Indo-Bangladesh Relation during Mujib’s era

Master slave relation between Awami League government and India was the root cause for anti Indian feeling that grew among the people.

After the surrender of the Pakistan army, the Indian forces stayed back in Bangladesh at the request of Bangladesh government. Indian army took away, all surrendered arms, ammunitions, equipments and vehicles worth millions of dollars. They even dismantled the industries and sent them to India. They even removed all furnitures, fittings from the cantonments they had occupied. The newspaper Anik estimated the value of the things taken away by the Indian army to be 1000 million US dollars that was published in their issue of December 1974. Mr. Kamal Siddiqui, a freedom fighter who was appointed as Deputy Commissioner at Khulna just after the liberation wrote a formal note to both the Bangladesh and India governments stating that Indian army was removing machineries, vehicles, equipments worth millions from his district. He at his own initiative tried to resist the Indian army as much as he could in collaboration with the freedom fighters. Smuggling used to take place during Pakistan time. But the quantum went much higher after Bangladesh got its independence. Immediately after the independence the border was kept completely open for sometime.Maulana Bhashani claimed, "Indian army and the smugglers had taken away goods worth 6000 crores of taka from Bangladesh". It was reported in the news paper that between 1972-1975 till Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s government was removed from power about 2000 million dollars worth of materials were smuggled out from the country to India. Bangladesh government On 18th January 1972 withdraws all restrictions on export of Jute and Jute goods to India. On the same day they decided to keep the border open for border trade thus facilitated easy smuggling of Jute and Jute goods to India. They also brought down the value of Taka at par with Indian rupee. Bangladesh government also decided to print currency notes from India.

On 2 January 1972 ‘The Bangladesh Observer’ wrote that according to the business community and the economic analysts all those decisions were taken in favor of India. They also said, the Bangladesh government had taken those decisions under pressure for India. Moreover after reaffixing the Taka value and the new price for Jute and Jute goods smuggling became more profitable. As a result Bangladesh lost a huge amount of revenue from Jute and Jute goods export. Thus foreign exchange earning as well as national saving depleted. Mysteriously many jute go downs were set on fire causing huge losses. About the losses the Prime Minister in the Parliament said in 1974, "Due to fire raw jute worth 138.2 million Taka had been destroyed. Worth of jute goods could not be ascertained". Because of colossal losses BJMC and BJTC had to run with huge government subsidies. Till this date all the subsequent governments have been providing millions of Taka as subsidy in the jute sector. Once the ‘golden fiber’ now has become a noose around the neck. On the other hand in India that was a net importer of jute and jute goods situation changed dramatically after Bangladesh government’s aforesaid policies. Most of their jute mills that were closed due to shortage of raw materials went into production again and India becomes an exporter of jute goods in the international market. Not only that in 1973 India also exported one million bales of raw jute. By 1974 not only their existing jute mills were running in full shifts some new jute mills were established along India Bangladesh border at Tripura and West Bengal. However, the government had to revoke the Border Trade Agreement before even a year under pressure from the people. In the month of May 1972 Bangladesh government signed 4 loan and a trade agreements. But at later stage India became reluctant to comply with those agreements. Particularly import from Bangladesh to India faced problems and resistances. Due to this the trade gap started increasing in favor of India. Government’s decision to print currency notes from India was disastrous. Due to this decision the country was flooded with fake notes. It had a tremendous adverse effect on the economy of Bangladesh. Unbearable living generated more anti Indian feeling. People blamed India for their ordeal. Thus on one hand the contradiction between the government and the people and on the other between the people of Bangladesh and Indian government got sharpened. The Indian army’s loot, interference of the Indian civil servants in the administration, open smuggling through the borders, uneven treaties, printing of currency notes in India, creation of JRB, fixation of Bangladesh Taka at par with India, decision to keep Indian forces in Bangladesh created deep suspicion in the hearts of Bangladeshis. They became apprehensive about the intention of the Indian government. The mistaken ideas of the Indian government which that they will be able to maintain their hegemony over Bangladesh through Awami League had rooted the fear of Indian domination in the mind of the people. This fear further deepened by the activities of both these governments. People also thought that Awami League for their power had been playing the subservient role to allow India to loot and plunder Bangladesh. They also thought under Indian pressure the government was turning Bangladesh into a client state. Both Awami League and India did not consider paying any heed to such feelings and took no measures to eradicate such sentiment. Therefore this sentiment kept on mounting with far reaching implications on the economic and political relations between these two countries. This was how although most unfortunate the shortsighted policies of both the governments created a mistrust and lack of manual confidence right from the beginning.

