Will BJP Resolve Teesta River Issue with Bangladesh ?
Since the government of the Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid came to power, she has taken various steps to appease India such as hastily-execution of her political opponent, Abdul Quader Mullah-leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, the removal of some Islamic books from academic courses to give secular orientation to the country, holding of the ceremony in Dhaka on March 24, 2013 to honour ‘Foreign Friends of Bangladesh Award’ in relation to the separation of East Pakistan in order to distort the image of Pakistan, refusal to attend D-8 conference in Islamabad and so on.
Particularly, to keep her in power with Indian backing, Prime Minister Hasina Wajid rigged the general elections held on January 5, 2014. Violent protests took place in Bangladesh due to rigging in the polls. The opposition alliance led by Begum Khalida Zia did not file nominations for the elections, sticking to their stance of boycotting the elections over the failure of Hasina Wajid to form a neutral interim government. Earlier, Ms. Hasina amended the constitution for the holding of elections under a non-party set up, and the opposition had accused her for manipulating the electoral process to establish a one party state.
On the other side, India has been employing various tactics to subjugate Bangladesh by exploiting her pro-Indian tilt to fulfill its interests, not only at the cost of Pakistan, but also at that of patriot Bangladeshis.
However, the ruling party, Awami League has failed to perform well during its term of governance, and has brought about political instability, social strife and financial problem in the country where people are facing acute poverty.
And Indian cross-border terrorism in Bangladesh has continued unabated. In this context, Brad Adams wrote in the Guardian, “Over the past 10 years, Indian Border Security Force (BSF) has killed almost 1,000 people in the border area between India and Bangladesh, turning it into south Asian killing fields.” Despite the fact, New Delhi built a 2,000 km fence along the border of Bangladesh, but BSF has continued “a shoot-to-kill policy,” even against unarmed local villagers.
It is notable that India’s plan for the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam on the river Barak is part of its most dangerous scheme of bloodless warfare, being conducted against Bangladesh so as to further harm all political, economic, financial and social fields of that small country. In the past, India had already started its bloodless war against Dhaka when the latter had refused to serve as satellite state of New Delhi which had played a key role in the dismemberment of Pakistan. For this purpose, India constructed the Farakka dam on the Indian side of the Ganges River to stop flow of water to Bangladesh. Inspite of the protest by Dhaka, Indian rulers used various delaying tactics to resolve the issue of Farakka dam. In that respect, Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) met many a times to settle the dispute, but could not produce any positive results as India also violated various related-agreements by stealing the water, and stopping its flow to Bangladesh.
But, Prime Minister Hasina Wajid directed her staff to close the chapter of water and border conflicts with India. Besides, she has given transit trade facilities to Bharat—a move which has been resisted by the Bangladeshi nationals for the past several decades. In this regard, a writer has rightly said, “Hasina Wajid again started Honey Moon Period of relationship with India.”
Now, water sharing of Teesta River is one of the thorny issues between New Delhi and Dhaka. In this respect, a water sharing agreement was supposed to be inked in 2011, but due to rigid mindset and obstinate attitude of Indian leadership, it could not be implemented. Unfortunately, Hassina Wajid led Awami League government of Bangladesh failed to persuade India to negotiate the water sharing settlement of Teesta River at bilateral level.
It would not be wrong to state that Prime Minister Hassina Wajid has sold Bangladesh to India just to remain in power. Consequently, unilateral drawing-out of water from Teesta River in the upstream by New Delhi has badly affected more than 20 of its tributaries; many of them are drying up in the northern part of Bangladesh.
According to environmentalists, owing to fall in water flow, these rivers have developed silts and are drying up. Hence, native farmers are being deprived of irrigation water, causing adverse impact on various crops and fruit trees. Farmers of Bangladesh have been protesting against Indian intransigence for having shamelessly robbed them off their water share from Teesta River. Indian tactics is to divert Teesta River water towards its dry region with a view to converting Bangladesh’s agriculture land into desert. This is how the real enemy does to a nation whose leadership remains in league with enemy, as Hasina Wajid to Indian leadership.
Nevertheless, Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB) and Bangladesh Samajtantrik Dal (BSD) have jointly launched long marches, rallies and protests against Indian rigid attitude and hegemonic designs to steal their share of water. They launched a three-day march towards Teesta Barrage on April 22, 2014 after holding a rally in front of Jatiya Press Club. Similarly, Bangladesh National Party (BNP), the main opposition party of the country also protested against the issue of Teesta River water sharing, calling it a failure of the Awami League government. BNP conducted a long march for two days starting from party headquarters at Naya Paltan in the city on April 22, 2014, holding a rally at Rangpur, after an overnight stay at Rangpur—resuming the long march towards the barrage, followed by a protest rally at Dalia point of Teesta Barrage on April, 23, 2014. The protestors demanded due share of Teesta River water from India.
Regrettably, Indian locals along Indo-Bangladesh border maltreat nationals of Bangladesh by humiliating, torturing and killing them. In this connection, on April 6, 2014, three Bangladeshi nationals were killed by locals in Tripura, while another was killed by locals in Meghalaya on April 8, 2014. But, Hasina Wajid and her Awani League party go softer on such killings, thus rubbing salt to the injuries of patriotic nationals of Bangladesh. On such continuous killings of the poor persons, public sentiment in Bangladesh started getting harsh against India. Therefore, Ministry of Foreign Affair at Dhaka officially protested to New Delhi. This was to cool the local sentiments in Bangladesh, otherwise, Hasina led government of Awami League is passively too docile to India.
It is worth-mentioning that a survey conducted by a local agency pointed out that 98% Bangladeshis hate undue interference of India in Bangladesh’s affairs. They are quite aware that under the cover of friendship, New Delhi wants to make Bangladesh its colony.
Nonetheless, India which has suppressed Prime Minister Hasina Wajid through shrewd diplomacy, seems determined to subjugate Bangladesh on the issue of water sharing of Teesta River.
Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations