Begum Zia's diplomatic forays
It is not very often that one sees the leader of the opposition in Bangladesh making visits to two countries, one after the other in quick succession, that are very important factors in Bangladesh's foreign and internal policy dynamics.
Begum Zia has been and back from China after a week-long visit where she met the top political leadership of the CPC including the Chinese Vice-president Xi Jingpin and Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi. And she will be embarking on a visit to India from October 28 and will meet its top leadership too.
Some have called her trips as smart diplomacy. However, the AL sees the opposition leader's China visit as only to spread falsehood and propaganda on the recent attack on Buddhist community in Cox's Bazaar. According the AL, the BNP and its allies are spreading falsehood against the government abroad to tarnish the image of the country.
These are rather ill-advised comments and should not even be taken into reckoning. But coming as they do from the joint general secretary of the party, who also happens to be the party chief's special assistant, and since these have not been disowned by the party, we assume that these are reflective of the AL's views on the opposition leader's trip to the PRC. If that be so, we feel it denigrates the importance of the tie between the two countries.
One feels that such trend-setting visits, of opposition party leadership to neighbours and friends must be viewed in the right perspective. They allow exchanges of views on many bilateral issues, on which they may differ at home, but on which a common front must be projected by the government and the opposition to reinforce our position on these matters internationally.
China and Bangladesh go a long way and have very deep-rooted ties. And, in spite of the position the PRC took during our liberation war, which might appear to us as an aberration, the relationship has been tested over time. Not only the BNP, and it was during General Zia's regime that Bangladesh-China friendship was grounded on new and firmer mooring, the AL has also treated the BD-PRC relationship with great importance. And that is evident from the fact that during her first tenure as PM China was the first country Sheikh Hasina chose to visit, and it was in June 2010 when her second bilateral visit was to Beijing. And that went off extremely well too. The commitment made to the PM by the Chinese leadership has been reiterated to the Bangladesh leader of the opposition as well.
Although the focus of the current regime beyond our borders has been centered on India primarily, it is good to see that the relevance and importance of China has not been lost on our planners, and it would serve our purpose even better if we made it known clearly that our good relationship with the two big countries is not at the expense of the other, as it should be.
And that is why the forthcoming Khaleda Zia's India visit assumes significance. Perhaps this is the first time that the leader of the opposition has been hosted officially by the Indian government. And one may ascribe motives to India for doing so. But that Delhi has been trying to disprove the notion among many in Bangladesh of its single-party orientation when it comes to the question of our bilateral relationship is borne out by the fact that during the Indian PM's Bangladesh visit in September 2011, a formal meeting was held between him Begum Zia.
But even if we were to grant the Indians the benefit of doubt about its AL bias, BNP must understand that India is very wary whenever BNP is in power in Dhaka. Its policies insofar as those related to the Indian Northeast in particular and its fissiparous elements, are perceived as being hostile to India. India is very circumspect too about BNP's handling of the extremists and terrorist issues. And on these issues the AL has been able to assuage much of India's fears. On other bilateral issues India finds AL to be more flexible and accommodative than the BNP.
We feel that the forthcoming visit should be seen as an opportunity for Begum Zia to dispel the notion that many hold in India, particularly in the South Block, that BNP is inherently anti-Indian. She should also articulate BNP's position on many of the policies adopted by the AL related to India and its rationale. The "other" view on these issues should be expressed clearly in order that India's apprehensions about BNP's policies regarding the bilateral issues are removed.
While she should clarify her party's stand on matters that concern India's security Begum Zia must in the same vein elicit India's position on issues that affect Bangladesh's security. She must reinforce the fact that on Teesta India can ill afford not to act immediately, and transit and Tipaimukh are issues that will influence the voters' choice in the next election.
As for us in Bangladesh can we not learn from China and India as to how to treat the leader of the opposition?
The writer is Editor OP-ed pages & Strategic Issues, The Daily Star.
"Zoglul Husain" <email@example.com>, writes:
Hegemonic India wants to dominate and plunder Bangladesh. They want to reduce Bangladesh to Kashmir or Sikkim. In connivance with the hegemonists, many national traitors in Bangladesh have become India's lackeys and obsequious minions to satisfy their greed for obscene wealth and power.
