If United Nations institutes a prize to honor the world’s most forgiving nation, Bangladesh is sure to bag it. Dhaka’s tolerance level is phenomenal when it comes to coping with New Delhi, which loves to humiliate Bangladesh — hemmed in on three sides by India — every now and then.
Narendra Modi last month hurled abuses at Bangladesh telling the whole world that he didn’t give a damn about the neighboring country. While the Modi’s antipathy for all things Muslim is no secret, Manmohan Singh too said nasty things about Bangladesh in 2011 exposing the institutionalized animosity toward India’s eastern Muslim neighbor. Even ministers in charge of Home or External Affairs don’t hesitate to slam and snub Bangladesh on any pretext.
New Delhi paints Bangladesh as a sub-Saharan country brimming with criminals and smugglers whose life’s ambition is to sneak into India. To be sure, India’s Border Security Force (BSF) has gunned down a 1,000 Bangladeshis like rabbits in a decade. Bangladesh is maligned as a theocratic state where Hindus live in fear. Strangely, Bangladesh’s rulers grin and bear the barrage of Indian abuse. The Awami League government never hits back. There is no tit-for-tat response to offensive and scurrilous remarks. The Bangladesh Foreign Office never summons India’s High Commissioner in Dhaka for a dressing down. And Awami League doesn’t organize protests outside India’s diplomatic mission or burn effigies of Indian leaders.
I wonder why the Bangladeshi premier and president are so kind-hearted when it comes to India. They have probably taken very seriously the Biblical promise that the meek will inherit the earth — or at least half of south Asia!
What worries me as an Indian is that bullying Bangladesh sullies the reputation of the world’s largest democracy. New Delhi’s coercive tactics are deplored by saner sections across India. But it is high time Dhaka asserted itself. It must tell New Delhi to treat it with the respect all sovereign nations are entitled to regardless of their size. If India persists, Bangladesh should draw red lines and warn New Delhi of the consequences of crossing them.
On Nov. 30, Modi publicly declared that illegal Bangladeshi immigrants are destroying Assam, thereby projecting India’s neighbor as a failed country whose nationals are fleeing. He also characterized Bangladeshis as a destructive race and threatened them with dire consequences. Modi’s insolence outraged liberals in India but Bangladesh quietly swallowed the insult. Its President Mohammad Abdul Hamid arrives in New Delhi on Dec. 18 but will he question Modi when he meets him?
Modi targeted Bangladesh in the run-up to the elections too. But his new rant reveals that his attacks on Bangladesh while canvassing for votes wasn’t just poll rhetoric but emanated from a deep-rooted sectarian aversion which has been boosted by a landslide victory in the elections. Tellingly, he hasn’t visited Bangladesh after becoming the PM but has been to Nepal twice and once to Bhutan.
Significantly, Modi distinguishes between Muslim and Hindu Bangladeshis: While Muslim Bangladeshis are infiltrators; Hindu Bangladeshis are genuine refugees who India welcomes. He also advocates “stronger border management” – officialese for telling the BSF to shoot more Bangladeshis.
Former Indian Premier Manmohan Singh is known as a gentle, sober and erudite man. But ahead of a state visit to Bangladesh in September 2011, he branded a quarter of that country’s population as “anti-Indian.” The Prime Minister’s Office website quoted him saying that “at least 25 percent of the population swears by the Jamait-ul-Islami (sic) and they are very anti-Indian and in the clutches of (Pakistan’s) Inter Services Intelligence. We do not know what these terrorist elements are up to”. I’m not aware of any other head of state describing the people of another country as Singh did. But Bangladeshi leaders didn’t give him a mouthful. On the contrary, he was warmly welcomed and plied with gifts within days of tarnishing his host’s reputation. While bilateral agreements Singh signed in Dhaka over three years ago are yet to become operational, Bangladesh is now ready to host Modi. But India’s high-handedness begs the question: When will Bangladesh wake up and say enough is enough?
Source: Arab News