Bangladesh and India Relations: Awami League is the only government to collect Bangladesh's fair share

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Published on September 7, 2022
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The Awami League never compromises when it comes to demanding and collecting the country's fair share, despite India's historical debt to the Bengali nation for its role in the Liberation War. The Awami League-led government has managed to maintain friendly relations with neighbouring India while obtaining fair shares. It was once again the Awami League government that did not hesitate to take action against India internationally because of its patriotism and commitment to the nation. Since independence, no other government has demonstrated this capability and courage. While others are silent on the outstanding issues with India, they openly spread anti-Indian sentiment and covertly serve Indian interests. Here are some of those incidents.

During the 1971 Liberation War, neighbouring India helped Bangladesh gain independence. Invading Pakistani military junta forces surrendered to an Indo-Bangladesh joint command force. After that, the Indian army was staying in Bangladesh as an allied force in the war. But at the call of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the architect and head of the government of independent Bangladesh, they left the territory of Bangladesh in just three months. No allied army has returned to its own country so quickly in the world’s history. When American-European countries join in a war as allied forces, they set up military bases in that country and established permanent residences. Bangladesh is completely exceptional here. This was the first and historic success of the then Awami League government. However, every time the Awami League forms a government in Bangladesh, it resolves bilateral unresolved issues. But other governments could not recover anything.

Let's analyse Bangladesh's fair gains from India during each government tenure with evidence. It is needed to know what the Awami League has been able to achieve, and what the dictator Zia-Ershad, BNP-Jamaat and other parties have achieved. The people should know what these parties who are playing dirty games with India against Awami League are doing inside themselves.

Implementation of Foreign Policy through Friendship Treaty:

After independence, Indian soldiers returned to their country on March 17, 1972. Then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Bangladesh when the ‘India–Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace' was signed to rebuild the war-torn country. This agreement was also known as the Mujib-Indira Pact. The key point of the agreement was that the two countries would respect each other's independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity and neither would interfere in each other's internal affairs. Neither party shall take part in any military alliance against the other party. Each will not attack the other and will not allow the other to use its territory for any purpose that may endanger the security of the other. Besides, the agreement also included education, sports, and scientific and technical assistance between the two countries.

But the radical leftists, the defeated Jamaat and the anti-independence groups continued to spread propaganda about the agreement. In fact, India gave millions of tons of food grains to war-torn Bangladesh for free under this cooperation agreement of the Awami League government after independence. The Indian government also provided $250 million in relief and rehabilitation assistance to Bangladesh at that time, which was an unprecedented event at that time.

The agreement also included issues such as equitable distribution of water in the joint reservoirs between the two countries, bilateral transit and trade, land delimitation etc. However, the effectiveness of the treaty came to a halt in 1975 after the brutal assassination of the Father of the Nation and the president of Bangladesh Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family members by a group of assassins. No other government later discussed the outstanding issues with India. As both Ziaur Rahman and HM Ershad were military dictators, they did not even mention the fair demands of the country in any meeting. Rather, they used all state diplomatic systems to maintain their power illegally.

Water Share: Achievements of Awami League Government and Role of BNP-Jamaat

Twenty-one years after the assassination of Bangabandhu, Awami League once again formed the government under the leadership of Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina in 1996. In the same year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed the Ganga-Padma river water sharing treaty in Farakka with India. The agreement established both India's control over the flow of water in the Ganges and Bangladesh's right to a share of water in the lower basin of the Bangladeshi sector. The agreement also permitted dams and irrigation projects on the Kushtia and Garai-Madhumati rivers. One of the objectives of this project is to provide adequate water supply to the southwestern districts of Bangladesh and protect the mangrove forests of the Sundarbans from the salinity of the Bay of Bengal.

Do you know what the BNP-Jamaat government did for the countrymen? In 1991, while visiting India as Prime Minister, Khaleda Zia forgot to discuss the fair share of Ganga water. She did not even raise the issue of water dispute in the meeting, she herself told journalists while responding to their questions after returning to the country. The newspapers of that time carried the testimony. BNP even did not protest nationally or internationally when India build a barrage in Gajoldoba of the Teesta River after 1975 when Ziaur Rahman was in power illegally.

On the other hand, in the history of independent Bangladesh, the Zia-Ershad government ruled the country during their dictatorship from 1975 to 1996, and later the BNP-Jamaat coalition government came to power twice in 1991 and 2001, but they did not discuss these issues with India. That is why the ordinary farmers of the northern region had to pay the price.

But after the formation of the government in 2009, the Awami League government has tried its best to get a fair share of the Teesta water supply. The Central Government of India has also agreed to sign an agreement with Bangladesh in this regard. But it remains stuck due to internal politics between the central and state government in West Bengal. If there is a negotiation with the state government of West Bengal, Bangladesh will get a permanent solution to this problem.

Settlement of Land Boundary and Enclave Problems: 

India has the largest border with Bangladesh. So there had been boundary issues unresolved for some enclaves within the two countries since independence. Through long diplomatic efforts, the Awami League government determined the disputed land borders with India on August 1, 2015. As a result, 111 Indian enclaves (17 thousand 160 acres) within Bangladesh came under the ownership of Bangladesh while 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (seven thousand 110 acres) within India became part of Indian territory. Residents of defunct enclaves were allowed to choose citizenship according to their choices. Since 2015, the enclave residents have celebrated the day as their liberation day. They are getting the full civic benefits and enjoying the fruits of development.

Originally, the then Prime Ministers of the two countries, Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, signed the land boundary settlement in May 1974. But after the assassination of Bangabandhu, no other government raised this demand. On the contrary, the duty tax of 300 to 400 per cent was imposed on Indian products, but Ziaur Rahman, seizing the power illegally, gave India a monopoly in Bangladesh by removing the duty. Later, after forming the Awami League government, Bangabandhu’s daughter was able to reduce the trade deficit by obtaining the benefit of duty-free export of some Bangladeshi products to India.

Conquest of 19,000 Square Kilometres of Maritime Territory from India:

The settlement talks for Bangladesh-India maritime boundary dispute started in 1974 during Bangabandhu's time. But after almost two and a half decades, BNP-Jamaat did not take any initiative in this regard. Later, after the formation of the Awami League government in 2009, efforts were made to get a fair share of the water boundary. Bangladesh went to the arbitration court on the instructions of Bangabandhu's daughter and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as it was not resolved through negotiations. After a lengthy legal process, in 2014, Bangladesh was able to claim 19,467 square kilometres of the disputed 25,602 square kilometres of maritime territory with India. As a result, Bangladesh owns most of the offshore gas blocks. Bangladesh has got all the 10 gas blocks previously claimed by India. It has opened new economic doors for future generations based on ocean resources.

Before this, at the initiative of the Awami government, Bangladesh settled the maritime border dispute with Myanmar in 2012 and established authority over a huge reservoir. Bangladesh also gets ownership of 18 blocks out of 28 blocks in the sea of that region. Bringing an end to the 40-year-long maritime boundary dispute with its neighbours in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh has obtained a permanent maritime boundary with an area of 118,813 square kilometres. But before that, Bangladesh could not even have 50 thousand square kilometres of sea border. But no government of Ziaur Rahman, Ershad, Khaleda Zia, or the BNP-Jamaat alliance has tried to get the country's fair dues.

Only the Awami League government has been able to bring its fair share from India to the nation. First, the government has resolved many issues through negotiation. But if not, Sheikh Hasina's Awami League government has sought justice in the international court. Bangabandhu's party Awami League can do it, Bangabandhu's daughter Sheikh Hasina has shown it. In the days ahead, Bangladesh will be held on an equal footing with India under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina.