Bilateral Relationship between India and Bangladesh
“The Indian elephant cannot transform itself into a mouse. If South Asia is to get itself out of the crippling binds of conflicts and cleavages, the six will have to accept the bigness of the seventh. And the seventh, that is India, will have to prove to the six that big can indeed be beautiful.”- Bhabani Sen Gupta. (01) [ Bhabani Sen Gupta, “The Big Brother Syndrome”, India Today, 30th April 1984, p.122]
The enabling and constraining capabilities of India with regard to promoting regional cooperation in South Asia had been discussed even before the conceptual journey of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) began in 1983. India occupies a unique position in the South Asian region. By the virtue of its size, location and economic potential, India assumes a natural leadership role in the region. But the over-bearing presence of a neighbor with aspirations for global leadership has also been a source of apprehensions for the other South Asian countries. Consequently, cooperative efforts of the South Asian countries are hijacked by the dilemma of comprehending India’s perceived and actual role as a stepping stone or a stumbling bloc for the regional efforts. India claims a leadership position for herself, while her South Asian neighbors accuse her of exercising hegemony. For a rational understanding of India’s position and role in the region the concepts of leadership and hegemony will have to be unraveled and India’s policies and neighbor’s perceptions examined in the light of subsequent deductions.
In the context of Bangladesh, from the geopolitical point of view,” Bangladesh’s location (apparently seems to be) a disadvantage for her, presumably because the country is virtually India locked; it has one important locational advantage viz, the access to the Bay Of Bengal, & through this to the wider open seas & to the sea routes towards the strategically important regions such as East & South-East Asia and West-Asia & the Middle-East.
In spite of its, India is such a country to have been failed in every test of friendship, continuing to show the big brotherly attitude towards neighboring countries, remaining reluctant to consider dignity of its neighboring countries, stimulating unrest, creating suspicion & uncertainty between them.
Source: (03) Nijkamp Triangle Modified by Dourjeanni (1993).
BILATERAL RELATIONSHIP BETWEEN INDIA & BANGLADESH:
Bilateral relations or bilateralism refers to the relationship between two independent regions. Cultural, economic, and political factors influence this relationship. As such, bilateral relations may be diplomatic or hostile. Positive bilateralism comprises the most common alliance type.
Before going to explicate the issues of bilateral relationship between India &Bangladesh, firstly it is much more important to postmortem the geopolitical importance of both countries………………
BANGLADESH: AT A GLANCE
Population by religion (%)
Source: Bangladesh Bureau of Statistics
Strategic Importance of Bangladesh
Notwithstanding her small geographical size, Bangladesh does have certain strategic advantages that make her important to regional and extra regional powers which may drag her into a complex geopolitical scenario of big power rivalries. Bangladesh being the land-bridge between South and South-East Asia and between East and North-East India provides the most cost-effective and the safest way for inter-regional and intra-regional connectivity. Describing the strategic importance of Bangladesh in relation to India, a renowned security analyst Mr. C. Raja Mohan, said “Relations with Bangladesh are too important to be left to traditional ways of doing diplomatic business. Bangladesh is one of the few Islamic nations of the world where a fragile democracy is taking root; it is a large market for Indian goods and has a huge bearing on India’s security and development challenges in the North East.”  C. Raja Mohan, Offering free trade to Bangladesh, The Hindu–Monday, Jun 17,2002
Now, Bangladesh may be seen as a key player in strategic game plan of the U.S.A., China, India, and Pakistan because of the following reasons:
1. Bridge between East and North-East India: The unique geographical location of Bangladesh which cuts the troubled North East region of India off from the mainland constitutes a significant security weak point for India for the fact that the region shares border with China and that various insurgent groups are active within the region who are fighting against the Indian government for self determination. In light of their experience in Indo-China war in 1962, the Indian defense planners consider the ‘strategic chicken neck’ to be inadequate and see Bangladesh as the safest and the shortest route to transport military logistics to North-East region in case of a future military conflict with China. A strategic corridor through Bangladesh is also seen as important to conduct sustained military campaign against the insurgents in North East. The corridor through Bangladesh has economic significance as well because it is the most cost effective route to connect North-East to the rest of India for transshipment of industrial goods to improve the economic condition of this landlocked region. Describing the economic significance for India of a corridor through Bangladesh, Mr. G. Srinivasan said, “The road route between East India and Northeast India through Bangladesh reduces transport distance by more than 60 per cent in comparison to the current route around Bangladesh through Siliguri” (05) [G. Srinivasan, Time for India, Bangladesh to pursue free trade policy
2. Bridge between SAARC and ASEAN: Bangladesh which is the land-bridge between SAARC and ASEAN has enormous geographical advantages for its proximity to Myanmar and other South-East Asian nations to promote interregional economic, political, and security cooperation. Once connected via Asian Highway (AH-41) and Trans-Asian Railway, Bangladesh will be the main transit point for inter-regional economic interactions amongst South and South-East Asian nations. Bangladesh with appropriate policies and infrastructures in place will be playing a pivotal role in defining the direction of economic relations between the two emerging regional groups.