In 1971, India imposed a 7-point treaty on Tajuddin, which stipulated that Bangladesh would not have any army and its policies must comply with India's policies. It meant that they wanted BD to be a Sikkim or a vassal state, but not an independent country. Since then they have been plundering, sabotaging, perpetrating armed intervention (in CHT, in Padua, in BDR HQ, etc.), organising bombing, violence (such as 'Islamic extremism' through JMB), etc., trying to control the BD territory for military and commercial purposes through transit, border smuggling, etc.
They instigated Mujib regime to kill 30 thousand patriots, mindlessly created conditions for a man-made famine, in which half-a-million people perished and another half-a-million died in the after effects. They have been killing people at the border by violating Geneva convention, - they have killed more than one thousand poor people at the border in a decade. They have been desertifying BD by snatching and plotting to snatch water from all the major rivers of BD.
They hatched conspiracy for the coup of Khaled Musharraf on 3 November 1975, the assassination of Zia, the coup of Nasim in 1996, the false flag 'foiled' coup of 'religious extremist' 16 officers on 19 January 2012 to 'cleanse' the army, etc. They conspired to engineer 1/11 2007 to snatch our independence and sovereignty and rig the 2008 election to illegally install the present govt. They have been bulldozing the opposition and perpetrating plunder, killings, terror and tyranny throughout the country. In short, they have been plundering, destroying and trying to trample BD.
As long as India remains hegemonic and obstinate, a win-win relation with them is not possible. Any appeasement, of any amount, in the name of bilateral relations, would be tantamount to surrender of that amount of national interest. The opposition must tread carefully on the issue!On Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 11:41 AM, Isha Khan <firstname.lastname@example.org> wrote:
Bangladesh–India relations: Challenges and prospects
Given our historical and geopolitical realities, there is no reason why India and Bangladesh cannot adapt to these realities in achieving their common goals. These goals can best be achieved if pursued in a transparent manner and for mutual gains. One also needs to focus on winning public confidence for the sake of sustainability and, importantly, pursue these goals in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The test of dynamism of a foreign policy and its success lies in its ability to resolve outstanding issues and irritants, not in keeping them alive, writes Begum Khaleda Zia
The relations between Bangladesh and India are important and have a strong historic basis. The prospects for these relations to grow in strength are indeed enormous if they are pursued for mutual benefit and with mutual respect. Our geographical proximity, cultural affinity and shared history should form the parameters of our relations.
The challenges that confront policy makers, as well as the general public, aremostly due to negative legacies that may have their roots in our colonial past, where both our people were victims of the divide and rule policies of the Colonialists. This has created a sense of fear and distrust. There are forces in both of our societies who have played, and continue to play, on this fear psychosis to perpetuate mutual suspicion and thereby keep us apart. It is therefore imperative that we work together to lay a new foundation on which to build strong, broad-based, durable and cooperative ties, free from the thinking of the past, and generate greater trust amongst our people. In short, the need of the time is a changed mindset.
I think the first step in that direction is to sit down and address all our outstanding issues and seek mutually acceptable solutions through free and open discussions. The major issues that agitate the public mind in Bangladesh are the sharing of the waters of our common rivers, killing of unarmed people in the border areas and the resolutions of our boundary issues (one of the legacies of our colonised past). We must, at the same time, take into account the security concerns on both sides of the border and ensure that none shall be allowed to use our territories against the interest of the other. Seeking solutions to these burning questions has to be a matter of top priority.
In today's post-ideological world, countries and governments are able to position themselves between what may appear to be conflicting goals without having to squander any of their perceived and real national interests. In any event, foreign policies and cross-border relations cannot remain static; they need to be dynamic. Given our historical and geopolitical realities, there is no reason why India and Bangladesh cannot adapt to these realities in achieving their common goals.
These goals can best be achieved if pursued in a transparent manner and for mutual gains. One also needs to focus on winning public confidence for the sake of sustainability and, importantly, pursue these goals in an atmosphere of mutual respect. The test of dynamism of a foreign policy and its success lies in its ability to resolve outstanding issues and irritants, not in keeping them alive. Unlike the issues that affect India's relations with some of its other neighbours, the issues that involve Bangladesh are solvable.
It is important to realise that any positive and mutually beneficial outcome to the issues that currently impact on good neighbourly ties between Bangladesh and India can only generate favourable public opinion on both sides. The one thing that is needed most is genuine political will and an abiding interest in having a durable relationship and friendship based on transparency, mutual benefit and mutual respect. This is the overarching, and the underlining, factor.
