Today, if you access any social media platform it would be customary for you to hear from a section of the opposition that the present government has sold Bangladesh to India. In private and sometimes in open platform conversation you may also hear that Research and Analysis Wing (RAW), India’s vaunted secret service, has infiltrated every section of public life including bureaucracy and the military. Some even goes as far as saying that RAW operatives have office at AHQ (Army Head quarter), who direct all promotions, postings and training of Bangladeshi military personnel.
This kind of propaganda certainly would irk you if you happen to be a Bangladeshi living in the country or far away from it. Long ago in the same vein we would hear slogans from opposition students activists, “It is not Sikkim, it is not Bhutan, but it is our Bangladesh” in the corridor of educational institutions, a veiled warning against perceived “wicked Indian design” to colonize Bangladesh. Since then almost fifty years have passed. The claims have remained same. Whenever Awami League comes to power, a section of the opposition parrots this becomes their favourite propaganda.
It is alleged that India, our large neighbour has literally usurped the sovereignty of Bangladesh, exploits its resources like colony and interferes with every major decision of the government.
This is a very serious accusation that is too painful to comprehend let alone accept, especially when Bangladesh was born with the blood of three million people. But are these accusations based on truth? Let’s investigate scrupulously.
If the allegations are true, then Indian motivation would be to gain economically. It is fact that India being in the proximity of Bangladesh enjoys comparative advantage in trade because of transport cost. Since independence, Bangladesh being an import dependent country imported most of its commercial and industrial goods from India because Indian good were cheaper because of transport cost; hence it was the largest trading partner of Bangladesh. But the situation has now drastically changed. While Bangladesh imports goods around US$9 billion from India, it imports US$18 billion from China—twice the amount from its main international’s competitor.
China is one of the two main development partners of Bangladesh along with Japan. From the Padma Bridge to tunnel under Karnaphuli river, Payra Coal Power plant and many other infrastructure and other projects are being financed and built under Chinese technical assistance. India’s involvement is nowhere near China as a development partner of Bangladesh. I wonder how a puppet government can take such independent action!
In recent times, Bangladesh government with Chinese assistance have signed agreement to study a proposal to manage Teesta river water against overt and covert concerns of India. A section of Indian media even opined that presence of Chinese personnel near Indian ‘chicken neck” corridor, would jeopardize Indian national security.
In a fit of pique a section Indian media even expressed concern that Bangladesh is fast falling under “Chinese Debt Trap” like Pakistan and Sri Lanka, though Bangladesh’s debt to GDP ratio is a very manageable 14.6%, and Bangladesh has a FE reserve of US$50.00 billion. Bangladesh is also a signatory to Chinese Belt and Road initiative in which India is not a signatory.
All these have taken place during the Awami League’s tenure under Prime Minister Hasina—hardly a trait of puppet prime minister. China also successfully bought 25% share of Dhaka Stock Exchange, even though Indian company had made its bid too.
In fact, it would not be an exaggeration to say that Sheikh Hasina, has most deftly and sagaciously managed to keep Bangladesh’s neutrality in the conflict between two of its giant neighbours to establish hegemony in the region.
Her deft manoeuvre has garnered high international praise for her and Bangladesh. There was no time in Bangladesh’s brief history that Bangladesh had enjoyed such degree of freedom in its ability to pursue its independent policy based on its national interest alone. Despite such evidential record false accusation of India meddling in Bangladeshi affairs and AL government’s willingness to accommodate Indian interest is a constant diatribe that we have become accustomed to hearing from jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia and her Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)-led opposition alliance.
One might be to tempted to ask, where from does these allegations arise. These are indeed extension of pre-partition political tactics of the Muslim League in the sub-continent. During that time a section of our people had developed pathological dislike for anything related to India. The prejudice still continues. The older generation has passed it to newer generation.
Because the accusation is based on falsehood, it has failed to get any political traction and BNP and its coalition partners have thus failed to politically benefit from it.
There are many short comings of AL government but selling the interest of the country is not one of them. The opposition should concentrate on true short comings of the government rather than an invented one.
Lutful Haider is a former economics post-graduate from the Dhaka University, analyst and columnist.