Tuesday, Nov 29, 2022
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A Friendship With Frayed Edges

Neither do we have a formally sealed border, nor a free transit zone—and it's no thanks to New Delhi

A Friendship With Frayed Edges Ashok Vahie

New Delhi's relations with Dhaka have been rather complicated ever since Bangladesh came into being. To begin with, many Bangladeshis saw New Delhi's intervention in their 1971 liberation struggle—in which Indian soldiers laid down their lives—more as a move to amputate Pakistan and create a client state. It was to dispel this notion that India withdrew its troops from Bangladesh before the envisaged date. Bangladeshis even resented the celebration of December 16 as Victory Day by the Indian armed forces. In 1984, when the Eastern Command of the Indian army, responsible for the Bangladesh operations in 1971, observed its victory in a grand manner, Bangladeshis thought this diminished the role of their own freedom fighters. Dhaka, in fact, took up the matter with New Delhi officially.

This attitude naturally leads to a lot of anti-India propaganda in the Bangladeshi press. There have been times when New Delhi has had to take up the matter officially with Dhaka, as on July 6, 1992, when the local press alleged Indian involvement in a mob attack on the Chinese embassy in Dhaka. In July 1980, after the then Bangladesh minister for petroleum and mineral resources indicated that his country had agreed in principle to export natural gas to India, the United People's Party called for a referendum on the issue and organised a 'resistance week'. Subsequently, in September, the then prime minister had to backtrack publicly, saying that the issue of gas sale to India was still in an "initial and exploratory stage".

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