Bangladesh is celebrating its golden jubilee of Independence from 17-27 March 2019. India’s prime minister, Narendra Modi, will visit Dhaka in March to join the celebrations marking 50 years of Bangladesh’s independence and the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two countries.
Earlier Indian prime minister has virtually inaugurated a string of projects including ease of a business bridge between Tripura and India.
The way, India is utilizing the occasion to foment hatred against Pakistan is unfortunate. There is a tripartite agreement (1974) among India, Bangladesh and Pakistan to “forget and forgive” bitter memories of the 1971 War.
At India’s bidding, Bangladesh even tried some Bengali politicians at its “international” court and later hanged them. Though the tripartite agreement specifically outlawed such acts.
The Agreement inter alia provided that having regard to the appeal of the Prime Minister of Pakistan to the people of Bangladesh to forgive and forget the mistakes of the past, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh stated that the Government of Bangladesh had decided not to proceed with the trials as an act of clemency.
It was agreed that the 195 prisoners of war may be repatriated to Pakistan along with the other prisoners of war now in the process of repatriation under the Delhi Agreement.
Unmasking the India-Bangladesh bonhomie
India claims that Bangladesh is her close strategic and economic friend within its `Look East, neighbour’s-first policy”. But, the history of broken promises indicates that India looks to its own interest. A raft of issues from water disputes to religious tension mask mistrust in the relationship.
India backed out of its agreement (December) with Bangladesh to supply 30 million doses of AstraZeneca vaccine, developed by Oxford University in cooperation with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India. The Institute announced that India had barred Serum from selling doses on the private market until everyone in India had received the vaccine.
Later, Salman F. Rahman, a Cabinet minister and co-founder of the Beximco Group, a Bangladeshi conglomerate, took over the responsibility to distribute three million doses of the AstraZeneca vaccine in Bangladesh.
India is the biggest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, which buys a yearly average of more than 350,000 tons. India abruptly slapped a ban on onion exports to Bangladesh. Following the export ban, onion prices in Bangladesh jumped by more than 50 per cent, prompting the government to procure supplies from elsewhere.
In December 2020, both countries held a virtual summit where they discussed topics like boosting trade, investment and transportation links, but avoided the real issue of sharing the water of the Teesta River. It flows into Bangladesh from the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal.
Bangladesh, being the downstream country, wants India to share more water from the Teesta. India parries the issue on the plea and claims that water sharing with Bangladesh would result in drought in West Bengal like the Ganga did (Ganga water-sharing deal in 1996).
India claims, “Kolkata port has now become dead because of the diversion of water to Bangladesh. In addition, arsenic is being found in several areas as the groundwater level has gone so low, endangering millions of lives”.
Accusations of terrorism
Many a time skirmishes take place between the two countries resulting in casualties. In the past, India even accused Bangladesh of providing a safe conduit to Kashmiri freedom fighters or Al-Qaeda.
According to Indian media, India claims that it gave a list of 155 ‘terrorist training camps’, allegedly operating in Bangladesh with the help of ISI and Al-Qaeda and asked her to shut them down. Bangladesh denied the existence of any ‘terrorist camps’ on her soil operating with or without Pakistan’s ISI’s help.
At a high-level security meeting between the two countries, India also demanded that Bangladesh should exterminate fundamentalist groups supporting ‘terrorists’ in India’s North East, and deport to India 85 insurgents hiding in Bangladesh.
The ‘Wanted’ include top ULF A leaders Anup Chetia and Babul Sarma, and several other activists from Assam, Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur.
At the talks, India claims that they have information that ISI activities directed against India are on the rise in Bangladesh.
Terror camps in Bangladesh on the rise?
India stated that ISI men along with Al Qaeda operatives are imparting training at several of the camps.
According to India, even terrorists operating in Jammu and Kashmir are also being sent via the Bangladesh border because it being a porous frontier than the Western border. The list of 155 militant training camps in Bangladesh, with pinpointed locations, had been submitted at the foreign-secretary-level meeting as also a meeting between the Director Generals of BSF and Bangladesh Rifles recently, claimed India.