Although the government had all through claimed that the relation between the two countries were friendly and cordial but the fact was that the people became suspicious about the intention of the Indian government from the day when they decided to impose unilaterally Awami leadership on the people and Indian army started to take way every thing from Bangladesh as their war booty.

Within a short time Indian army’s presence on the soil of Bangladesh raised confusion at home and abroad. Bangladesh government had to face critisism that they were unable to rule by themselves. This also raised questions about the independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh. Internationally many countries thought that Bangladesh is under an occupation force and India had forcibly taken control of a part of Pakistan. Due to their such perception and the presence of Indian forces in Bangladesh many countries of the world refrained from recognizing Bangladesh Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on his return ofcourse praised the Indian army but at the same time he could also feel the pulse of the people. But he had nothing much to do at that stage. Particularly after Sheikh Mujib returned there was no justification to Indian force’s presence on the soil of Bangladesh. This became a sticking point and very embarrassing for both Indian and Bangladesh governments. Particularly India being one of the founder of the ‘pancha shila’ principles and the Non Aligned Movement was in a precarious position to justify to the international community the presence of its forces in a country which had no external threat whatsoever from any quarter as Bangladesh happens a virtually surrounded by India itself from all sides. Infact India had to face many quieries and criticism from many countries of the world particularly member states of the Non Aligned Movement and the Muslim world. Under such conditions both the governments under ccompulsion decided to withdraw Indian forces from Bangladesh. But at the same time Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ratified the Indo-Bangladesh treaty. This treaty was for 25 years and was ratified on 19 March 1972 during Mrs. Indira Gandhi’s visit to Bangladesh. During the visit three more important decisions were also taken.

Transit and border Trade. To Increase mutual cooperation the representatives of the ministries of foreign affairs, defense, planning, commerce and industries, culture and scientific cooperation, will meet every six months for consultation and exchange of views to formulate policies by the respective governments. Joint river commission was also constituted at this time. Soon after his return Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared to make Bangladesh the ‘Switzerland’ of the East but iroucally turned Bangladash into a vassal state of India with that uneven treaty. He also invited the Soviet navy with an excuse to clear the port of Chittagong. Thus Bangladesh was thrusted into the Indo-Soviet axis. After the defeat of Pakistan in the eastern sector India in her claim to be the regional expansionist power boastfully declared, "All foreign powers have to get away from the South Asia". Not only that India also formulated a new ‘Monrao Doctrain’ for the subcontinent. Due to which all smaller countries in this region had became apprehensive about Indian expansionism and domination. They also faced serious security threats. Even after doing so much for India, Sheikh Mujib harelly could get any concessions from India regarding water problem, demarcation of the border, littoral boundary and sea economic zone, dispute about newly evolved land masses in the sea etc. In 1975 when India carried out an aggression against Sikkim and annexed it, the people of this region particularly Bangladeshis became even more conscious about Indian encroachment and expansionism. All the political parties except Awami League and its lackies considered 25 years treaty as a threat to the national independence and soverganity and called for immediate abrogation of the treaty. It was again the forsighted Lion of Bengal Maulana Bhashani who was the first to raise the demand. As early as on 29th December 1972 under his leadership 7 partie’s Action Committee submitted a 15 point memorandum to the government. The very first point was the abrogation of that anti national treaty. They opined that this treaty was made to ensure India’s long-term subjugation and influence over Bangladesh as per their blue print. At the same time, perpetuate their domination on the South Asian region.

Article 6 of the treaty has a very significant aspect. Articles 8,9,10 are also equally significant. All these articles are concerning foreign relations and defence of both the countries. What was the necessity to sign such a treaty? India was considered to be a friendly country. Bangladesh is surrounded from three sides by India. On the east it has a small stretch of landmass bordering Burma. On the south it is the Bay of Bengal. Logically many could not find any rationality for such a treaty. When Bangladesh dose not face any threat of aggression from any country to sign a treaty where to remain dependent militarily on India to protect its soverganity and independence it self ment subjugation of India and to recognise it to be the dominating power in the region. The articles regarding economic cooperation suggested that India being a industrially developed country will supply all heavy, medium and light industrial machineries, technology, spare parts, semi processed raw materials, capital to develop both industrial and agricultural infrastructures of the independent Bangladesh. Thus through such penetration Bangladesh economy will become a dependent economy and a market of Indian economy which is comparatively stronger and more developed. And in the process over a long period of time Bangladesh economy will turn into a appendage to Indian economy. Thus once India can ensure the economic control, the political control would become guaranteed. Expressed desire to harness water and other resources of Ganges, Meghna, Brammaputra basins has far fetched implications. Any bilateral agreement as this one will always be interpreted infavour of the stronger partner. In view of this reality Bangladesh shall be deprived of its legitimate share of the water and other resources of these important river basins which is considered to be the life-line of the agrarian Bangladesh. This is why the people at large even many Awami Leaguers opposed this treaty. But ignoring all protests, at the instigation of the pro Indian lobby within Awami League, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman ratified this siucidal 25 years treaty with India.