3. Gateway to Bay of Bengal: Bangladesh is considered the gateway to Bay of Bengal with its 45000 sq. miles of sea territory in which lies valuable marine resources such as hydrocarbon, fisheries etc. Its well developed sea ports are of enormous importance because India can use these port facilities to increase trade with its land-locked North-East region while other South and South East Asian countries and China can use the same facilities to increase intra-regional and inter-regional economic cooperation. The Chinese navy is also making rapid progress in developing naval relations with coastal nations such as Myanmar and Bangladesh to gain access to their port facilities so as to conduct sustained naval operations in the sea to control the oil transshipment and trade routes in the Indian Ocean. In light of the recently concluded Indo-U.S. Strategic agreement, it is understood that any Chinese naval presence in the Bay of Bengal may be construed as strategic interference in South Asia, and the U.S.A and India may act to prevent Bangladesh from allowing any permanent base facilities to China. Therefore, Bangladesh is considered a country of enormous strategic maritime importance for major powers to establish strategic control over South Asia.
4. Energy security: Because of her burgeoning population, high economic growth rate, and rapid industrialization, India has become the sixth largest energy consumer in the world, but she has to import oil to meet 70% of her domestic demand which cost 40% of her total export earnings. She has to diversify import source for uninterrupted supply of energy, but due to international politics importing hydrocarbon from Iran and Venezuela has become uncertain leaving Bangladesh and Myanmar as only cheap and secure sources of energy supply. While Bangladesh has a speculative gas reserve of 33 TCF, its proven reserve is only 12 -15 TCF which is inadequate to meet its own domestic demand so the government has already decided against exporting gas to other countries unless new reserves are found. Even though Bangladesh has expressed her inability to export gas at the moment, India considers Bangladesh a major source of energy in the long run because of its potentials to discover huge hydrocarbon reserves in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladesh also is the most cost effective route for India to import gas from Myanmar, and therefore Bangladesh may emerge as a significant player in regional strategic energy game.
5. Balance of power: Bangladesh is significant because of the complex strategic scenario that has emerged due to India’s strategic alliance with the U.S.A to contain China and its rivalry with Pakistan for regional supremacy. India has to take cognizance of the fact that Bangladesh has established deep military relations with China and has repaired her fractured relations with Pakistan to correct the problem in balance of power situation with India. So, the possible military role of Bangladesh in case of a war either between India and China or between India and Pakistan could be a strategic concern for India.
India: At a Glance
Evolution of Indian Strategic Goal: From Break-up Of Pakistan To Strategic Entrapment Of Bangladesh-
The Indian strategic goal underwent a gradual evolution since the independence of Bangladesh. The primary motivations for India to get involved in the liberation war of Bangladesh was the break-up of Pakistan and the emergence of a friendly but weak Bangladesh for the security of its North-East region. But aggressive endeavors were also conducted to gradually lure Bangladesh into a trap to make her India-locked strategically.
South Asian Geopolitical Environment (SAGE) Model
In South Asia have emerged two opposite power centers with conflicting geopolitical interests that are vying for establishing their own strategic domains.
Actors Involved And Their Power Projection Scope:
The complexities of South Asian geopolitical environment increase because of the involvement of extra-regional political actors, their varying power projection capabilities and conflicting geopolitical interests, and the existence of peculiar relationship pattern between them.
Nature Of Relationship Between Different Political Powers:
Driven by their unique geopolitical interests, the South Asian political players are jostling for a convenient strategic position in the region to achieve their respective geopolitical goals.
Indian strategic planning to dominate Bangladesh :
In light of Bangladesh’s endeavors to take control of her own affairs and her attempts to seek greater independence in foreign policy matters, India formulated a detailed strategic plan to deny Bangladesh a fair opportunity to build capacity commensurate with her strategic importance and national strength so as to reduce India’s own strategic vulnerabilities and to keep Bangladesh within its own sphere of influence as part of its greater regional game plan. In this section we will discuss what goals and objectives India is pursuing and the strategies they have put in place to achieve them.
1. To reduce strategic and economic vulnerabilities of North-East India through improving connectivity and accessibility and through gaining access to the Sea.
2. To diminish strategic advantage of Bangladesh and to gain disproportionate influence on Bangladesh’s national policies in general and foreign, defense, and economic policies in particular.
Strategic objectives :
1. To obtain unrestricted transit facilities to transport goods, industrial or military, to and from North-East and to obtain perpetual rights to use Chittagong sea port.
2. To stop Bangladesh from marching toward the East to confine her within Indian sphere of influence and to reduce Bangladesh’s options for integrating her economy with other emerging economies in adjacent regions in order to restrict growth potentials.
3. To extend political help and support to promote friendly elements in domestic politics in order to extract undue favors and privileges from Bangladesh.
4. To deter and discourage Bangladesh from seeking outside help to resolve outstanding issues so as to impose bilateral-ism to negotiate from the position of strength.
5. To marginalize the nationalist forces through non-cooperation and intimidation so as to create pressure to stop them from taking any steps that could constitute threats, real or perceived, to Indian strategic interests.
Bilateral issues between India & Bangladesh:
1. Delaying tactics to solve bilateral problems: Having shared land and maritime borders, both Bangladesh and India should have demarcated their borders based on mutual cooperation, trust, and interest for the sake of peaceful co-existence, but regrettably, despite a series of diplomatic efforts by Bangladesh, India refused to respond adequately to resolve border disputes in an amicable fashion and employed a delaying tactics to create pressure on Bangladesh. Bangladesh, on the other hand, showing political maturity and the spirit of amicable co-existence has already ratified the border agreement signed between the two governments in 1974 and has also made several diplomatic moves to demarcate maritime border only to be frustrated by lukewarm Indian response. Non ratification of the border agreement India and its reluctance to find solution to maritime border dispute have caused a gradual deterioration in bilateral relations giving birth to mutual suspicion and mistrust. Frustrated by Indian non cooperation in finding a just solution to maritime dispute, Bangladesh has gone for U.N arbitration to settle the maritime dispute once and for all.