The training camps, whose list was prepared by the Indian security agencies, including those run by the National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), All Tripura Tiger Force (ATTF) and National Socialist Council of Nagaland-Isak Muivah (NSCN-IM.
The list also includes training camps run by People’s Liberation Army (PLA), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB), Muslim United Liberation Tiger of Assam (MULTA), Achik National Volunteer Council, Chakma National Liberation Front (CNLF), and Dima Halam Daoga.
Indian media claimed that camps operated by North East insurgents in Bangladesh have increased by about 25 over the past month touching the figure of 180 with Indian security agencies claiming to have “concrete evidence” about al-Qaeda presence in that country.
Reckoning of 1971 dead skeletons
The myth of Pakistani forces have killed three million people during the 1971 war is being propagated by India. This allegation was first made by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on January 8, 1972.
Earlier, Serajur Rahman, then a journalist and broadcaster with BBC Bangla Service had earlier debunked the myth in his 2012 article for The Guardian. Sayyid A. Karim, Bangladesh’s first foreign secretary, in his book “Sheikh Mujib: Triumph and Tragedy” gives a different explanation.
He says, “As for the number of Bengalis killed in the course of the liberation war, the figure of 3 million mentioned by Mujib to David Frost in January 1972 was a gross overstatement. This figure was picked up by him from an article in Pravda, the organ of the communist party of the Soviet Union.”
But where did Mujib get his hands on Pravda in London? That answer lies in an article written in “The Bangladesh Observer”, which was published on January 5, 1972 (and was a prosecution exhibit in the Golam Azam case) entitled, “Pak Army killed over 30 lakh people”. It reads:
“The Communist party newspaper ‘Pravda has reported that over 30 lakh persons were killed throughout Bangladesh by the Pakistan occupation forces during the last nine months, reports ENA. Quoting its special correspondent stationed in Dacca, the paper said that the Pakistan Military forces immediately before their surrender to Mukti Bahrainis (freedom fighters) and the Allied forces had killed about 800 intellectuals in the capital city of Bangladesh alone.”
Obviously, Pravda (Truth) spread out disinformation. It banks on its special correspondent, which in turn is quoted by the Bangladesh Observer. In a television interview, retired KGB Psychological Warfare Officer Yuri Bezmenov explains in detail how the USSR aided Mujib by using India.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief and former Prime Minister of Bangladesh Khaleda Zia herself has questioned the validity of the three million claims.“There is a debate about how many hundreds of thousands were martyred in the Liberation War. Different books and documents give different accounts.”
Sarmila Bose’s book “Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bangladesh War” is sceptical of the figure. Bose has done a case-by-case body count. She estimates that between 50,000 and 100,000 people were killed on all sides, including Bengalis, Biharis, West Pakistanis and others.
Debunking the myth?
Dr M. Abdul Mu’min Chowdhury, in his book “Behind the Myth of 3 Million”, points out that Pakistan Army was carrying out a limited counter-insurgency in East Pakistan, not a genocide.
After the creation of Bangladesh, the de facto government offered to pay 2000 Taka to every family that suffered a loss of life. Only 3000 families claimed such compensation. Had there been three million Bengalis dead, a lot more families would have come forward.
Above all, the actual army in East Pakistan was 40,000, not 93,000. As such, when India invaded East Pakistan, the army was at a 50:1 disadvantage.
India should not mar the celebration by resuscitating the 1971 skeletons. India’s neighbours first policy is a ruse. It is actually acting on Chanakya’s Matsynyaya (‘way of the fish’) policy (big fish eats the small one) and Mandal.
The crux of the Mandai policy is that all neighbouring countries are actual or potential enemies. As such, immediate neighbours should be estranged and distant neighbours (like the USA) should be befriended.
Mr Amjed Jaaved has been writing freelance for over five decades. He has served the federal and provincial governments of Pakistan for 39 years. His contributions stand published in the leading dailies and magazines at home and abroad (Nepal. Bangladesh, et. al.). He is the author of eight e-books including The Myth of Accession. The views expressed in the article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.