Bangladesh also have conflicting interest with India concerning territorial sovereignty. Beside land boundary, littoral boundary and economic zone remains undecided and it is going to take longtime before these problems are resolved. In 1974 an agreement regarding disputed land corridors was signed. Bangladesh got that treaty ratified in the Parliament the same very year. But we got our due as par the agreement after a long delay. The six multi national oil companies which came for exploration of natural gas and oil had to stop their drilling after India protested saying, as the boundaries and economic sea zone have not been demarketed between the two countries such ventures can not be under taken. At this protest Bangladesh government had to ask those companies to go back although the companies started their work after due agreements on profit sharing basis. Not only that to scare away those companies sabotages on the sites and kidnapping of their staff members were also mechanized by some un identified quarters. Newly raised landmass in the Bay of Bengal has given rise to more disputes. At the estuary of the river Hariabhanga a huge landmass called Talpatti has surfaced. Although it is closer to Bangladesh shore, India had also lodged a claim on it. It was then decided that this problem would be resolved through bilateral talks as par the international laws. But in violation to this inter-governmental understanding suddenly one fine morning the Indian marines landed on Talpatti and hoisted Indian flag unilaterally. The most serious problem is that of sharing of water resources 90% of the people of Bangladesh lives on agriculture and thus water is like lifeblood. Most of the major rivers, which flow through Bangladesh, have originated in the Himalayan range. The Rivers like Ganges, Brahmaputra, Meghna, Yamuna, Tista, Gomti, Muhuri, Shurma, Khowai, Kushiara, Padiva etc. all originates in Himalayan range at the north and flows down over Bangladesh to the Bay of Bengal at the south. These river basins make life of the people and the natural environments. The Farakka barrage or the Ganges that had been again unilatesally constructed by India has affected about one third landmass and quvarter of the population of Bangladesh. It is one of the most disastrous men made curse that had affected hundreds of millions of people as well as the natural ecological system. Bangladesh government is unable of face this horrendous challenge with its limited resources. The problem is multiplying with every passing day. The Ganges water crisis has enhanced the bitterness between the two countries. If a just and equitable solution is not found, the relation between the two countries is bound to further deteriorate. India meanwhile has constructed another barrage on the rive Tista. This action has also been taken unilaterally without any prior consultation. As a result flow of river Tista has also gone down considerably. This is affecting four northern districts of Bangladesh. Moreover India is constructing more barrages on Khowai, Gomti and other rivers at the northern regions without any consultation violating international laws. As a result required quantities of water will not be available for both irrigation and navigation. Oner and above India has also given the proposal of a link canal which will bring more miseries to Bangladesh. They want to construct a long canal from Bramhaputra to derive more water at Farrakah. This cannot be agreeable to any Bangladesh government according to the experts.

Although, in the treaty it is stated, "The borders between our two countries will be an example of eternal peace and amity". But from the economic and defence perspective they can have different meanings. The propaganda which Awami League government had started right from the beginning that, Bangladesh a poor and impoverish country and does not need nor can it afford a large armed force can be well linked with the ambition of India to establish a unified defence system arround Bangladash comprising of all the seven states in the north east. It appeared as if Bangladesh government was carrying out such propaganda and raised the slogan of ‘eternal peace’ just to facilitate that Indian design. According to Awmi league the only way to ensure eternal peace was not to have any armed forces. They also argned that through the treaty Bangladesh has arranged all kind of assured cooperation to saveguard its independence and sovereignty against any external aggression so why to have an army? Although they never said if the ‘protector’ itself chooses to be the aggressor then what happens? Anyhow finally the Awami League government considered having a token ceremonial armed forces for Bangladesh.

The treaty had more adverse effects on the economy. Uneven state of two economics, level of developments and the gap in the price structure were mainly responsible for cross border smuggling. The smuggling went against the interest of Bangladesh. When the smuggling was rampant then to talk about a border of ‘eternal peace’ meant no border security forces on either side. If the two economics of Bangladesh and India were absolutely complimentary to each other or both the economics merged into one, only then perhaps we could have a free border of that kind. But none of those conditions prevailed in reality.

Equality, sincere sprit of co-operation and friendship, compassion, reciprocity are the requirements to evolve a genuine and durable relation. On the other hand domination or imposition do not serve any purpose. Rather such deceitful over bearing attitude or policies only widen the gap. As a result, lack of confidence and miss trust grows and that leads to confrontation and instability. That was the situation the nation faced.