2. Maritime Security of Bangladesh: In contemporary world, maritime security remains at the forefront of political concern in many of the littoral countries bordering oceans, bays, gulfs or any other international water body. It is a part of national security and not an isolated strategic entity by itself, thereby requiring integration with the overall national security model of a littoral state. There is no gainsaying that the maritime situation in Bangladesh currently represents a very depressing scenario due to a number of threats that can possibly be classified into two categories, i.e. traditional and non-traditional. In the former category, the
vulnerability of the oceanic frontier to naval deployments in and around the region and
Bangladesh’s unresolved maritime boundary with two of its neighbors, India and Myanmar figure prominently. In particular, unresolved maritime boundary poses a threat to maritime security, and scope and dimension of this threat can become more complex and serious with the years of delay in finding out a political resolution. Given the fact that Bangladesh and India are at conflict with each other over demarcation of maritime boundary, the EEZs (Exclusive Economic Zones) of the two countries may give rise to conflicts over the sharing of resources, in particular fishes, oil and gas. Also, because of unresolved maritime boundary, Bangladesh is constrained in its claim to an extended continental shelf of 350 nautical miles, and over few new born islands in its maritime zones, for example, ‘the new born island of South Talpatty’. Under such circumstances, the possibility of a clash with India may arise while undertaking activities like surveillance, combating pollution, chasing the pirates and poachers etc. The same holds true in case of unresolved maritime boundary between Bangladesh and Myanmar. In conventional sense, threats to Bangladesh’s maritime security may also emanate from such activities like naval blockade, attempt to create spheres of influence by the powers – both regional and extra-regional etc. All such threats need to be thwarted by Bangladesh with means ranging from diplomacy to military option if so needed. Conversely, from a non-conventional angle, Bangladesh’s maritime policy is required to ensure the safety of sea lines of communication (SLOCS), fight marine pollution of different types, interdict maritime crimes like poaching, sea piracy, illegal migration, traffic in small arms and drugs, manage disasters, save the coastal zone from degradation etc. This section of the paper attempts to study the non-traditional threats to the maritime security of Bangladesh by focusing on their nature, the levels at which they occur and their effects. Before undertaking a discussion on the main theme of the section, it is pertinent to present the maritime matrix of Bangladesh in a manner as brief as possible. Three zones constitute the maritime matrix of Bangladesh. The first one consists of four successive maritime zones enjoined upon Bangladesh ( as in case of other littorals) by the UNCLOS III, i.e., Territorial sea (12 nm), Contiguous zone (24 nm), EEZ (200 nm), and Continental shelf (350 nm), all determined from a fixed baseline as per the UNCLOS. It should be mentioned that the claim over Continental shelf (350 nm) is subject to approval by the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (CLCS). The second is the coastal zone of Bangladesh which in general sense is identified as a 710 km long stretch of land connected to the Indian ocean via the Bay of Bengal. The region, therefore, remains under the salinity and tidal effects of the Bay – two important criteria to delineate the region.5 The coastal zone comprises an area of 36,000 sq. km (accounting for nearly 25% of the country’s total land surface) and is an important bio-geographic unit that is rich in bio-diversity and in various kinds of renewable/non-renewable and environmental resources. It may be mentioned that the coastal zone of Bangladesh hosts the largest littoral mangrove belt in the world stretching 80 km into Bangladesh hinterland from the coast. The region is also home to many different species of birds, mammals, reptiles and fishes. Next to coastal zone, it is the zone that consists of small off-shore islands (more stable) and chars land masses (less consolidated and hydro morphologically dynamic). These areas are subject to strong wind and tidal interactions throughout the year and are inhabited by a large number of people.(10) [ Dr. Monowar Hossain, “The Greenhouse Effect and the Coastal Area of Bangladesh : Its People and Economy’, in Jasha J Maudud, Harun Er Ershad, Dr. A Atiq Rahman and Dr. Monowar Hossain (ed.), The Greenhouse Effect and the Coastal Area of Bangladesh, Proceedings of an International Conference held in Dhaka, Bangladesh, 5 March, 1989, p. 60.]
South Talpatti /Sheikh Mujib Island (as it was known in Bangladesh) or New Moore (as it was known in India) was a small uninhabited offshore sandbar landform in the Bay of Bengal, off the coast of the Ganges-Brahmaputra Delta region. It emerged in the Bay of Bengal in the aftermath of the Bhola cyclone in 1970, and disappeared at some later point.
Although the island was uninhabited and there were no permanent settlements or stations located on it, both India and Bangladesh claimed sovereignty over it because of speculation over the existence of oil and natural gas in the region.<href=”#cite_note-LAT-2″> The issue of sovereignty was also a part of the larger dispute over the Radcliffe Award methodology of settling the maritime boundary between the two nations.