Management of our borders
Bangladesh and India share more than 4,000 kilometres of land boundary. The manner in which this boundary was drawn by the departing British Raj leaves a lot to be desired. It has created enclaves of one country inside the other's territory and lands in adverse possessions. Such uncharacteristic land boundary demarcation has created distortions and has impacted on people's lives, especially in the border areas.We must resolve this distortion without any further delay.
This should be done with political will, keeping ground realities in mind and without displacement of people who have lived in those areas for generations. Technicalities emanating from the colonial past should not be allowed to interfere with a realistic resolution that meets the people's aspirations and expectations. This also explains the large numbers and frequency of movement of people through this border, often without proper documentation.We should both endeavour to simplify cross-border movement of people when they have an economic purpose.
There are prevailing international laws, conventions and practices that guide movement of people along international boundaries. Such time-tested conventions should be followed in managing cross-border movements between our two countries. The management of our borders should reflect the nature of our relations. Killing of unarmed people on a regular basis is certainly not the answer.
Cooperation for combating terrorism
Terrorism and its threat has the potential of becoming a major problem for most of our countries today, if it has not become one already. Some of the terrorist threats are home-grown while others transcend international boundaries. Physical and structural mechanisms needed to combat this menace mean diversion of huge financial and material resources that otherwise could have been used for our much-needed development efforts. It also creates a sense of fear among our people. We all need to cooperate and work together to contain and eliminate it. There exist various mechanisms to form a regional approach to achieve this.
I believe the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Regional Convention on Suppression of Terrorism signed in Kathmandu in 1987 and the Additional Protocol to this Convention signed in Islamabad in 2004 provides the best and the most comprehensive institutional mechanism for taking a regional approach to this issue. I am indeed surprised that not much has been done to apply these two legal documents by our countries in moving effectively forward in our shared goal of fighting terrorism. Such cooperation must also extend to combating piracy, drug trafficking and human trafficking.
As everyone will remember, it was Bangladesh that first championed the cause of institutionalised regional cooperation in South Asia. It was initiated by Shaheed President Ziaur Rahman in 1979 when he wrote to all heads of states and governments in our region, emphasising the imperative need for regional economic cooperation to reinforce our individual efforts to improve the quality of life of our people. Overcoming cynics and sceptics, it was sheer perseverance by our political leaders that eventually led to the emergence of SAARC in 1985 in Dhaka. Although SAARC's progress over the years has not been at a pace that one would have desired, it is nonetheless the only and most viable tool for regional cooperation on a whole range of economic and social issues.
All our countries continue to suffer from endemic poverty in varying degrees and we all still have a long way to go to reach the desired social indices. I am confident we can achieve these goals faster if we work together in a collective and collaborative spirit. The fact that more and more countries and international institutions have signed up for collaboration with SAARC is a strong testimony to its huge potential.
Looking east and connectivity
When we assumed office following a massive public mandate in 2001, our foreign policy featured a 'Look East' policy. This meant enhanced cooperation, bilaterally and regionally, with and among the countries of South Asia, South East Asia and the Far East, including China, Japan and Korea. It was a manifestation of Asia's potential emergence as the world's fastest growing economic region. This policy has brought rich dividends for all of us in terms of trade, economic integration and people-to-people contacts. We now need to work to develop connectivity amongst us through a network of road, rail, air and sea lanes that will link South Asia with South East Asia and the Far East, all the way to China, Japan and Korea. The benefits from this cannot be overemphasised.
Message for the people of India
My message for the people of India is one of friendship and understanding. Being immediate neighbours, we are destined to live with each other and we must do so in peace and harmony. We cannot mean any ill to each other; neither can we afford any malice between us. We must learn from our rich cultural heritage, enhance peopleto- people contact, work to resolve our differences and generate greater trust amongst our people. Sustained and open dialogue and discussions for our mutual interest and benefit should form part of the very core of our relationship. At the same time, respect for each other's independence and sovereignty must be all-pervasive.
This article was published in Strategic Analysis, September-October 2012, Routledge Taylor & Francis Online.
On Wed, Oct 24, 2012 at 11:02 AM, Isha Khan <email@example.com> wrote:
Khaleda Zia's ensuing visit to India- what should be the Agenda?
Major Faruk Ahmed (Retd)
Visiting a neighbouring country by the opposition alliance leader naturally draws attention of many specially when the destination country is a hegemonic country like India.
