PM's India Visit and Opposition's Unwarranted Criticism


Published on September 16, 2022
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Pranab Kumar Panday: 

The visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India has been the subject of many conversations over the last few days. While the ruling party takes the PM's trip seriously, the opposition still seeks to discredit it. Experts agree that the bilateral negotiations between India and Bangladesh's heads of government amid the global economic slump triggered by the conflict between Russia and Ukraine in the aftermath of the post-Corona pandemic are essential in South Asian politics. As everyone knows, the repercussions of the Corona pandemic and the global crisis have already caused a complete collapse of the Sri Lankan economy. Likewise, Pakistan's economy is in a poor shape. Both of the issues have been dealt with firmly by Bangladesh at this time. It is important to note that the two nations have reached agreements on several subjects during the visit of the Hon'ble Prime Minister to India, which will deepen the already strong ties between these two friendly states.

One group has been working hard to stir up controversy around the visit of Hon'ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India. Who greeted the Hon'ble Prime Minister at the airport has become a significant issue for them. The Minister of State for Railways and Textiles greeted the Hon'ble Prime Minister at the airport upon her arrival in India. Some see the absence of Narendra Modi at the airport to greet Sheikh Hasina as evidence that India no longer places a high priority on Bangladesh. People attempting to make things more complicated than they need should realise that according to that protocol, the head of state of a country is always welcomed at the airport by the state minister of that country.

But in some cases, there were exceptions. For example, when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India in 2017, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi welcomed her at the airport, breaking the country's protocol. The Government of India traditionally hosts the visitor officially on the second day of the visit in the Rashtrapati Bhavan. It was not an exception this time. When the Honourable Prime Minister arrived at the Rashtrapati Bhavan on the second day of her visit, on 6 September, she was received by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and given a red carpet reception.
Now the question may arise as to why Narendra Modi himself appeared at the airport in 2017 to welcome Sheikh Hasina. Narendra Modi can answer this question better. However, political analysts feel that visit was Sheikh Hasina's first one to India during the Prime Ministership of Narendra Modi, and he had visited Bangladesh a few years back. Bangladesh and India have strong ties because of their long history of friendship. From this vantage point, Narendra Modi might have made an effort to show respect on Sheikh Hasina by greeting her as she arrived at the airport.

Few incidents like Narendra Modi welcoming Sheikh Hasina at the airport in 2017 have happened. For example, former US President Barack Obama, late Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman were welcomed by Narendra Modi at the airport. On the other hand, the then External Affairs Minister, the late Sushma Swaraj, welcomed Russian President Putin at the airport during his visit to India.

I don't think there is any logical reason to unnecessarily politicise the matter of welcoming Sheikh Hasina at the airport. The group not only tried to create a stir but also circulated a picture on social media during Begum Khaleda Zia's visit to India on 20 March 2006, claiming that Khaleda Zia was welcomed at the airport by then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. The picture indeed shows Khaleda getting down from the car when Manmohan Singh greeted her. But, it was 21 March 2006, i.e. the second day of Begum Khaleda Zia's arrival in India. When she reached the Rashtrapati Bhavan, she was welcomed by Manmohan Singh.

It doesn't matter who greeted Sheikh Hasina when she arrived at the airport. Those making a fuss about this issue are casting their line into dirty waters. Similar to how they're attempting to portray the Prime Minister's trip to India as a failure, this group is trying to discredit it. They claim that the Prime Minister's trip to India resulted in no beneficial agreements for Bangladesh. Moreover, they claim that the Bangladeshi government's mishandling has prevented the country from receiving the entire US$8 billion in credit that it is owed from India.

A political group always does politics with an anti-India stance. The motto of their politics is anti-India, and they mislead people by linking India with the Awami League, which started with Bangabandhu's assassination with most of his family members on 15 August 1975. All military rulers since 1975 have used the anti-India card to mislead the people. Their main priority was strengthening relations with Pakistan and adopting a friendly policy towards China. Since India has animosity with Pakistan and China, they use anti-India sentiment to mislead people. But that situation has slowly changed. Presently using an anti-India card does not work in Bangladesh anymore.

This party is always trying to link India and Awami League to the same formula to send the wrong message to the people. We have noticed that this group misleads people before the elections by spreading propaganda. For example, they chanted slogans like "Delhi will be Dhaka when Sheikh Hasina comes to power" and "Mosques will become Hindu sanctuaries" before the elections. The BNP has been opposing India for a long time to mislead people through such propaganda. And for this reason, they are busy creating confusion in the public mind by creating various controversies around the Prime Minister's visit.
The leaders of both the nations have had open conversations with each other in an effort to improve the volume and quality of trade and economic activity between their countries. The two nations have decided to pool their resources in light of the current economic crisis. At Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed seven MoUs addressing water sharing, railroads, space, science, and the judiciary. The two prime ministers stressed the need to strengthen bilateral ties and work together. Sheikh Hasina expressed gratitude to Prime Minister Modi for resolving the water distribution issue along the Kushiara River.

At the same time, discussions have been held at various levels to strengthen trade relations between the two countries. However, the critics have already started making speeches calling the visit of the Hon'ble Prime Minister to India a failure, which is a complete lie. Indeed, the Teesta Agreement was not signed during the Hon'ble Prime Minister's visit to India (which was not supposed to happen). As India is Bangladesh's most tested friend, the Indian government should help improve the image of the Bangladesh government by signing the Teesta Treaty.

We all know that the next National Parliament elections will be held in 2023. Therefore, the BNP and their allies are trying to mislead the people through various forms of propaganda around this election. The group's main aim is to garner public support by making the Prime Minister's visit to India controversial. And from this thought, they are spreading various types of misleading information. People have witnessed the progress of Bangladesh in the last 13 and a half years under the leadership of the Hon'ble Prime Minister. They have understood that India has never dominated Bangladesh. Therefore, the opposition parties should pay attention to constructive politics by moving away from misleading people through unfounded news coverage that will bring not only positive results for them but also for the politics of the country.

The writer is a Professor in the Department of Public Administration at the University of Rajshahi