Why is India so insensitive to our affairs?
In December 2010, New York based Human Rights Watch in a report described the Indian border guards as a "trigger-happy" force and documented hundreds of extrajudicial killings, arbitrary detention, torture, and ill-treatment by the BSF.
On February 7, the chief of Border Security Force (BSF) UK Banshal reportedly came made a chilling statement that "it would never be possible to totally stop firing; for so long the criminal activities continue along the border, we shall have to prevent the offenders."
Again, on February 23, one day before the Bangladesh home minister's visit, the chief of BSF reiterated his view that his soldiers at the border with Bangladesh would fire on criminals who dared them. In simple language, killing of Bangladeshis will continue along the border.
These statements of the BSF chief go directly against July 2011 statement of his boss, the Indian Home Affairs Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, who said that Indian guards would no longer shoot people crossing the porous border from Bangladesh. Instead, the guards would use rubber bullets after giving warnings.
The people Bangladesh are puzzled that the Indian home minister remained silent on the reported statement of the BSF chief. Do we assume that home minister's July statement was not meant to be what he said? Was it only a political statement meant for Bangladesh people to assuage their anger at the killings along the border?
On February 9, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni said the killing and torture of Bangladeshi nationals by Indian Border Security Force (BSF) along the border was not acceptable. She told journalists: "The government has long been protesting the border killing. India has also agreed to stop it."
On February 14, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reportedly noted with regret that despite the assurance of India's highest political level that the killings along the border would end, stray incidents of killing and torture of Bangladeshi nationals by the Indian BSF personnel continued.
On February 24, at a meeting with the Bangladesh home minister in New Delhi, the Indian home minister assured her Bangladesh that efforts were on to bring down the incidents of firing along the border to zero level.
The senseless torture and killing of Bangladeshis by BSF has led an overwhelming section of people in Bangladesh to believe that India did not care about the loss of lives of Bangladeshis.
It is not understood why the Indian government remains so insensitive to the sentiments of the people of Bangladesh. New Delhi is a long distance from Dhaka (1,424.20 km) but that does not mean that Bangladesh affairs will be neglected or sidelined.
Some analysts say there are several reasons why is India insensitive to affairs of Bangladesh? Some are mentioned below:
There is a saying in the diplomatic circle in South Asia that India considers Pakistan as its only "neighbour" in South Asia, and does not deem others as "neighbours" because their relationships do not weigh much in India's concern.
In October last year, India's former foreign secretary Muchkund Dubey wrote: "Attitude of most Indian political leaders, senior officials, business magnates and strategic thinkers towards Bangladesh has been one of disdain and apathy. Very few of these people either understand the dynamics of the domestic politics of Bangladesh or have grasped the full import of Indo-Bangladesh relations." (The Daily Star: Forum -- October 2011)
A similar position is reflected in the book The Jamdani Revolution by Krishnan Srinivasan, another former Indian foreign secretary, in which he writes: "The political will and attention span have been lacking in New Delhi even though the bureaucracy has been willing to give a shove in the right direction -- which has not always been the case. In other words, the Indian government has tended to allow the hardliners and Hindu chauvinists to set the agenda for its policy towards Bangladesh."
Another eminent Indian journalist Sunanda K. Datta-Ray writes in July 2009 in Kolkata's The Telegraph: "Bangladesh may sizzle but it sizzles on a back-burner of Indian priorities."
From time immemorial, the behaviour of powerful and weak states has engaged many historians and political scientists, and was aptly summed by Greek historian, Thucydides (460-395) when he wrote: "The strong do what they have power to do; the weak accept what they have to accept."
India is a "rising power" regionally and globally, and some observers say many of its policy-makers may believe the above doctrine of Greek historian, with regard to Bangladesh.
Empirical evidence suggests Bangladesh has relied too much on Indian promises in the past, and even now. There have been many instances where India had been found deficient in fulfilling the pledges it made to Bangladesh.
Currently, the delay in implementing the promised deals with Bangladesh is causing serious misgivings among most people in Bangladesh about India's commitment and sincerity, and the existing behaviour will only demonstrate the repetition of its past conduct. To Bangladesh, federal-state conflict in India's politics cannot be an excuse for non-implementation of India's pledges.
On February 15, the Times of India warned the Indian government to rectify its policies before it was too late. New Delhi failed to deliver on big-ticket issues and risked losing most of the goodwill it had previously garnered, it added.
While Dhaka has moved quickly to address Delhi's concerns about cross-border terrorism and connectivity to the North-East, it appears that implementation of the bargain by the Indian side has been lost, especially in water-sharing of the common rivers.
Time is of the essence in implementation of the agreed deals with Bangladesh, and India must realise that its failure is not helping the government of Sheikh Hasina.
Furthermore, India is creating an environment in which the Sheikh Hasina government will be unable to respond positively in future to Indian requests. It is a pity that India does not appear to have appreciated, or has taken for granted, Bangladesh's quick actions to meet its vital interests.
Goodwill cannot be imposed as it is built on principles of mutual respect and trust, which are created when promised deals are translated into action with fairness and justice. Self-interest demands that India pay more attention to the sentiments of the people of Bangladesh.