The qualified hoi hoi watch

Posted in environment, foreign policy, politics by jrahman on May 5, 2010

Our political and chattering classes went into frenzy in January when the Prime Minister visited India.  On the one hand, there was a lot of hai hai — the country was being sold, sovereignty was going to be lost, we are one step away from servitude.  On the other hand, there was the hoi hoi brigade who claimed that the visit marked a paradigm shift, the beginning of a new dawn, which would bring unprecedented benefits.  My post noting that there was nothing in the public domain to believe either the hai hai or hoi hoi hypes came under fire from both sides.

One particular hoi hoi criticism raised a possibility that I hadn’t consider earlier.  This is the ‘qualified hoi hoi thesis’, which says that: the PM’s visit did mark something special, but its benefits to Bangladesh would become apparent only over time, and not right away.  Particularly, the thesis holds that the trip ‘has laid a firm foundation for resolving the major outstanding issues from the Indian side’. 

In January, I said this about how we would know if the thesis was right:

Well, a Joint River Committee meeting is scheduled for the first quarter of 2010.  Presumably if the Indians are ready to resolve outstanding issues, then we will see some solid movements in this meeting?  Not just promises to resolve river-related issues, but actually resolve them?  Or may be some political commitment about the killings at the border?  Or postponement of Tipaimukh Dam? 

The ‘qualified hoi hoi‘ theory has a testable prediction: resolution of at least one outstanding issue within a reasonable time. 

We have had nearly four months since the visit.  How does the qualified hoi hoi thesis look now?

Over the fold, I consider the developments in three areas of Bangladeshi concern — border killings by the Indian BSF, sharing Teesta water, and Tipaimukh.

Of course, things could always improve in future.  But as of now, there is still little to be hoi hoi about in any of these fronts.

Let’s start with the border killings.  The qualified hoi hoi thesis looks most promising as far this issue is concerned.  On 19 March, the Indian Home Secretary said:

We are considering unilateral no-firing on the border for one year. The modalities of that are being worked out.

Then, on 2 April, after another death, the BSF ‘expressed sorrow’ .  

These are positive outcomes.  At least Indians are accepting responsibility.  That’s the glass half full stuff.

Against this is the fact the killing continues.  Even as I write this, there has been a further death.  Not quite something to be hoi hoi about, is it? 

There is decidedly nothing to be hoi hoi about on the river front either. 

Recall that the Indo-Bangla joint communiqué called for a meeting of Joint River Commission in the first quarter of 2010.  A meeting did take place on [19-20] March 2010.  Considering that this was the first meeting in five years, one could feel a bit hoi hoi.  But did the meeting achieve anything?

Before the meeting, the expectation from the Bangladeshi side was that a deal would be reached on Teesta (also see here).  This would clearly be something to be hoi hoi about.  The meeting apparently begun on a positive note. Bangladesh placed a draft deal on Teesta on the table on the second day.  And then the meeting ended with no deal .                       

Absolutely nothing to be hoi hoi about.

And finally on the Tipaimukh issue, there may well be reasons to be hai hai about.  The joint communiqué had a non-binding, non-credible ‘promise’ that no harm would come from Bangladesh as far as this project is concerned.  There is a general understanding in Bangladesh that at least a postponement pending further discussion would be a bare minimum to stop hai hai.  And yet, it seems that India is going ahead with the project unilaterally

I definitely don’t have any private information.  But four months on, there is scant evidence supporting the qualified hoi hoi thesis in the public domain.  I look forward to being proved wrong on this.


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