India’s diplomatic relations with Bangladesh are likely to have rifts, says India’s main opposition party, the Indian National Congress, in its new document on foreign policy.
The party has revealed its attitude towards Bangladesh three and a half months after Rahul Gandhi became Congress president.
Congress also made it clear that they do not quite agree with the evaluation on Bangladesh by the Narendra Modi-led government.
Sources said Congress MP Shashi Tharoor, who is the chief of the parliamentary standing committee on external affairs, prepared the draft of the document. However, the document’s statement has been finalized following the approval of Rahul Gandhi.
Since the Narendra Modi government came to power four years ago it pledged to give priority to neighbouring states and adopted the `Neighbourhood First’ policy in its foreign policy.
Mocking the policy, Congress titled its document `Neighbourhood Lost?’
What does the document say about Bangladesh?
In its document, Congress said: “India has become isolated and generally distrusted next-door neighbour. There are major grievances against New Delhi that are commonly shared among many South Asian nations today. Numerous serious allegations have been raised regarding India’s attempt to bully its smaller neighbours and interfere in their local politics.”
About Bangladesh, the document said: “Our relationship with Bangladesh, a country that India shares a historically rich and prosperous relationship with, is also seeing signs of stress.
“As the Rohingya crisis in Myanmar escalates, opposing takes on the stateless Muslim Rohingya refugees has put the onus of responsibility on an already resource-constrained Bangladesh. As they work towards providing a solution to this humanitarian crisis, India has washed its hands off the affair and taken the side of the Myanmarese government.
“The Modi-led government has also stated its intention to forcibly deport the Rohingya already taking shelter in India; this, despite multiple pleas from Indian politicians asking the government to respect the principles of asylum and India’s millennial humanitarian traditions.
“The goodwill with this neighbour, the result of a successful ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015—a by-product of the Land Boundary Protocol in 2011 (a UPA-era win)—can now be seen to be slowly eroding.
Congress also said the BJP should understand that muscular tactics cannot replace mature and deft diplomacy.
The document has noted that both Nepal and Sri Lanka have subsequently made overtures courting China.
Ministers and policymakers of both Bangladesh and India have been saying for the last two-three years that the two countries are possibly enjoying the best ever bilateral relations. But the Congress document depicted a reverse scenario.
Congress leader Shashi Tharoor said no matter how wonderfully the Indian government is trying to show its relationship with Bangladesh, it is clear that there are many uncomfortable elements in the relations.
Congress leaders identified the failure of a breakthrough in the Teesta water sharing deal as one of the main sources of discomfort.
India is yet to give any benefit in return for those Bangladesh gave to them, including transit or access to the Chittagong port, they said.
Congress leader Sushmita Dev said the way India is identifying illegal citizens in its northeastern state of Assam without discussing the matter with Bangladesh is also having a bad impact on the relations between the two countries.
Sushmita, who is also a Lok Sabha member for Silchar constituency in Assam, said the government wants to deport illegal migrants from Assam but has not decided where to deport them.
She questioned whether the government has discussed the issue with Bangladesh or made any deal over their repatriation.
“The whole process is meaningless without any agreement,” said the Congress leader.
Congress thinks the way the government is deporting illegal migrants from Assam, keeping Dhaka in the dark, will not lead to a positive outcome in terms of bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India.
This article was first published in banglatribune.com
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