The island was situated only two kilometers from the mouth of the Hariabhanga River. The emergence of the island was discovered by an American satellite in 1974 that showed the island to have an area of 2,500 sq meters (27,000 sqft). Later, various remote sensing surveys showed that the island had expanded gradually to an area of about 10,000 sq meters (110,000 sqft) at low tide, including a number of ordinarily submerged shoals. The highest elevation of the island never exceeded two meters above sea level. Bangladesh claims the settlement of the boundaries between Bangladesh and India has been reached on the basis of Radcliffe Award. Under the Radcliffe Award, in the case of borders divided by rivers, the ‘Mid-channel Flow’ principle of ‘Thalweg Doctrine’ has been recognized as the international boundary between two countries. The middle line of the mid-channel flow (Thalweg doctrine) of Hariabhanga which is the local borderline of Bangladesh and India is clearly flowing along the western side of South Talpatti Island. Based on this principle the Khulna district administration and the survey department registered the island by the name South Talpatti in their administrative documents. The island has been christened South Talpatti by Bangladesh due to its location to the south of Talpatti under Shyamnagar upazila of Satkhira district (former greater Khulna district).
The South Talpatti measuring 81 square miles in the Sunderbans has disappeared due to sea level rise and soil erosion. Its disappearance was confirmed by satellite image and sea patrols. Sugata Hazra, a professor from the School of Oceanographic Studies at Jadavpur University in Calcutta, told reporters, “There’s no trace of the island any more,” He noted that temperatures in the region had been rising at an annual rate of 0.4C. Until 2000, the sea level rose about 3mm a year, but over the last decade it had been rising about 5mm annually, he said. He warned that another ten islands could be at risk. (11) [Dr. Md. Mizanur Rahman, a biodiversity specialist, NDC, Jhalakathi Collectorate, Daily Star.]
Is oil and gas exploration in the Bay turning into a geopolitical issue?
Based on the above convention and the physiographic conditions of the coastal region of Bangladesh, it is opined that Bangladesh can claim its jurisdiction of the sea covering an area demarcated as ABCD of the enclosed map. The claim of Bangladesh is also geo-scientifically justified because both India and Myanmar does not have the continental shelf that develops with the kind of accretion that takes place along the Bangladesh part. The continental shelf of Bangladesh is much greater than that of India and Myanmar. The line of 70 fathom of Bangladesh shelf is also much greater seaward. The deep-sea canyon, known as “Swatch of No-ground”, which is the principal avenue for transportation of Bengal Fan Sediments, also occurs inside the Bangladesh Territorial Water. It is further envisaged that the proposed offshore survey blocks of Bangladesh is well inside the demarcated jurisdiction offshore area. If it is true that both India and Myanmar has set its offshore survey area overlapping partly with the proposed survey area of Bangladesh then it needs to be considered as defying the UN Convention. (12) [Dr. Aftab Alam Khan is Professor, Geology, Dhaka University]
The Farakka Barrage and its Atrocious Aftermath :
The Farakka issue embittered the bilateral relation of the two countries and created an unfortunate situation hindering the progress and wellbeing of the region where people live below subsistence level. Reports regarding India’s plan of diversion of water of the Ganges through
Farakka barrage first appeared in the newspaper in October 1951. Pakistan apprehended that it
might have adverse effects on the then East Pakistan and requested India in a letter dated 29
October 1951, to consult it before operating any such scheme.21 India replied on 8 March 1952that the project was under preliminary investigation and described. Pakistan’s concern over its probable effects as purely hypothetical. In the decades 1951-1971, talks took place occasionally between India and Pakistan, but no agreement did occur. There were four technical exchanges in 1961; a fifth in 1968 and five meetings were held at the secretarial level in between 1968-1970, but no negotiation achieved.22 Finally India implemented the Farakka on the basis of unilateral decision. The phases of the Ganges waters dispute are shown in the table below:
Period Main Issues
ADVERSE EFFECTS OF FARAKKA ON BANGLADESH :
Unilateral withdrawal of the Ganges water, during the dry months, resulted into serious adverse effects on environment, agriculture, industries, fisheries, navigation, river regime, salinity contamination in the surface and ground water etc in the South-Western areas of Bangladesh. The affected area covers almost 20% of countries area (30,000 square km) inhabited by about 30 million people. Bangladesh being a lower riparian and small country has been subjected to Indian bullying on the Ganges water. Ecological situation in Bangladesh has already been deteriorated to an unrepairable level. Salinity front has traveled up to 280 km upstream from the coast. The salinity level in the surface water has been increased 500 micro-mhos to 29,000 micro-mhos at Khulna which has exceeded the safe limit by several times. The ground water salinity has also been increased from 200 micro-mhos to about 3,000 micro-mhos. The one of the largest mangrove forest, Sunderban, has already shown drying out affect due to increase in salinity level in the estuarine rivers flowing through it.
.Tipaimukh Dam at a glance:
Location: Tipaimukh, Manipur, India,
on Barak river, around 100km from Jakigang, Sylhet)
Length: 390 meter
Height: 164 meter
Cost: $1.35 billion
Reservoir C: 15.9 BCM average
Elevation to MSL:180 m
Tipaimukh means the confluence of the Tuivai and Barak rivers.
The word “Tipai” is the corrupted name coined for the river “Tuivai”, and “Mukh” meaning “mouth” in Bengali.
What Consequences for Bangladesh?: Mirror Image of Farakka
Rajshahi-Khulna vs. Sylhet-Dhaka
Padma vs. Shurma, Kushiara
Tipaimukh Dam: Potential Consequences for Bangladesh
Giving India the ability to full control the water through Barak River itself is dangerous as they can use it as a weapon against Bangladesh as and when necessary.
This has been done in the past using the Farakka Barrage.
Impacts due to existence of dam and reservoir:
1. Imposition of a reservoir in place of a river valley (loss of habitat)
2. Changes in downstream morphology of riverbed, delta, and coastline due to altered sediment load (increased erosion).
3. Changes in downstream water quality: effects on river temperature, nutrient load, turbidity, dissolved gases, concentration f heavy metals and minerals.
4. Reduction of biodiversity due to blocking of movement of organism (e.g. salmon) & because of above changes.
Impacts due to pattern of dam operation:
1. Changes in downstream hydrology: a) Changes in total flows
b) Change in seasonal flows
c) Sort-term fluctuation in flows
d) Change in extreme high and low flows.
2. Changes in downstream morphology & water quality caused by altered flow pattern
3. Reduction in riverine/riparian/floodplain habitat diversity, especially because of elimination of floods.
Environmental impacts: The change in the climate condition of the project site, the sitting of flowing waters leading to temperature stratification, the project activities leave the eco-impact features of instability in the form of landslides and soil erosion, violent disturbance of pristine areas, variation in water table, instability of geo-physical landscapes, siltation and nutrients variation, decrease flow-rate of the river downstream- affects aquatic life and riparian communities, reduced capacity for self-regeneration, reduced recharge of ground-water aquifers, enhanced pollution levels etc., submergence of land, air pollution, solid waste problem, enhance seismic activities due to pressure of water. The huge amount of water reservoir cause tremendous pressure to the earth region and the Tibetan plateau region, having hazard levels of the order of 0.25g with prominent highs of the order of 0.35-0.4g in the seismically active zones of the Burmese arc. North-eastern India and North-west Himalaya/Hindukush regions are included in the zone.
The site selected for the dam is located in a region which is among the most seismically active in the two major earthquakes of 8+ in the Richer Scale during the past 50 years. The Barak river is flowing on a major fault zone and the dam site is only 500 meters away from this zone. Hence, the very basic feasibility of the dam is questionable.
Impacts on Socio-economic environment:
Violation of International Law: The Tipaimukh Dam project was entirely developed and approved without once informing the government of Bangladesh or involving its people in any meaningful exercise to assess the downstream impacts of the Dam. This is clearly a gross violation of co-riparian rights of Bangladesh.
Violation of UN Water Course Convention 1997: The 1997 UN Watercourse Convention is the only convention of a universal character on utilization of the international water courses. It was negotiated by almost every member of the international community including Bangladesh and India and was adopted by a very weighty majority of States. The convention sets forth the general principles and rules governing non-navigational uses of international watercourses in the absence of specific agreements among the States concerned and provides guidelines for the negotiation of future agreements (UN press Release, GA/9248).India has even disregarded some major provisions of the 1997 UN Watercourse Convention (Islam, M.N; 1999) which are mentioned below:
Violation of World Bank Environmental Policy: Except in specified circumstances, the WB policy doesn’t allow financing of a project on an international waterway until all the riparian are notified of the project and Have voiced no objection .But till now the people of lower riparian country like Bangladesh has the objection regarding the Tipaimukh Dam
Border issues :
While the public of Bangladesh, in general, and the Mujib government, in
particular, was extremely grateful to India for her help and support in the war of
liberation and wanted to maintain the best possible relationship with the Indian people, the political and military establishments of India had already done their strategic planning in line with the seven point agreement to reduce Bangladesh’s relevance as an independent nation through limiting her power to formulate national policies. A strategic trap was set for Bangladesh in the form of ’25 year
friendship treaty’ which took away most, if not all, options for Bangladesh to independently establish foreign, defense, and economic relations with other nations in the world. I would like to briefly mention a few clauses of the ’25 year friendship treaty’ that had deleterious effects on our foreign, defense, and economic interests. Treaty of Peace and Friendship between The Government of India and The Government of The People’s Republic of Bangladesh. Strewn along the northern border of Bangladesh, the 197 enclaves look like a group of islands of unequal size. They differ from their West European counterparts in many respects, not least in that they are modern enclaves: they came into existence in 1947 when British India disintegrated and the states of Pakistan and India were formed.10 During the worldwide process of decolonization in the twentieth century, most newly independent states retained the boundaries that were established during colonial rule. India and Pakistan were unusual in splitting apart at the moment of decolonization, creating completely new international borders between them. The enclaves were created at the same time.11 At this time the old region of Bengal, in which the enclaves are located, was divided between India (which received West Bengal) and Pakistan (which received East Bengal, soon renamed East Pakistan—in 1971 East Pakistan would secede from Pakistan to become the independent state of Bangladesh). The new international border between India and East Pakistan was drawn quickly by a Boundary Commission that based itself on district maps rather than field surveys (Chatterji 1999). The enclaves were all in one section of the border where pre-colonial state formation, two patterns of colonial rule, and uneven decolonization combined to produce them.
The border disputes between Bangladesh and India are by no means confined to demarcation problems. It is further linked with other problems like illegal migration of people and goods and other cross border criminal activities. Within just six weeks of partition, the border between India and Pakistan was drawn by Sir Cyril Radcliff on the basis of the Two Nation Theory. This provided for India’s control over 112 enclaves and Bangladesh’s control over 32 enclaves based on the religious identities of the inhabitants of those areas. An agreement was signed by the Presidents of the two countries in 1972 but since it was not ratified by India it could not be put into effect. On the other hand Bangladesh’s immediate ratification of the treaty and the fulfillment of its obligation gave way to the return of Berubari to India by Bangladesh, while India gave permission to Bangladesh to use the Tin Bigha corridor in 1992 which would work as an entrance to Bangladesh’s enclaves inside India.
