Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh on 26-27 March 2021. The Visit was conducted under high security. Bangladesh Government deployed huge force to protect PM Modi. And the government took extra measures, including suspension of Mobile Phone service, Internet Service, Social Media suspension (Facebook, WhatsApp, Twitter, Instagram, etc.) during the two-days Visit. The arrest of thousands of opposition leaders, keeping many individuals under house arrest, to keep the law and order situation under control.
The Visit was canceled last year due to the reason that opposition parties threatened the government with severe protests and blockage of the Airport. Ultimately, the previous year PM Modi, under the excuse of Coronavirus, canceled his planned Visit, but this year, even the pandemic is more serious, yet visited Bangladesh.
India was under immense pressure from President Joe Biden Administration for its poor record of Human Rights Violations, discriminatory Amended Citizenship Act, Treatment of its minorities, and poor religious freedom status. The US has been asking India to improve its relations with its neighbors, too. In fact, India has hostile relations and disputes with all its neighbors, including Bangladesh, China, Nepal, Myanmar, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Maldives etc. President Trump favored PM Modi and over-looked many serious concerns based on his personal friendship with him. Still, President Joe Biden feels embarrassed to openly support India with such ailing democracy and a poor record of human rights and hostilities with all neighbors. PM Modi’s Visit was a first step toward improving its relations with neighbors, which also turned to be counterproductive.
Areas of contention
- A significant contention area has been the construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage by India to increase the water amount in the River Hooghly. Bangladesh insists that it does not receive a fair share of the Ganges waters during the drier seasons and gets flooded during the monsoons when India releases excess waters. See also Sharing of Ganges Waters.
- There have also been disputes regarding the transfer of the Teen Bigha Corridor to Bangladesh. The Indian state of West Bengal surrounds part of Bangladesh. On 26 June 1992, India leased three bigha land to Bangladesh to connect this enclave with mainland Bangladesh. There was a dispute regarding the eternal nature of the lease.
- Terrorist activities carried out by outfits based in both countries, like Banga Sena and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami
- Bangladesh has consistently denied India a free-of-cost transit facility to India’s landlocked North Eastern Regions. Although India has a narrow land link to this Northeastern region, which is famously known as the Siliguri Corridor or “India’s Chicken Neck,” less than 27 kilometers (17 mi) wide, it remained as the only bridge between the northeastern part of India and the rest of the country.
- Illegal Bangladeshi immigration into India. The border is porous, and migrants are able to cross illegally, though sometimes only in return for financial or other incentives to border security personnel.
- In 2019, the Indian Parliament passed the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), following which Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan cancelled their trips to India. Later, minister Shahriar Alam also canceled his Visit to India. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was critical of the CAA, describing it as “not necessary.”The discriminatory Amended Citizenship act, which cancels the Indian Nationality of millions of Bangladeshi who migrated to India in the 1970s. India wanted to deport all of them back to Bangladesh by force.
- Continuous border killing of Bangladeshi people by Indian border guards, aiding illegal immigrants, helping in armed dacoity, fake money transfer, and illicit drug trades by both Indian and Bangladeshi people are the major problems between Bangladesh and India.
- Both Bangladesh and India made claims over the same seawater at the Bay of Bengal before settlement of the issue.
- There was a minor glitch in their relationship when former Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh accidentally mentioned that Bangladeshis are anti-Indian, during an informal press meet.
- Border killings of Bangladeshi civilians
- Deaths of Bangladeshi citizens on the Indo-Bangladesh border became one of the embarrassments between the two nation’s bilateral relations in recent years. The so-called ‘shoot-to-kill policy by India’s Border Security Forces (BSF) that, according to Human Rights Watch, killed nearly 1,000 Bangladeshis between 2001 and 2011 has remained at the core of the talks between Bangladeshi and Indian officials visiting each other.
- Indian officials visiting Bangladesh, including the Indian foreign ministers and BSF chiefs, numerously vowed to stop BSF shootings. Still, Bangladeshi nationals, comprising mostly illicit border crossers, have continued to be shot dead by the Indian troops.
- Border disputes and demarcation of the exact border are yet pending.
- Historically, Bangladesh has not accepted the partition of Bangal into east and west Bangal, whereas Indian occupation of part of Bangal is not accepted and still keeps ill-feelings.
- Bangladesh is friendly with China and beneficiary of Chinese mega Initiatives BRI, whereas India opposes BRI and confronts China, and exerts pressure on Bangladesh to be anti-China.
- Bangladesh is a Muslim country and an active member of OIC, whereas the Modi-led Government in India is totally anti-Minorities, especially Muslims.
- The trade imbalance is also a point of disagreement between the two nations.
The Government of Shaikh Hasina Wajid is pro-India, especially PM Modi was having close links with her father’s insurgency in the 1970s. PM Modi also confessed his alleged involvement in acts of subversion, up-risings, and terrorism, against the government of that time, at his young age of 20-22.
Masses are anti-India, especially anti-Modi, due to his extremist and discriminatory policies toward minorities, especially against Muslims. Public protests were witnessed all over the country, especially the cities where PM Modi has visited; the agitations were more intense and severe. In the clashes between the law enforcement agencies and masses, reports of killings, injuries, and fire incidents were reported. Initially, on the first day of his Visit, four deaths were reported, but the number of casualties kept on growing; unofficial figures are up to 89 deaths and outnumbered injuries, with several severe and may be fatal.
PM Modi’s Visit to Bangladesh may also be a high price for Shaikh Hasina Wajid’s government as the public anti-Modi sentiments are growing exponentially and blaming the government for hosting him. The widespread anti-Government protests are on-going, even that PM Modi has returned back to India already.