Hoi hoi, hai hai, or don’t believe the hype
The Prime Minister has returned from India. Awami League arranged a ‘showdown’ to receive her at the airport. At least on TV screen, it seemed as if she returned from exile, not a state visit to a friendly country. Balancing this hoi hoi, the opposition BNP has said that the PM has abandoned national interest in New Delhi. No doubt we’ll see more hai hai when the leader of the opposition holds a press conference on Saturday.
But there is no reason why we at UV can’t discuss what was agreed by the two PMs. Over the fold, I give my assessment of the Joint Communique (I’d urge everyone to click on the link and read it, as this will facilitate an informed discussion). (The post is written on an explicitly ‘what it means for Bangladesh’ perspective. This is less than fortunate, but somewhat unavoidable. My personal views on the Indo-Bangla relations are here.)
To cut to the chase, my view is, ‘don’t believe the hype’. As far as Bangladesh is concerned, there really is nothing in the communique that is irreversible, or that has altered things significantly in one direction or other.
An explicit commitment by India to halt Tipaimukh would have been good, and the promise that ‘no harm will come to Bangladesh’ is a non-credible, non-binding statement. But this is how things stood before the PM’s trip, so she hasn’t signed anything away. On the other hand, the communique doesn’t require Bangladesh to seek the resolution of the maritime boundary demarcation solely through bilateral means. This is an important right the PM has retained for Bangladesh, and this should be acknowledged.
On the rest of the issues — use of the ports, transit, security deals etc — two points should be made. Nothing has been done that cannot be reversed by a future government. And there is absolutely no reason to believe any of it is definitely going to hurt Bangladesh.
It’s also important to note what’s not in the communique. There is no mention of rice. The single most profound way India can damage the welfare of an average Bangladeshi is by imposing a counterproductive export ban on rice. I find it remarkable that no one has touched on this issue. The communique doesn’t mention anything about rice. The opposition doesn’t talk about it. In fact, I have seen no mention of this anywhere.