Bangladesh should be the first, not India, in resolving bilateral interests

The question of the country’s natural environment, biodiversity and the existence of rivers is now considered a fundamental pillar of any country’s fundamental national interest and sustainable development. With the golden jubilee of independence looming on the horizon, the picture that emerges is very disappointing. For the last 50 years, we have been the victims of India’s water aggression. Speaking of friendly countries, with a lot of compromise and abandonment on the question of national interest, we did not get a fair share of water from India, including the Ganges and Teesta. As a result, rivers have dried up in large areas of the north-western part of the country. If the cultivable land of the country turns into a desert, nothing will remain for the economy to survive. For this reason, it is time to come to a new decision on issues of greater national interest with India, including the sharing of common river water. Besides, it is necessary to rethink India’s two-pronged approach to border killings and its unilateral demands.

As bilateral relations with India have reached a unique height during the tenure of the present government as it is occasionally uttered from the official level of India and Bangladesh. On the question of our interests that India has been exempted from over the past decade is unprecedented. Even in the last 70 years, India has not been able to achieve unilateral interests from any other neighboring country. But Bangladesh gave India whatever it wanted without getting anything in return. While India is also not willing to give a fair share of international river water. Opposition parties have blamed the government’s unthinking foreign policy for this, but with few isolated exceptions, not every post-independence government has shown much political-diplomatic success with its neighbors on the question of India’s hegemonic policy. The ruling Awami League has a long tradition of good relations with the Indian Congress. After the Awami League-led grand alliance came to power, the people of the country hoped for a just solution to the four decades of unresolved issues with India. Issues like killing of Bangladeshi nationals at the border, drug smuggling, trade inequality etc. are not being taken seriously by India. The issue of the Teesta Treaty has remained only as an issue of reassurance. On the other hand, by talking about the highest level of friendship with Bangladesh, India has realized and is taking all its interests. Observers believe that the talk of friendship with India is nothing but a loyal friendship of the Bangladesh government with India. Needless to say, the government of one country may have good political relations with the government of another country. However, true friendship means the good relations of the people of the country with other countries. There are questions about how the people of the country view friendship with India. The people do not seem to be accepting the fact that all the interests of India have been achieved through the unilateral relationship between India and Bangladesh and Bangladesh got nothing in exchange

When the minimum interests of the country are not being realized even with the highest concessions to India, then Bangladesh has to take alternative initiatives on the question of its national interests. The government has already taken initiative to implement the Centennial Delta Plan on the question of rivers and sustainable development of the country. At the same time, due to non-cooperation of India, it is time to take active steps on the possibility of constructing Teesta and Ganga barrages, including reconsideration of many ineffective Ganga water agreements. In this case, it is necessary to take the project of holding water including Ganga and Teesta. We have to make our own arrangements. In this case, there is no opportunity to give a discount. Though there is talk of bringing down the killing of Bangladeshis at the border to zero, India is not complying with it. On the contrary, the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh said that the BSF was firing in self-defense. Such statements by the High Commissioner are tantamount to indulging in border killings and inciting the BSF. Even India has violated its commitment to bring it down the border killings to zero. It is evident from such comments that killing unarmed Bangladeshis at the border is part of the India’s state policy. On the one hand, shooting Bangladeshis to dead at the border and demanding for a golden chapter of friendship cannot go together. Bangladesh is in a strong position in the changing global political situation. Now it is the time for Bangladesh. Observers think that Bangladesh no longer needs India. Rather, India needs Bangladesh. In this case, they do not think that Bangladesh needs to make any concessions in the interest of India. The government of Bangladesh has to take an inflexible position in any interest of the country. We must show determination to achieve our own interests without giving priority to India’s interests. We have to take initiative to build people’s relationship with the people by avoiding fulfilling unilateral interests of India. For this, India must first reflect its goodwill. The government must be firm in resolving unresolved issues.

Mahmudul Hasan
Mahmudul Hasan
Mahmudul Hasan is a recent LL.M. graduate of energy and environmental law and Thomas Buergenthal Fellow at The George Washington University Law School, Washington, D.C.