Published:  12:21 AM, 12 July 2019

India must do more for its friendly neighbor

As a big country and economy, India has always had an unfair advantage over its neighbouring countries which have little opportunity to take advantage of what is a win-win opportunity for all the countries for their prosperity and economic growth. When one prospers and others don't, then it is not good for the one who is prospering tremendously because the poor ones could be a pain in the neck.

As soon as Awami League came to power in 1996 led by its leader Sheikh Hasina she extended her hand in friendship to India. However, this almost one-sided relationship still is going on strong.

This, in turn, would not lead Bangladesh's big neighbour to reciprocate a comprehensive and coordinated manner. More than two decades ago, insurgencies gathered pace in the North-Eastern Indian States surrounded by Bangladesh. The insurgents would keep the security personnel on their toes.

Many civilians and security personnel had been killed in the insurgencies for years. It was believed that insurgencies of the Seven Sister States of India could not be defeated because the insurgent outfits would operate their activities from Bangladesh.

The Indian government was very concerned about the growing insurgencies in the region. Bangladesh dismantled all the insurgent outfits from its soil. It was certainly a friendly gesture towards India and much appreciated.

The way Bangladesh has been supporting India is totally different from what Pakistan does to India and yet Bangladeshis have been getting killed and harassed at the hands of Indian border guards.

According to Brad Adams, executive director of the Asian division of Human Rights wrote in the Guardian "the Security officials openly admit that unarmed civilians trying to enter India illegally are being killed."

He wrote, "But to police the border, India's BSF has carried out a shoot-to-kill policy even on unarmed local villagers. In between 2001 to 2011, BSF has killed 1,000 Bangladeshis, turning the border area into a south Asian killing field."

The trade between the two countries is hugely in favour of India because India has put non-tariffs barrier on Bangladeshi products. Bangladesh exported more than $1 billion worth of products to India over the last fiscal year but India exported almost $9 billion worth of products to Bangladesh.

Recently, Bangladesh has allowed the North-Eastern States of India to use Chittagong seaport and Mongla river ports. The Indian landlocked States will now be seeing an economic growth especially; Tripura will be benefitted from this opportunity, which is about 2000 km away from Kolkata through the Chicken's neck. Road and sea and river port communications will expedite economic progress in the entire region including Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan, but India will tremendously be benefitted more than any other country.

Bangladesh's one of the main priorities is water. As a good neighbor, it has done so much for India but India did not reciprocate it with anything.

Cultivation in North Bengal is severely hampered due to the Mahananda barrage. Withdrawing water unilaterally from international rivers by building several dams and barrages are affecting people who live beside the river Teesta and other rivers. India's unilateral withdrawal water is causing a huge effect on the lives of people as well the environment in North Bengal, Bangladesh.

Almost 8 years ago, the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was ready to ink a fifty-fifty Teesta water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh but Mamata Banerjee stalled it. According to the Indian constitution, the central government has the power to sign water-sharing treaties with other countries.

But neither the Manmohan's nor the Modi's government showed any interests in going against the wishes of Ms. Banerjee. Whenever a top Indian official or Ms. Banerjee visiting Bangladesh gives hope that they will sign the agreement for Teesta, but now it is obvious that as long as Ms. Banerjee is in the Premier's position, she won't allow an agreement take place sharing the Teesta waters.

Though Bangladesh government doesn't admit it but unknown numbered of undocumented economic migrants go to India through the porous borders illegally and some of them live there permanently and do menial jobs. On the other hand, due to the shortage of skilled workers for its IT, textile, garments, and NOG sectors in Bangladesh, hundreds of thousands of skilled workers from India live and work in Bangladesh and send billions of dollars to back home.

India should pay a fair share to its neighbouring country, Bangladesh whose people are affected for India's unilateral withdrawal of waters from the international rivers and people who live beside the affected rivers displaced for climate change, so they won't go to India as economic migrants.

The writer, a Bangladeshi freethinker, is based in Toronto, Canada

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