Pakistan-Bangladesh: Need to move forward


History tells that countries, at daggers drawn for centuries, progressed by leaps and bounds once they buried the hatchet. Europe is a case in point. They first general agreement on trade and tariffs to to remove kinks and wobbles in free flow of goods and services. And  , then joined the European Union. Thus they avoided diversion of their resources to military expenditures.

The Quaid-e-Azam, too, dreamt of a peaceful South Asia.  Shortly after the Partition, he advised India to forget about pre-Partition acrimony and sign a joint-defence pact. At that time, Bangladesh of today was part of Pakistan. Had it been an independent sovereign state, the Quaid would have extended his offer to Bangladesh also.. Akber Ahmed, in his paper Why Jinnah matters(Maleeha Lodhi (ed.), Pakistan Beyond the Crisis State, Chapter 2, pages 21-34) says, ‘Just before his own death, Jinnah proposed a joint defence pact with India as the Cold War started to shape the world and the two power blocs began to form. Jinnah was still thinking as a South Asian nationalist. Since he had won the rights and security of his community through the creation of Pakistan, he thought the problem of national defence was over. Alas, it was not to be. …Had Jinnah’s vision prevailed_ and found an echo in India it would have seen a very different South Asia. There would have been two stable nations,  India and Pakistan, both supplementing and supporting each other. Indeed Jinnah’s idea of a joint defence system against the outside world would have ensured that there would have been no crippling defence expenditures. There would have been no reason to join one or other camp of the Cold War. There would have been open borders, free trade and regular visiting beteen the two countries’. 

The jingoist India is a hopeless case. But Pakistan could mend its fence with Bangladesh. In fact there is no fence at all. Both countries are bound by a common religion and tradition. Many a time, Bangladesh evinced effervescent love for Pakistan, for instance during India-Pakistan cricket matches.

Durga-puja (worship)turned gory in Chittagong, Comilla and elsewhere. It  left 10 dead, besides loss of property. The protests were sparked over an allegation of desecration of the Holy Quran in a temple. The Holy Quran was found resting on the thigh of a Hanuman statue in a Durga Puja pandal (Durga worship congregation) near a pond in Comilla called Nanua Dighi. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship. Indo-Bangladesh  relations are characterised by distrust and punctuated by broken promises.  India looks to its own interest. She stopped supplying onions to BD, her biggest importer, reneged on contract to supply vaccine, dilly dallied on water sharing issue, and so on. Yet India misses no opportunity to sour relations between Pakistan and BD.

India parries real issues

The Indian president attended liberation celebrations in Dacca. But, he skipped talks on real issues like water sharing dispute and Citizenship Act and the national Register of Citizenship 

Anti Muslim bias in CAA/NRC

India’s does not confer citizenship on the Bengali immigrants at par with non-Muslim refugees. In one of his speeches, India’s minister Amit Shah even called Bangladesh immigrants “termites”. The BJP leaders quote from Sheikh Mujibur Rehman’s book to say that Mujib, as an East Pakistani national, wanted to annex Assam into East Pakistan (Bangladesh). Bharatiya Janata Party MLA from Telangana T. Raja Singh Lodh demanded `Illegal Bangladeshi settlers and Rohingya should be shot if they do not return to their countries like gentlemen’.. A legislator from Goshamahal in Hyderabad, in a similar vein, roared in a video message on a social networking site: “If these people, illegal Bangladeshis and Rohingya, don’t go back with ‘sharafat’ (like gentlemen) then they should be shot dead.

YS Chowdary of the Telugu Desam Party Said illegal immigrants  got settled in Assam as part of a “conspiracy to destroy India”.

Indian Border Security force has orders to “shoot on sight” if any Bangladeshi citizen living near the  4,096 kilometer (2,545 mile)alluvial/shifting border,   happens to cross over. Regarding border killings, Brad Adams, Executive Director of the Asia Department of Human Right Watch state that, “Routinely shooting poor, unarmed villagers is not how the world’s largest democracy should behave” (Adams, Brad  “India’s shoot-to-kill policy on the Bangladesh border” The Guardian. London). According to a report published by Human rights organisations, around 1,000 Bangladeshi civilians have been killed by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) in a period of 10 years (from 2001 to 2010). The report also states that Indian paramilitary forces routinely threaten, abuse arbitrarily detain and torture local Bangladeshi civilians living along the border and Bangladeshi border guards usually don’t help the Bangladeshi civilians. Odhikar, a Bangladesh-based human right organization, allege that acts of rape and looting have also been perpetrated by BSF at the border areas. Bangladesh Border Guards hate the BSF so much that a soldier, accompanying his commander for a flag meeting with DG was shot dead.