International relation between two countries is determined by the regimes in power of those countries. Opposion party may have issues of concern but that cannot allow the destination country's govt to enter into any treaty with the opposition party leader of any country. If that is the case, such visit may not be viewed as solution to the existing bilateral problems/issues between Bangladesh and India. In spite of all these, such visit may help in understanding each other's viewpoint.
Ties between Awami League and India is known to all. Present Hasina govt is fulfilling all the desires of India. As such, Delli's south block and intellectuals suggest Indian govt to do everything to maintain Hasina regime in Dhaka.
India's desires and wants from Bangladesh:
a. Use of Bangladesh territory as corridor.
b. Using Bangladesh to suppress the movement of Indian NE states.
c. Bangladesh to serve as India's economic colony.
d. Maintaining chosen party in power of Bangladesh to serve India's interests.
e. Control foreign policy of Bangladesh.
f. Domination on Bangladesh Army.
g. Domination on Bangladesh intelligence agencies.
h. Control and domination on border.
i. Control water flow of all international rivers entering Bangladesh.
j. Maintaining a loyal intellectual group in Dhaka and abroad.
k. Maintaining armed insurgency in CHTs (Chittagong Hill Tracts) of Bangladesh.
l. Cultural domination on Bangladesh.
m. Divert the route of Asian High Way as follows: 'India-Bangladesh-Indian NE states' instead of 'India-Bangladesh-Mayanmar'.
n. Occupying bordering lands and claiming sea areas limiting maritime boundary of Bangladesh.
o. Breaking Bangladeshi Nation's will to protect national independence, security and sovereignty.
p. Reducing Bangladesh to the status of Bhutan and making it unviable to survive and ultimately leading to Sikimization.
Examples of India's hostile behaviour against Bangladesh
a. India has hijacked the victory of newborn Bangladesh's Independence War.
b. India has taken away assets of Bangladesh.
c. India is depriving Bangladesh from due share of 54 international river waters.
d. India has instigated, trained, armed, and sheltered Chakma terrorists named Shanti Bahini of CHTs and allowed Indian soil to be used against Bangladesh.
e. India has raided on Padua BDR BOP (Border Observation Post) of Bangladesh.
f. India put barriers on BD's export and maintains a trade gap of 4.2 billion USD.
g. India allows smuggle of drugs and illegal arms through the border.
h. Indian BSF has killed more than 1000 Bangladeshi citizens at border areas.
i. India is sheltering separatist organization- Bangabhumi Andolon.
j. India is conducting hostile propaganda against Bangladesh.
k. India has occupied Talpotti Island of Bangladesh.
l. India has plotted assassination of Bangladhesh's President - Ziaur Rahman.
Based on above, Zia's visiting India as a guest and discussing above thorny issues where host India is the perpetrator of all above anti-BD actions, is naturally difficult and impossible.
Issues for agenda
Teesta water share, border killings, trade gap etc will certainly remain in the agenda. Following aspects also crucially important to be discussed and conveyed:
a. Anti-democratic actions, oppression on opposition and suppression on media,
b. Human Rights violations by crossfire, disappearances, violence of Awami Chatro League cadres.
c. Massive corruption by govt in share market, Padma Bridge, Quick Rental power, banks.
d. Nation's disapproval to giving corridor to India against our economic interest, security and sovereignty.
e. Asian Highway has to be through India-BD-Myanmar.
f. BD must be allowed to export that amount of products which is equal to the cost of imported goods from India.
g. India's assistance to a particular political party in BD is not liked by BD people who consider it as external intervention to our politics.
h. India's unfriendly acts are liable for anti- Indian sentiment among BD people which must be mend.
i. Our Tin Bigha corridor to be handed over against Berubari enclave which BD already handed over.
j. Due water share from Farakka and abandonment of Tipaimukh Dam project.
k. Awami govt's failure in protecting the minorities, involvement of local Awami leaders in Ramu violence against Buddists and govt's policy of gaining western support by selling fear of Muslim's extremism in Bangladesh.
l. Assurance from India to totally abandon proxi war policy in CHTs and not allow her territory to be used against Bangladesh by any armed outfit.
m. India to abandon our Talpotti Island and accept BD's claim regarding maritime boundary.
We look forward to see that Bangladesh and India will live together respecting each other's sovereignty and any treaty between these two countries must be based on equality, mutual respect and interests.
Major Faruk Ahmed (Retd)
Date: 24 October 2012