Talking to The Daily Star at Dahagram High School ground, HM Ershad, in power in Bangladesh for nine years between 1982 and 1990, said he had flown to the enclaves thrice when he was president with permission from the Indian government for use of their airspace. “People of the enclaves now have got a new life. They have come by freedom,” Ershad said. It’s a tense border. Despite India helping Bangladesh gain independence in 1971, relations between the two countries have remained strained since the 1947 partition of India, when the subcontinent was split along religious lines, creating East Pakistan where present-day Bangladesh is. Partition resulted in a bloodbath, with over 1 million killed in the space of a few months and more than 10 million Hindus, Muslims, and Sikhs displaced in one of the largest mass migrations in human history.
Little progress has been made over decades between the two countries on hot-button issues like smuggling, supplying arms and refuge to Indian insurgents, and control of the numerous rivers that flow through both countries.
SECURITY CONCERNS :
Illegal immigration is a perennial problem in almost all nations. Problems of immigration considered illegal have even led to the outbreaks of xenophobic violence in certain places. India has completed around 1357 kilometer fencing of the international border with plans to cover another 2429 kilometer of border in the second phase and also plans to illuminate around 300 kilometer of international border to prevent illegal migration. Cooperative measures like joint patrolling of the border areas, consular access to prisons and signing of an extradition treaty are on the verge of materializing as steps to increase vigil to check drug and arms trafficking, as well as illegal immigration, especially the trafficking women and children.
Sheikh Hasina spoke briefly before the crowd, assured the enclave inhabitants that her government would take some measures to improve the quality of their lives. And that would come through implementing new projects in the 18.68 square km area where 16,000 people have their homes.
Strategy of supporting secessionist movements in Bangladesh:
Chittagong Hill Tracts, which is one tenth of the total size of the country, with its enormous natural resources and strategic geographical location is vital for the existence of Bangladesh. Taking advantage of Chittagong Hill Tracts geographical proximity to India’s Tripura state and making full use of discontent of the local Tribal people, India sponsored the worst kind of organized terrorism in the Chittagong Hill Tracks to dismember Bangladesh. The surreptitious Indian involvement in providing money and weapons to tribal insurgents in the Chittagong Hill Tracks since 1976 was acknowledged by Bimal Chakma—a Shanti Bahini official– in an interview with ‘The New York Times’ on June 11, 1989. India used the insurgents against Bangladesh as a tool to gain political concessions which it would not otherwise be able to extract from the government of Bangladesh. Finally, Bangladesh entered into a peace agreement with Shanti Bahini in 1997 to end insurgency and to restore law and order in Chittagong Hill Tracks, but the security and intelligence agencies of the country are still convinced that a lot of ex-Shanti Bahini members and other terrorists are still getting help from Indian security agencies and are hiding in the North East states of India. This assertion is not without ground because the continuing terrorism activities of ex-Shanti Bahini members in the Chittagong Hill Tracts cannot be carried out without the supply of plenty of lethal firearms from India. The table below is a snapshot of large-scale terrorist activities conducted by Shanti Bahini terrorists until 2004: Habibur Rahman, ‘Parbotto Chukti o Pahare Shantir Shomvobona’, p. 223).
Facts that Count for the Chittagong Hill Tracts
953 A King of Arakan, Tsula Tsandra occupied parts of the Districts of Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar.1338-49 Sultan Fakhruddin Mubarak Shah conquered parts of Chittagong. In 1666, the Moguls conquered parts of Chittagong District from the Arakanese and the area came under Emperor Aurangzeb Alamgir. Most of the district of Chittagong remained undisturbed under the Mogul possession until 1760.The Moguls received a voluntary trade tribute from the chiefs of the CHT, which came to be known as the Karpas Mohol (cotton region). 1760 Parts of the CHT was ceded to the East India Company by Mir Qasim Ali Khan, the semi-independent governor under the Moguls.1777The ‘Kukis’, the Chakmas and possibly some Marmas (who lived deep within the interior parts of the Hills) lead by Rona Khan (Ramu in W.W. Hunter’s a statistical account of Bengal) Khan, a prominent Dewan of the Chakma Raja, revolted against the British and caused great disturbance to the land holders of the company. During the British regime kuli raids were recorded in 1859,1866,1869,1888 and 1892.The revolt was a result of oppression by Bengali Zamindars who were farmed out a contract to collect the cotton tribute for the CHT, whereby they appointed a large part of the tribute, which was later treated as ‘revenue’.1787After years of resistance and economic blockade the Chakma Raja Jan Baksh Khan declared loyalty to the East India Company. The British gradually established their sphere of military, political, and economic influence over the CHT, but they did not interfere with the administration of the CHT. Mr. Halhead, the commission –once stated in 1829,”the hill tribes were not British subjects but merely tributaries and that we recognize no right on our part to interfere in their internal arrangements.”1867The officer-in-charge of the District of the Chittagong Hill Tracts was changed from Superintendent to Deputy Commissioner and he was vested with supervisory powers over revenue, judicial and police matters but the internal administration was left in the hands of the Hill chiefs and their subordinate officials.1860 The hilly and forest tracts to the east of the Chittagong were separated from the revenue jurisdiction of collector of the Chittagong district. An officer with the title of superintendent of the Hill Tribes was appointed. The hills were henceforth known by the name of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.1881The Chittagong Hill Tracts Frontier Police Regulation (111) of 1881was enacted establishing a police force from among the hill peoples.1891The Chittagong Hill Tracts was reduced to the status of a sub-division in-charge of an Assistant Commissioner, a subordinate to the Divisional Commissioner. This development was mainly due to the annexation of the Lushai Hills by the British, which reduced the importance of the Chittagong Hill Tracts to a great extant.1900The British authorities promulgated the Chittagong Hill Tracts Regulation Of 1900 (also known as Hill Tracts Manual) which provided limited self-governance to the hill people.1921 The Chittagong Hill Tracts was declared ‘Backward Tracts’ and an ‘excluded area’.1928 An amendment to the Hill Tracts Manual divided the entire Hill Tracts into the Reserved forests, the circles of the three chiefs and the Myani Valley. The district was divided into three subdivisions (now three districts) roughly corresponding to the three circles.1935The Government of India Act of 1935 designated the Hill Tracts a “Totally Excluded Area” (also known as Wholly Excluded Area) and so gave further recognition to the special status of the district.1947British India disintegrated into India and Pakistan and the Chittagong Hill Tracts was awarded to Pakistan although the region was practically devoid of Muslims. A Jana Sanity team lead by Kaman Mohan Dewan and Sneak Kumar Chakma and another team (representing the Rajas of the CHT) went to Delhi to see the Congress leaders and appealed to make the CHT part of India. But Radcliffe Commission placed the Chittagong Hill Tracts within East Pakistan.
