Make conflict costlier for Bangladesh

India risks becoming the boiled frog

The Bangladesh Rifles are on a roll. One of their helicopters violated Indian airspace amid reports of its border positions being reinforced. As usual, there are reports of Bangladeshi civilians being killed at the hands of the Indian Border Security Force. One would be forgiven for thinking that last week’s incident — involving the brutal killing of an Indian officer (and Bangladeshi civilian casualties) — did not happen at all. In spite of a reported apology by a Bangladeshi minister, there does not seem to be any accompanying moves to prevent the clashes from escalating further.

The government of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has either lost operational control over some of its security forces or is playing a dangerous and duplicitous game with India. Either way, as long as the Indian government does not increase the cost of this strategy, the Bangladeshi government has little to lose. Politically, it stands to gain by stoking anti-India feelings — even reasonable Bangladeshis are outraged by reports of innocent civilians losing their lives at the hands of Indian soldiers. It also leaves the various ‘armed villagers’, local border guards, smugglers and other elements to exploit this environment.

Bilateral negotiations between border security officials have not been able to prevent these skirmishes. The latest intrusion by a Bangladeshi helicopter, so soon after the killing of Assistant Commandant Jeevan Kumar raised the hackles in India, suggests that the Bangladesh government expects that the costs of keeping tensions alive outweigh the benefits of allowing the border situation to stabilise. Unless the Indian government immediately raises those costs substantially, both in political and military terms, there is nothing to deter Bangladesh from playing the same game.

Tailpiece:

Simultaneously, we must strengthen and intensify our border security management arrangements to counter not only the phenomenon of illegal migration, smuggling, and so on, but the impulses of anti-Indian political attitudes entertained by some political segments, encouraged and abetted by extremist religious forces and Pakistani intelligence agencies.

One cannot wish away the fact that our initial reaction has resulted in a public perception of India being a soft state, though our governmental reactions are based on long-term considerations affecting Indian interests. Such a perception can only be removed by structured and purposive action to stabilise Indo-Bangladesh relations. We must do this without Bangladesh taking India’s tolerance threshhold for granted. [IE]

The late J N Dixit wrote this in May 2001. Little seems to have changed since then.

19 thoughts on “Make conflict costlier for Bangladesh”

  1. Pingback: The Curry Man
  2. The provocations are an obvious attempt to stop the completion of the border fence. First BD had a problem with the location of the fence (on the zero line or not) and once that was sorted out, now they stir up violence to keep the BSF preoccupied.

    Raise the stakes, build a media offensive and talk tough, real tough. That should send shivers down Bangladesh.

  3. I am sure China deals with instances similar to this with North Korea on a regular basis, especially in regards to illegal migration (but we hardly hear about it). The solution would be to increase border security forces, but to decrease media presence on the issue. At the end of the day, the death of one HONORABLE indian officer should not lead to escalation of a situation whereby it changes our relations with one of our neighbors.

    and I do believe that Srirangan that this is a temporary development one that will solve itself once Bangladesh realizes that the fence is here to stay

  4. When you read the Bangladeshi local newspapers, you get a totally different story. Eg. I have read in a bangla newspaper today that Indian copters violated Bangladeshi Airspace. And there are reports of more BSF intrusion
    http://independent-bangladesh.com/news/apr/24/24042005mt.htm#A5

    It seems media is playing a role here in escalating the tensions. If people try to reach a verdict on the situations based on any of the media (India or Bangladesh) they will end up with an outraged outburst provoking deterioration of the Indo-Bangla relations.

    I think there should be a neutral investigation to find out the truth, which should be propagated to every citizen of both the countries. And whoever is playing the game or responsible should be exposed and punished.

    Nitin has logically questioned whether the BNP-Jamaat led Bangladesh government had to do anything with keeping the tensions alive. And I am also surprised that why there were more civilian deaths caused by BSF (close to 400 in last five years)? Doesn’t any body understand that it makes the quarters to pose BSF as villain. For the BSF’s body mutilation claims, there are theories that BSF has done it themselves to supress the soldiers involvement in the smuggling and shift the focus. Whom would you believe?

    Uncontrollable Indian outburst against Bangladeshis will only benefit those people who are playing this audacious game. It is sad that whatever the outcome of the play is the victims are the innocent civilians. And even more sad is human rights are for the more privileged.

