India achieves everything, Bangladesh gains nothing: BNP

Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir speaks at a press conference at the BNP chairperson’s political office in Gulshan, Dhaka on 30 June 2024.Mohammad Mostafa

Bangladesh Nationalist Party secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir alleged the 10 memorandums of understanding (MoUs) that were signed with India during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi are the ‘new edition of slavery.’

India has been offered a corridor through Bangladesh for railway communication from one part to another part of India in the name of connectivity, and that will severely threaten the sovereignty and national security of the country, he said.

Mirza Fakhrul made these allegations at a press conference at the BNP chairperson’s political office in Gulshan, Dhaka on Sunday.

He said, “We surely remember the 25 years of slavery deal signed with India in 1972. In continuation to it, the deals that have been inked with India on 22 June in the guise of MoUs will turn Bangladesh into a slave of India permanently. As a result, the national security of Bangladesh has come under threat.”

Through these deals and MoUs, the defence and national security issue of Bangladesh has been made a part of the national defence and security of India, Mirza Fakhrul alleged. He said, “This is very dangerous and a threat to the independence of the country. It is against a peaceful coexistence and non-alignment policy. Through these MoUs and agreements, Sheikh Hasina, in fact, wants to give India the opportunity to use Bangladesh as a strategic buffer state in regional geopolitics.”

Consequently, Bangladesh will surely fall into the complexity of regional geopolitical competition, Mirza Fakhrul opined. He said the seven newly-singed MoUs are mostly Bangladesh’s northern region-centric and they think these MoUs and deals have been signed from the view of the long-term mega plan to bypass the chicken neck, which is very strategically important for transportation of military and civil goods, to use the Bangladesh territory in time of necessity. People will not accept these deals that go against national interest, he added.

The ruling party often said the Bangladesh-India relationship has reached a ‘new heights’ in the past one and a half decades. Referring to this, Mirza Fakhrul said the accomplishment of the people of Bangladesh is zero during this so-called ‘golden chapter’ of the bilateral relationship. Offering India transits and corridors one after another in the name of connectivity mostly shares the transactions of these two countries during this period. Everything has been done unilaterally despite the economic and strategic risks of offering transits and corridors, and no importance was given to the interest of Bangladesh.

The BNP secretary general said India on the one hand got open land and waterway transit that have cut communication time and distance of Seven Sisters of India’s northeast with the rest of India by three-fourths; the Kolkata-Agartala distance reduced to 350 kilometres from 1,700 kilometres; India gets preferential use of Payra, Mongla and Chittagong ports in Bangladesh. On the other hand, Bangladesh could not gain the mere 21-22 kilometre transit access from India to communicate with Nepal.

Saying that the ruling Awami League did not represent the people of this country, Mirza Fakhrul said that for this reason, the Awami League has no accountability to the people, which is why they are active in protecting the interest of the country. As a result, the 10 MoUs –rail corridor through Bangladesh; India's cooperation in the Teesta project; defence and military cooperation; MoUs on medicines; India's free movement in Bangladesh maritime boundary; joint satellite MoUs between India's In Space and Bangladesh’s Ministry of Posts and Telecommunications; digital partnerships; green partnership; maritime cooperation and green economy – were signed in under various names, but Bangladesh gained nothing.

Mirza Fakhrul opined these MoUs were signed from Sheikh Hasina’s obligation to express gratitude to India rather than protecting the interest of Bangladesh. For this reason, this visit was silent on speeding up the implementation process of India’s USD 7 billion LOC (line of credit) that was signed previously. Besides, the issue of operating trade and commerce in Indian currency bypassing the US dollar also came up during talks. Yet, the US dollar is the major currency of Bangladesh’s exports and remittances. Nothing was raised in these MoUs on lifting tariff and non-tariff barriers to do trade with India to reduce the huge trade deficit with that country, he added.

A record number of killings takes place by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) on the Bangladesh-India border every year; yet, the Bangladesh government was entirely silent on this issue during this visit, the BNP secretary general alleged. According to Ain o Salish Kendra (ASK), at least 11 Bangladeshi were killed and nine others injured between January and May of 2024, while, according to rights body Odikhar, 1,236Bangladesh were killed and 1,145 others were injured by BSF firing between 2000 and 2020. Even members of Border Guard Bangladesh could not escape the BSF firing.

Such a large number of killings are not seen on the India-Nepal border, the India-China border and the India-Pakistan border; yet, the Bangladesh government could not place the issue strongly, Mirza Fakhrul said.

BNP standing committee members Mirza Abbas, Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Nazrul Islam Khan and Selima Rahman, among others, were present at the press conference.