesh India agreement on port use
Cross flags of India and Bangladesh

“India has failed to woo China itself and Ladakh is the result of annexation of Kashmir by Modi selling hyped up nationalism,” he said.

Ashequa Irshad of Dhaka University’s International Relations department was more candid saying “Bangladesh, in comparison to China, does not have much to get from India because of its economic limitation.”

Both the experts agreed that Modi has failed to deliver his domestic promises and misused religion with Hindutya for which there are internal simmering in India.

“India is getting isolated … with Nepal drawing its new political map, while Pakistan has remained its permanent foe and Modi cannot afford to lose the close traditional ties with Bangladesh,” they echoed each other.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping shake hands after meeting in Beijing

Ashequa told newsnextbd.com that “Modi is walking a tight rope and must look at Dhaka’s ties with Beijing with a different eye … the economic factors that Bangladesh needs so much.”

The triangular ties, she said “is very complicated and must be addressed accordingly… what we can call delicate manoeuvring.”

M. Shahiduzzaman was blunt “India cannot afford a war with China which can fight for at least five years, while India for a month or so … China his powerful cyber power which can make Indian systems collapse.”

He said Sheikh Hasina knew India’s limitations and she is on the right track by getting closer to China as the two countries plan “six sister cities.”

Analysts said Modi has to recognise his country’s limitations and come out of the “big power mind-set” to approach its neighbours, especially Bangladesh.

Bangladesh oil pipeline India
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi speaks while inaugurating Bangladesh India oil pipeline through a video conferencing – PMO

“China needs Bangladesh, which has common borders with India, and the use of the Bay of Bengal … Sheikh Hasina knows that and she is making the best of it with her mega-projects,” added Shahiduzzaman.

Both Shahiduzzaman and Ashequa binned anti-China sentiment over its role in the 1971 Bangladesh war.

That was 50 years ago, but now Sheikh Hasina has manoeuvred to build close ties with China which is paying dividends for Bangladesh, they said.

Asked what India could do to bring Dhaka closer and if agreeing to Teesta river sharing is a good option, Shahiduzzaman “it will be the best, but Mamata (Banerjee) sticking to her stand on it and New Delhi having least interest on the issue it is unlikely.”

However, he said it is time that Modi and Amit Sha started to rethink where they stand and correct their policies to woo back its close ties with Bangladesh, instead of badgering Dhaka over its “independent international affair policies.” Dhaka always “greatly values” its ties with New Delhi and never forgets to acknowledge India help in 1971.

Ladakh valley

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina broke the ice with China decades ago as the opposition leader in the first half of 1990s, before becoming the prime minister for the first time in 1996.

Beijing gave her an out of the way warm welcome which had raised eyebrows of the then Bangladesh Nationalist Party government of Khaleda Zia, now out of jail on special consideration. Her son Tarique Rahman’s Taiwan plan boomeranged bringing China further closer to the Sheikh Hasina.

In the past decade, the prime minister put aside the 1971 episode with China and systematically strengthened ties with Beijing.

China had sided with Pakistan in the 1971 Bangladesh war and recognised this new South Asian country after the assassination of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

India, on the other hand had sheltered a million refugees fleeing Pakistani army brutality and backed the Freedom Fighters in its war with Pakistan.

The last word of experts and analysts is clear — Dhaka is on the right track and India must accept and recognise the new world order dominated by economics, especially after COVID-19 pandemic.

Nadeem Qadir is a senior Bangladeshi journalist and a Dag Hammarskjöld fellow,- newsnextbd.com