The Business Standard spoke to Md Tauhid Hussain, former foreign secretary of Bangladesh to discuss what Bangladesh can expect out of this tour.
Every time the prime minister of Bangladesh travels to India, we hope that the two nations will agree on resolving some of the unresolved issues. What issues do you think will be discussed in this tour?
In a prime minister-level tour, normally all kinds of issues are discussed between the two countries. Previously, PM Sheikh Hasina travelled to India in October 2019, and the PM of India Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh in March 2021. Long statements had been published after the last tours of the two PMs. And we have seen that those two statements addressed every issue regarding India and Bangladesh relationship, be it Teesta water sharing, Ganga water treaty, border killing, business, economy, etc.
Similarly, an official statement has already been published regarding the upcoming India tour of our prime minister and from it we already know which issues are going to be discussed. We know that several MoUs will be signed between the two PMs. But apart from CEPA (Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement), the other MoUs are not that important I feel. Because if CEPA is signed and implemented, it will have an impact on our regional economy.
I feel there is already a stable business relationship between these two countries, and we should not have any further expectations. True, there are some issues sometimes. For example, when we have a shortage of onion, immediately India increases its price or imposes a ban on export of onion. But we need to understand that India does this to protect its own market, not to harm us. And every country has the right to think about its own stake.
What we need to observe is the investment because we want India to invest in Bangladesh. On our side, we need to ensure that India gets the similar opportunities the other investing countries get, not less or more than that. So that they are not discriminated against and also they shouldn't get more than what they deserve.
Besides, the water sharing treaty of the river Kushiyara is another important aspect of this tour. Bangladesh has the largest part of the river Kushiyara and if this treaty is signed it will be a good thing for us.
What about the Teesta water treaty issue? Will it ever be resolved?
I don't think there is any possibility of resolving this issue. I think PM Sheikh Hasina will talk about it once more this time, but there will be no solution to this. In 2011, we almost reached the final stage to finalise the treaty, but it couldn't be implemented because of lack of political bonafides. And I feel that goodwill is still missing among the political leaders of these two countries.
In 2021, Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram K Doraiswami said, "We repeatedly said border killing is a tragedy and it must stop. But we need to define it correctly." He said that the people who get hurt or killed on the border are from both sides. Do you think the issue of border killing should be discussed?
Yes it should be discussed. What BSF does is fire at unarmed Bangladeshi people and this is the only border in the world between two friendly nations where this kind of heinousness occurs regularly.
Although this has been discussed several times between the two countries, India never seemed to take it seriously. In fact, Indian officials have justified this killing. Their statement says clearly that these killings will not stop. Let's say if someone tries to smuggle a cow through the border, they will arrest him/her. There are rules, you cannot just fire at anyone.
I don't know why they do this, but I have a hypothesis. India is mostly a communal country and currently a communal government rules the nation, so they have a certain emotion for the cow species. But surprisingly, India is the biggest exporter of beef. But whenever they find cows being smuggled to Bangladesh, their piety rises. They have to get rid of this hypocrisy.
On this tour, PM Sheikh Hasina will also announce the Mujib Scholarship for the descendants of Indian Army personnel who died or were seriously injured in the War of Independence of Bangladesh in December 1971. Bangladesh will provide 200 scholarships for them. What do you think about this step?
This is a kind gesture towards them. We are grateful and respectful towards them, they were our comrades in the war. That being said, we also need to keep in mind that it was not pure philanthropy for India. We need to remember that the Indian army fought in this war for India, not for Bangladesh. They had their own reason to fight, to weaken Pakistan whereas we wanted independence from Pakistan.
Both of our needs merged and that's good for us.