  5. Bangladesh just throws up one fuss or the other to keep the fence away for as long as possible. First it was the zero-line issue, now it is them resorting to increased violence to hamper the laying of the fence. I wish India raises the stakes and enforce a solution, whether the Bangla’s like it or not.

    Bangladesh is already anti-Indian and jehadism is rising anyway. Their illegal immigrants have been a problem for over 3 decades now. Let’s get this done, and get it done right!

    Jay Patel, I see no merit in decreasing media activity. A free media should be allowed to report wherever whenever. The Chicoms and the crazy North Korean are not rolemodel’s. Hell no!

    And btw the BNP-Jamaat Bangladeshi Govt thrives on Anti-India sentiments, just as the Chinese recently demonstrated their cling to power using Japan as the punching bag, that is what BNP-Jamaat does and has been doing. Plus add to that increased Al Queda and other Terrorist activities in BD.

    BD isn’t that peaceful friendly state, never was. Our errors in judging BD as a friend. Just have a little look at what the members of Bangladesh Strategic Forum http://www.bdsdf.com/ are saying. For every problem, they blame the “evil” India. I know ofurm’s are not reliable, but I believe the pulse of the Bangladeshi people can be very well jduged on the basis of the posters on that forum.

    Hmm, long post. I’m out.

  6. Rezwan,

    Faced with this situation, how do you think India should respond? Things like neutral enquiry may not quite solve the problem.

  7. Srirangan:

    You’re looking for love in all the wrong places. bdsdf forum is kind of Bangla LGF (http://www.littlegreenfootballs.com/weblog/) where you would find only hatred. I was banned from that forum because I could not just tolerate nonsenses of some of the members and raised some questions. If you try to generalise your hatred against every Bangladeshi on the basis of this then thats your problem.

    In last election the Awami League lost but the number of vote it received was more than the combined vote of BNP-Jamaat. And Do you think Srirangan that if India goes into offensive with Bangladesh, would that do any good for Awami League in the next election in 2006? It will loose the chance to win power back again because Awami League is deemed pro-Indian. And hell-yes Srirangan you are trying to pull the rest half portion of population in the anti-Indian sphere with your hateful blurt thinking everybody’s evil.

    If India wants to inflict force, that may end up in opening a war zone, which is completely unnecessary. Perhaps that will benefit maybe Pakistan but not Bangladesh and India. India will be the big loser, because you might not know that what a bigger market Bangladesh is for Indians . If Bangladesh puts an embargo on Indian goods and import it from other countries or revive its small manufacturing industries (which is at shambles because of cheap smuggled Indian goods) won’t India be jolted a bit? I am sure Indian business community won’t want that.

    Nitin:

    I think the media propaganda should be stopped. It will create outrages between the citizens of two countries and deviate from the truth. The BSF killings and torturing of Bangladeshi civilians is true and you can find it in many place. (http://www.bhrcbd.org/new_page_1.htm). That has already made the BSF villain to many. This may not known to many Indians because the media portrays it different way, like infiltration etc. For an example how an uneducated Bangldeshi farmer would see the thing. He won’t ponder what is wrong and what is right; he will simply think that BSF has killed so many and we have nailed one.

    I have said before that fencing could be one solution. And both the government have to sit and promise that there would be no more killing from any side. As you said this involves more conspiracy which wants these sentiments to spark.

    The neutral query is required to understand the truth. Because I think some derailed BSF and BDR personnel might be collusive with the smugglers and things happened when things got out of their hand. It would be wrong to blame the whole BDR/BSF or Bangladesh/India for all this without knowing the truth.

  8. Rezwan,

    I have said before that fencing could be one solution. And both the government have to sit and promise that there would be no more killing from any side. As you said this involves more conspiracy which wants these sentiments to spark.

    That’s a very important point here: the promises are not being kept. What other conclusion can be made of the fact that last week’s clash happened on the very day officials were talking to each other in Dhaka?

    I would urge you not to see the case I’ve made as an issue of ‘hatred’. I think there are many ways to prevent conflicts from happening in the first place; the one I propose is for India to use power projection as a deterrance to an outbreak of violence.

  9. Srirangan, you disagree with me with regards to supresssing media presence on this issue. I can’t say I agree with you. In a country where almost anything can be politized the only way to act objectively to this situation would be to leave the general public out of it. Otherwise the Indian government will soon find itself trying to find a balance between the correct solution to the problem and keeping the public happy.

  10. Nitin: There are articles in Bangladeshi newspapers blaming the BNP-Jamaat government for keeping the issue alive. Sources predict that there are conspiracies to make Indo-Bangla relation bitter before 2006 election because BNP-Jamaat govt. gets leverage from it to tackle Awami League who challange them in the next election. And I think they have started it. The govt. deterred airing of an interview with Beena Sicri, the Indian ambassador in DHaka in a private TV channel saying it would escalate tensions.

    Just to add more spice, in response to these media claims that BDR copters violated Indian Airspace, BDR said that they do not have any helicopters. And there are newspaper headlines that the two boys shot by BSF in Jhenidah were first taken to BSF camp, blindfolded & handcuffed and were shot dead after torture. The bodies have not yet been handed over by BSF. Jeevan Kumar’s killin was one offence and surely this is turning out to be a middle aged vendetta which includes an eye for an eye. We would never get the true picture if neutral investigations and neutral media reports are not available.

  11. The BSF claims that the BDR helicopters have violated Indian airspace…this would have been plausible if the BDR even had helicopters. The only two military outfits who have aircrafts in Bangladesh are the Air Force and the Army.

    Now a little on the nature of Bangladeshi newspapers: most of the leading daily newspapers in Bangladesh lean towards India (though I wouldn’t directly call them pro-Indian) and are very wary in printing newsreports that go against India. They only do so if they can verify the reports. The reason for this is political interests and business links; the Reliance Group is a partner (and investor) of the company that owns the widely circulated Daily Janakantha. Obviously not all of the newspapers are like this but many of the top ones are. This has both good and bad effects. The good bit being, because of opposing interests Bangladeshi can get two sides of a story from the different local newspapers. This also allows for a greater authenticity of reports. The bad bit being the local newspapers don’t play a good enough role in highlighting national interests properly.

    From what I have observed from Indian newspapers is that they are intensely nationalistic especially when it comes to international affairs, whatever their domestic agenda. This obviously helps keep the fantastic image of India abroad (and rightfully so, given the country’s many successes) but it also hides many of the country’s failures. The image was kept up even when a fundamentalist government was ruling the country and another one was governing Maharashtra and a CM was involved in ethnic cleansing in Gujarat.

    Newspaper reports in both countries are very often politically motivated and sacrifice objectivity and veracity in trying to further their interests.

  12. They even deny existence of millions of illegal bengali muslim immigrants in India as Bangladeshi in origin. If they have no respect for the own citizens then neither should we.

    They should be rounded up from all parts of India especially those in border areas of Assam n west bengal and force marched at gunpoint back across into bangladesh. Any further illegals trying to sneak across into India should be shot on sight.
    Arrangements offcourse must be made for greater formal migration channels for Hindu bangladeshi’s fleeing persecution or otherwise in bangladesh.

    If Bangladesh is indeed the muslim homeland it was created as then it should atleast have the dignity to acknowledge responsibility for their own citizens otherwise it might as well cease being a independent nation and become part of India again.

  13. I found SriRangan’s comments here both unfortunate and shortsighted. It is now clear to all of us in Bangladesh — that Indians just don’t know anything about Bangladesh. BDSDF is a forum of opinionated members. Some will spew hate toward India and some will not. I believe Indians need to fill their information gap about Bangladesh by reading the newspapers there — it’s all there at Bangladesh dot net.

    Bangladesh is not filled with Jehadis and miscellaneous religious malcontents. It is a place where Tata went to invest 2.5 Billion Dollars. Ratan Tata commented when he first landed in Dhaka that he’d have been here twenty years ago — had he known what Bangladesh offered him.

    Enough said.

  14. Further — while we’re on the subject of illegal migrants — there are about 50,000~60,000 illegal software engineers working in Bangladesh employed by Bangladeshi software firms. They make about Rs. 70,000 monthly on average. They don’t pay any tax at all.

    And people like srirangan are making a fuss about a few rickshaw-wallahs and bai’s.

    Educated people in both countries don’t care about this crap. Please get yourself a life for a change.

  15. Hasan,

    Just for the records; obviously I registered another nick. That was a long time ago. And I am not registered there now.

  16. Manbil. Which cozy corner of India (or perhaps the US) do you live in? Here in Gurgaon your harmless Bangladasyu Rikshaw puller and Bai softies are propogating commiting theft and crime. Infact the DP is even investigating their hand in the recent blasts. All Yindooo nazionalistic propaganda yI say. Now go have Commie Cola

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