1953The construction of the Karnaphuli Paper Mill at Chandraghona was completed. Supported by foreign funds including a loan of US$ 4.2 million from the World Bank. The Paper Mill was to become a major cause for deforestation in the CHT and pollution in the Karnaphuli River.1955The indigenous police force was disbanded and its officers were scattered Bengalis were brought in as replacements.1962The Pakistan Government replaced the phrase “Excluded Area” with “Tribal Area” in the Constitution of 1962.1959-63Funded by a bilateral loan from the United States Agency for Inter- national Development (USAID) the Kaptai Hydroelectricity Dam was built. The dam submerged 40% arable lands of the CHT and displaced around 100,000 persons most being Chakmas.1964The Pakistani Government abolished the special “tribal areas” status of the CHT by a constitutional amendment. The hill people complained that this was in violation of the concerned article of the constitution.1966Manobendra Narayan larma established Pahari Chatra Samiti (Tribal Students Association) in Chittagong and Dhaka.1969The headquarters of the Pahari Chatra Somiti was moved to Rangamati. It was a Marxist Maoist Organization.1970Rangamati Communist Party was formed; its armed wing was GanamuktiFouj (army of mass salvation).1971 During the liberation war Major Ziaur Rahman and his troops entered India through the CHT with the help of the hill indigenous people. Tridiv Roy, the Chakma Raja and a member of the National Assembly of Pakistan, did not join the Liberation movement. December 5, 1971After the Pakistani Army evacuated from Panchari of Khagrachari, the Bengali freedom fighters killed 14 ethnic persons
Since the signing of the accord the government has consistently maintained that the resources of the CHT would be exploited for the economic development of the country and tourism would be promoted. Such naive and insensitive pronouncements remind the hill people of the Kaptai debacle. It is therefore evident that the state hegemony in the CHT remains unabated. This land, better known to the world as the North-Eastern region of India, borders China, Tibet, Bhutan, Bangladesh, and Myanmar. India’s remote northeast, the area comprising the seven states stretching from Tibet in the north to Myanmar (Burma) in the south, among them Nagaland, Meghalaya, and Assam. In this area, rarely visited by foreigners, peoples scarcely known to the Western world continue a way of life steeped in ancient ritual. The Seven Sisters of India are the seven relatively unexplored and isolated Indian states — Assam, Nagaland, Tripura, Meghalaya, Manipur, Mizoram and Arunachal Pradesh — which for many years was closed to foreigners.
India faces huge challenges in dousing the insurgency fires in many parts of the country – from the dense forests of Central India covering Chattisgarh, Jharkhand, few districts in Uttar Pradesh, West Bengal, few parts of Andh Pradesh (so called Red Corridor) to North-East India. We all know the Pakistani sponsored and mooted terrorist activities in the state of J&K since 1989. Besides there are dozens of militant groups in ethnically diverse North Eastern part of the country. Indian strategy so far has been to first let a state handle its law and order situation and intervene only in cases of extreme urgency. This strategy needs a rethink because of signs of consolidation among many of the freedom-seekers e.g. there are indications that Maoists have tried to forge ties with Kashmiri separatists and ULFA to synergize their activities. Furthermore as Left-Wing Extremism (LWE) in India stretches has their proximity to important cities and both north-south and east west lines of communication – termed as “potentially dangerous” by the Indian Army. Therefore for successfully tackling the menace of LWE, two pronged strategy needs to be adopted – focus on socio-economic uplift of the affected areas as it is unfulfilled promise of the Indian state to her citizens (aka Directive Principles of the State) and secondly this is one of the root-causes of the rise of Naxal movement in the Indian hinterland. Sincere efforts must be taken to implement inclusive growth as an objective of public policy. On fighting the insurgency, inter-state cooperation is a must and jurisdictional issues should not be allowed to tackle a nation-wide insurgency. Failing which, it must be emphasized India will face sever governance crisis internally and might even descend into conflict Insurgency in NE part of the country goes till 1950s and has its genesis in the way those states were integrated into the Indian Union. Much water has since flown down the river Brahmaputra to reverse the flow of time. Inter-ethnic and inter-religious harmony should be maintained in the highly sensitive region through grass-root level participation of people. Besides illegal migration from Bangladesh rightly fuels resentment among the rightful Indian citizens and there should be no vote-bank politics with this critical development in Assam and other states. Otherwise changed demographics of these states can wreck havoc on the internal security of the country in the coming decades. For tackling the issue of Jammu and Kashmir, numerous tomes have been written. But in a nutshell, the issue requires firm handling from the Centre. It is widely documented that Pakistani state fuels the seeds of alienation among the Kashmiri youth. Even within the state of J&K, Jammu and Ladakh have not shown secessionist movements and are well-integrated into the mainstream. It is only the Kashmir Valley which has seen such activities and adequate focus should be given towards job creation in this region.