Way forward for BD and Pakistan

The two countries could normalize their relations within framework of the  Tripartite-accord.  The tripartite agreement states that signatories (India, Bangladesh and Pakistan) “are resolved to continue their efforts to reduce tension, promote friendly and harmonious relationship in the sub-continent and work together towards the establishment of a durable peace.”

Transition from ‘Long Live Bangladesh’ (joi bangla, long live BD) to ‘drive out Bengalis’ (bongla kheda)

India’s modus operandi

Through propaganda, India tells the world that it fought a full-fledged war against Pakistan in 1971.  The truth is that Pakistani troops did not have the faintest idea that India would attack them. The troops were on law-enforcement and security duty. Their strength and equipment bore no comparison to Indian forces. As of March 1971, there were only 12,000 Pak  army troops in East Pakistan. Their strength rose to 34,000 (23,000 infantry) by December 16, 1971.

As for equipment, Pakistan’s 9 Division had only two 105mm guns and four 120mm mortars.The  16 Division had eight tanks. Pakistan Air Force in East Pakistan had a total of 12 F86Fs aircraft. The Pakistan Navy in East Pakistan had a few gunboats but no naval ship.

Unlike Pakistan, India was fully prepared to wage a war. In April 1971, Mrs Indira Gandhi ordered General Manekshaw to invade East Pakistan. In a video interview, General Manekshaw refused and said, “If you want me to go in now I can guarantee you 100 percent defeat, but if you give me some time I can guarantee you 100 percent success.” In December 1971, the total strength of Indian troops around East Pakistan ranged between 150,000 and 400,000 with an additional 100,000 Indian-trained Mukti Bahini.

The invading force included India’s 4 Infantry Division, 9 Infantry Division, 20 Mountain Division, 6 Mountain Division, 8 Mountain Division, 57 Mountain Division and 23 Division.

The Indian air force deployed four Hunter Squadrons, one Sukhoi Squadron, three Gnat Squadrons and three MiG-21 Squadrons. The Indian navy deployed Aircraft Carrier Vikrant comprising 47 aircraft, eight destroyers, two submarines and three landing ship tanks (AAK Niazi, The Betrayal of East Pakistan).

After the war India propagated the myth that sSome ‘three million’ Bengalis were killed by Pak troops. died or were killed. This was a canard. Killing three million in 262 days would mean killing 11,450 a day every day. Impossible.  In 1972, the Ministry of Home Affairs of Bangladesh reported that a total of “2,000 complaints of deaths were filed”. These complaints included complaints against atrocities of the Mukti Bahini

Concluding remarks

Pakistan and BD should forget the bitter ast and move ahead. Bangladesh’s efforts in economic growth coupled with population control are laudable. At present, Bangladesh’s income per capita per annum exceeds Pakistan’s. Several factors contributed to BD’s economic progress; absence of terrorism or insurgency, consistent industrialization policies for industrialists and investors alike, availability of a flexible, educated, skilled, low-priced workforce, a low defense budget, better in-built accountability measures, and so forth.

Irked by India’s policies, Bangladesh is getting loser to China, Pakistan’s all-weather ally. Many cabinet ministers think that Bangladesh’s future lies with stronger rapport with China. During her visit to China, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister discussed a broad spectrum of issues and signed several memorandum of understanding. They cover the power sector, riverine matters including Brahmaputra River, commercial loans and formation of various working groups. Bangladesh has also accepted the Belt and Road Initiative. Pakistan should emulate BD’s economic progress. And invite Hasina Wajid to visit Pakistan. Bangladesh will make a valuable regional ally for Pakistan.

Amjed Jaaved
Amjed Jaaved
Mr. Amjed Jaaved has been contributing free-lance for over five decades. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is author of seven e-books including Terrorism, Jihad, Nukes and other Issues in Focus (ISBN: 9781301505944). He holds degrees in economics, business administration, and law.


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