Experts have claimed that Indian Army Chief General Bipin Rawat’s comment that a “planned” influx of Bangladeshis to Northeast India is being orchestrated by Pakistan was motivated by India’s failure to compete with China in recent times, as well as by comments by certain Awami League leaders that Pakistani agents had influence in Bangladesh.
Furthermore, they said relations between Bangladesh and India may deteriorate if the Indian government attempts to expel a section of Bangali people from Assam after labeling them as Bangladeshi citizens.
Political commentator Afsan Chowdhury said the Indian Army chief’s claims come at a time when India is failing to compete with China.
“As they fail to contend with China, India is trying to tarnish Bangladesh’s image after labeling Bangladesh as an associate of China and Pakistan in a proxy war,” he said.
“The Indian Army chief’s statements show that India does not believe that Bangladesh can ensure its own sovereignty and internal security,” the senior journalist added.
Afsan Chowdhury further said that India’s attempt to portray Bangladesh as a weak state which cannot maintain an independent stance against China or Pakistan was provoked by certain Awami League leaders’ comments that political parties in Bangladesh other than the ruling Awami League were “friends of Pakistan.”
However, Dhaka University (DU) international relations department’s Prof Imtiaz Ahmed said one should not pay too much attention to General Bipin Rawat’s comment as it was politically motivated.
“The Indian Army chief’s statement is totally political and relations between Bangladesh and India will not be hampered due to his comments,” he said.
Meanwhile, regarding the potential exodus of Bangali people from Assam, Prof Imtiaz said he hoped it would not take place as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had asked the Assam government not to drive away Bangalis from the region.
On the other hand, Prof Shahiduzzaman, also from the DU international relations department, claimed attempts to exile Bangalis from Assam may lead to an increase in extremism in Northeast India and Northwest Bangladesh.
“India will suffer a lot if the government tries to expel Bangali people from Assam. Members of the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) may come and take shelter in Bangladesh, increasing incidents of militancy,” he said.
Prof Shahiduzzaman added that India should try not to “dissatisfy” Bangladesh over the Assam issue, as the national security of Northeast India depends heavily on Bangladesh, and any dissatisfaction may spur Bangladesh into building up relations with China instead of India.
Moreover, at a views exchange meeting with Indian journalists titled the “Bangladesh-India Media Dialogue,” senior leaders of the ruling Awami League party including General Secretary Obaidul Quader, Advisor member and former ambassador Muhammad Zamir, and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Media Affairs Adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury warned that relations between India and Bangladesh would be hampered if the Indian government exiles Bangalis from Assam.
Ex-ambassador Zamir said: “We have clearly told journalists that if India tries to expel Bangali people from Assam labeling them as Bangladeshi, then it will be disaster and radicalism may increase.”
AL Joint General Secretary Mahabubul Alam Hanif refused to comment.
BNP leader Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury said: “The Awami League government is illegal and everyone knows that. Awami League has no power to say anything against bigger countries.”