Using Bangladesh to alleviate strategic challenges in the North-East:
Because of India’s step motherly attitude towards its land-locked North-Eastern states, a growing sense of deprivation, exploitation, and insecurity is prevalent among the people of this region, which has contributed to give birth to a number of insurgent groups who have taken up arms against their own government for self-determination. India’s myopic decision to crush insurgency through military means without finding the root causes to better understand the problem and the absence of a mature policy of providing economic and social incentives to remove inequalities have created myriad of problems causing further alienation of indigenous people. Now India wants to involve Bangladesh in quelling insurgency in its North-East region disregarding the fact that without offering appropriate political and economic incentive package to address the legitimate grievances of the indigenous people no third party can do anything to mitigate the problem and that such involvement bears the risk of antagonizing the insurgents which could seriously undermine the security of Bangladesh.
Strategy of Media propaganda: Notwithstanding its small landmass, Bangladesh, in terms of population, is the seventh largest country in the world and a home for 130 million Muslims. She has been playing a major role in international peace efforts and war against terrorism through contributing the second highest troops to U.N missions and through introducing tough anti terrorism ordinance with a provision of death sentence for those convicted of terrorism. Bangladesh was termed as a unique example of democracy in South Asian region by the then U.S. Under Secretary of State Nicholas Burns and as a model for democracy and tolerance by Harry K Thomas—ex U.S. Ambassador to Bangladesh. Disregarding the support and appreciation of International community for Bangladesh’s role in the war against terrorism, Indian media keeps inventing fictitious stories about organized extremism in Bangladesh. But the fact of the matter is, Bangladesh is taking regional and global security matters seriously and is working closely with the international community to continuously fight against all sorts of terrorism. It can be mentioned that the international community including the United States has welcomed Bangladesh’s success in dismantling the terror network of Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and the subsequent execution of the top JMB masterminds after following due process of law and has termed Bangladesh as a valuable partner in the war against terrorism.
Asian Highway :
The Asian Highway (AH), a cooperative project among Asian countries providing a link to Europe, was conceived in 1959 by the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-Escap) to promote regional cooperation. Dr. M Rahmatullah, former Director (transport) of UN-Escap, now the Transport Policy Adviser, TSMR program at the Planning Commission, indicates how Bangladesh has been wasting time for wrong reasons, by not signing the Asian Highway Agreement, which has kept Bangladesh from becoming a part of the super highway. He identifies the authorities’ negligence, their inability to understand the importance of AH and lack of commitment to uphold the country’s interests, as some of the reasons.
Which AH routes is crossing Bangladesh?
The AH1 passes through Benapole-Jessore-Kanchpur-Dhaka-Sylhet-Tamabil. AH2 passes through Banglabandha-Hatikamrul-Dhaka-Kanchpur-Sylhet-Tamabil and the international sea ports, Chittagong and Mongla are connected to AH1 and AH2 by AH41 so that the ports can also serve the regional needs if required. Depending on Myanmar’s interest and agreement, AH41 could also be extended through Myanmar to Thailand. Initially, Bangladesh offered two entry/exit points on the North-East corner of Bangladesh as part of its proposal. In 1993, UN-ESCAP asked all AH member countries to indicate as to which roads of their national network could form part of the Asian Highway network (AHN). Apart from the routes mentioned earlier, Bangladesh also proposed, in addition to Tamabil, Austagram (Sylhet)-Karimganj (Assam) route which could have provided a much shorter link to Tamu via Imphal. Tamu is the border point with India, which Myanmar offered for AH connection with India, and then through India to Bangladesh. Myanmar proposed road connections also to China and Thailand, but none to link Bangladesh directly.
Is Tamabil the best option for Bangladesh?
Bangladesh chose the Tamabil route about 600 kilometers to Imphal from Sylhet. It was a suicidal decision. This route passes through a mountainous region across four Indian states through which vehicles can move only slowly, as the gradients are steep. Trucks with heavy loads will have difficulties in moving, fuel consumptions will be huge, making travel costly. There was no reason for choosing this route since the alternative route through Austagram would have been shorter by around 200 kilometers. But the then communications minister, as official record shows, chose the route without realizing its adverse consequences.
What was the reason for choosing Tamabil?
I was the Director (Transport) of UN-Escap at that time and I found no logic behind this selection. As far as my knowledge goes, the route was selected without considering its viability or the interests of Bangladesh. It was a big blunder, for which the country will suffer for years to come. Tamabil is not suitable for India, Myanmar, and Bangladesh or for any movement between South Asia and South-East Asia. When countries submitted their route proposals in response to UN-Escap, India offered the Astagram-Karimganj route. An independent study of UN-Escap also found the Austagram route as the most suitable, as it was the shortest route and passes through level terrain. But the then Bangladesh authorities were unable to understa