In a discussion titled “Current context of Bangladesh-India relations,” the participants asserted that South Asian countries desires an equal and respectable relationship with the neighboring India, and do not want to be treated as ‘backyards’. If Delhi does not adjust its policy towards neighbors, it is bound to fail sooner or later.
The meeting was jointly organized by Bangladesh Study Group (BSG), Muslim World Research Center (MWRC) and International Islamic University in Malaysia (IIUM) on Tuesday (25 April). It is the sixth of a series discussion on the ‘Bangladesh Discourse’.
Dr. Saleh Uddin Syed, BSG convener, presided over the function, while, Associate Professor of Political Science Department of IIMM Md Moniruzzaman, Deputy Editor of the Daily Naya Diganta Masumur Rahman Khalili and a faculty member of the National University Geography Department AKM Wahiduzzaman were the key speakers.
Principal research fellow and DG of the Malaysia’s Muslim World Research Center Isharf Hossain moderated the discussion.
IIUM Associate Professor ASM Abdul Kuddus, Associate Professor Noor Mohammad Osmani, Dr. Ahsan Habib Imroz and NDERC Executive Director Shamsul Anwar, among other, spoke in the meeting.
Khalili analyzed the doctrine of India’s neighboring policy and said the country considers its neighbors as ‘backyard’. As a result, they want to maintain a sphere of influence in this region.
“However, South Asian countries do not agree with such Indian doctrine. These small but highly potential countries are keen for a balanced relationship with regional and global powers for their national interest,” he observed.
Khalili also noted that, one of the characteristics of India much like the ‘Goddess Durga’. It tries to micromanage every regional entity to bolster their authority over them. Nepal and Sri Lanka in recent time rebelled against this effort. Even Bhutan, a country whose foreign policy is highly dependent on India, refused to approve the Indian initiative ‘BBIN motor vehicle agreement’. Now, Bangladesh needs to preserve its own interest and should follow independent set of rules unbiased to Indian influence.
Highlighting political history of the Indian subcontinent Dr. Muniruzzaman said, a section of elite is trying to establish control over the basic institutions of Bangladesh. To move forward, ‘Bangladesh must establish its own consciousness-based leadership in national institutions,’ he stressed.
He said, Bangladesh will not go forward if it cannot take decisions independently. Keep in mind that it is the third largest populous country in Muslim world. It gives Bangladesh a separate identity.
Wahiduzzaman reminded that Bangladesh is not a small country with 160 million people and it has huge potential. It is possible to solve many problems using this prospect and progress steadily. But Bangladesh needs to get rid of genuflected policy and should stand up to protect people’s rights. If it is done, the country would achieve proper resolution on the longstanding river water sharing issue.
Hossain said, the ‘tactical autonomy’ is being talked about in Bangladesh for self-determination in the defense sector. We must have the ability to decide independently about sectors like security and defense. Any defense pact with India may risk this freedom.
Dr. Sayed said that Bangladesh needs sufficient basic institutions to take the country forward. But there seems to be an effort is underway to reform belief and culture of these institutions under another party’s guidance. Civil society should remain conscious about this.