Shringla was made to wait in his hotel room for almost four hours and then, when he went to the Bangladesh PMO, he had to wait for another one hour before he was finally granted audience to meet the Bangladeshi PM
Syed Ali Mujtaba | Clarion India
There are some noteworthy developments taking place in the India- Bangladesh relationship which are not being reported in the mainstream media but have a significant impact on India as a nation.
The first is India’s foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla’s visit to Dhaka during August 18-19. The seriousness of the visit can be ascertained from the fact that the top diplomat travelled to Dhaka on a chartered aircraft. Apparently, he may be having some serious issues to discuss about India-Bangladesh bilateral relationship.
However, he was treated in a lukewarm manner when he arrived in Dhaka. There was no Bangladeshi official to receive him at the Dhaka airport nor was there anyone to see him off when he left.
Shringla was made to wait in his hotel room for almost four hours and then, when he went to the Bangladesh PMO, he had to wait for another one hour before he was finally granted audience to meet the Bangladeshi PM. This treatment is unprecedented in India-Bangladesh relationship but no media ever reported and none had the audacity to ask a question about it with the Indian foreign Minister. Such is a sorry state of affair with the MEA.
“All Izz Well”- was the curt reply of MEA spokesperson Anurag Srivastava when he was asked and his facial expression sounded more like the tone of “Three Idiots,” the Amir Khan blockbuster of 2009.
There were no discussions on bilateral relationship with the Indian foreign secretary at the Bangladeshi PM at that brief meeting. Though, as a protocol, the Bangladeshi foreign secretary was present in the meeting but the foreign minister of Bangladesh was conspicuous by his absence.
The entire meeting of Indian foreign secretary with Bangldeshi PM was only a courtesy call and a photo opportunity sans any sum and substance as a takeaway. However, hype was built in the Indian media that Shringla’s visit to Dhaka was a huge success.
The second most noteworthy thing about India-Bangladesh relationship is the shabby treatment meted to Riva Ganguli, India’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh. It is reported that Ganguli had to wait unsuccessfully for almost four months to meet Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. This is something significant as it suggests how much India-Bangladesh relations have plummeted and how far Dhaka has moved from New Delhi’s orbit.
The most important events that had occurred when Ganguli arrived in Dhaka in March 2019 are as follows: Ganguli arrived to witness Dhaka-Delhi relations unfolding in a manner that was unbelievable with an Awami League government in power.
The first thing she witnessed was; Sheikh Hasina dropping several pro-India heavyweights from her new cabinet. This happened without New Delhi’s knowledge.
Later in October 2019, India downgraded Sheikh Hasina’s visit from state visits to an official visit, depriving her of being received by the Indian Prime Minister on arrival, a 21-gun salute and the guard of honour, etc. This is a noticeable development that no media reported.
In November 2019, when Sheikh Hasina was in Kolkata to watch the Bangladesh-India cricket match but New Delhi cold- shouldered Bangladesh PM’s visit to the West Bengal capital. Ganguli, who went to Kolkata to meet Sheikh Hasina, was left gasping for her breath for an audience with the Bangladeshi PM.
Ganguli is witness to the first-hand account of Bangladesh establishing a hand-in-glove relationship with China. This extended to strategic areas where India was eased out right before her eyes.
Ganguli also watched China investing over $26 billion soon after her arrival in Dhaka in strategic areas, with promises of much more investments.
When India wanted to get the major strategic project i.e., the second terminal in Sylhet airport and Ganguli wanted to meet Sheikh Hasina for this, Bangladesh PMO delayed her appointment till the project was given to China.
All these suggest that India’s High Commissioner to Bangladesh has little role in moulding the decision of the neighbouring country’s PM and these developments have the potential of a game-changer in worsening the India-Bangladesh ties.
The main reason for the deteriorating India-Bangladesh ties is the BJP government’s blatant anti-Muslim, anti-Bangladesh policy to energise its Hindutva vote bank. This, indeed, has severely impacted the India-Bangladesh relationship.
Home Minister Amit Shah has openly called Bangladeshi Muslims as ‘termites.’ This was a bait for Hindutva hardliners, a mental massaging for their radical ideologies.
Some other BJP leaders had openly threatened the Bangladeshi Muslims to be thrown into the Bay of Bengal.
The National Registration Act (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) are all actions of the BJP government that have anti–Muslim, anti-Bangladesh overtones.
Even though the BJP remains in a total denial mode of the impact of the anti-Muslim, anti-Bangladesh policies such as the NCR and the CAA, they cast a huge shadow on India-Bangladesh relationship.
The BJP, in order to please its Hindutva constituency, has mortgaged Bangladesh to China. The primary focus of the BJP is its Hindu vote bank even though it means denial of the gains India made in 1971.
Such anti-Muslim, anti-Islam policy of the BJP may be music to the ears of the Hindu hardliner vote bank but it has sullied India’s image in the community of nations where Islam and Muslims have a significant presence.
Another harm the BJP’s Hindutva ideology is doing is to re-establish the idea of two-nation theory propounded by Muslim League in 1940s for which it is being blamed for partitioning the country in 1947. The Hinduvta ideology of the BJP concurs with the idea of Muslim League and it reinforces its version of Indian history.
These are seminal changes taking place under the BJP rule in India. The primary focus of the BJP is building the Hindu identity of the country even if it means denting India’s relationship with other countries. The crestfallen relationship with Bangladesh is a pointer to the fact that the political leadership of the country is working against India as a nation.
The large Indian population has to make a judgment whether they want the BJP and its ideology to dominate the political discourse or it wants to change the sullying image of India that is perpetrated by the BJP though its anti-Muslim, anti-Islam attitude in its policy framework.
The ball of improving India-Bangladesh relations is in New Delhi’s court and, for this, a change in attitude in India’s foreign policy in dealing with countries such as Bangladesh may go a long way in mending the sullen ties.