Bangladesh alignment with China could impact neighbourhood policies

India's Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India, 5 October 2019 (Photo: Reuters/Altaf Hussain). Sketched by the Pan Pacific Agency.

NEW DELHI, Aug 3, 2020, NDT. China’s credibility is exposed after the Hambantota and Gwadar Ports, non-transparent deals of the CPEC, and debt trap of the African countries, New Delhi Times reported.

All is not well with the India-Bangladesh relations. Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh didn’t get Prime Minister Hasina’s appointment despite waiting for four months. Her re-election in 2019 Dhaka election has slowed down all Indian projects while encouraging Chinese infrastructure projects. Bangladesh did not even acknowledge the Indian assistance for the COVID-19 pandemic to the county.

Bangladesh gave the MAG Osmania Airport new terminal work at Sylhet to the Chinese company, Beijing Urban Construction Group (BUCG), despite India’s concerns. Sylhet borders the north-east region of India, hence is sensitive for the country. These signs of strained relations with India strengthen a recent tilt towards China.

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan gave a phone call to Bangladesh PM Hasina – his first call after almost two years in office – and the entire Pakistan was dancing! Pakistanis went gaga over Dhaka’s presumed tilt to Pakistan! PM Imran Khan called at China’s insistence to turn the neighbours against India, otherwise why would he discuss the Kashmir situation with PM Hasina, whom he never cared to talk earlier? India appreciated Bangladesh’s stance that Kashmir is an internal matter of India.

Bangladesh’s shift towards China is explicable but why towards Pakistan? It’s a poor country that can’t contribute anything but is ever eager to thrust the begging bowl at all passers-by. Now Bangladesh is on line! Bangladesh must not be so stupid to ally Pakistan – a country drowned in 90% loans. It is Imran Khan who called, not Hasina. Dhaka has progressed significantly because of the strategic balance and interconnection with India at too many points. Tilting towards Pakistan tantamount to tilt towards Somalia or Ethiopia and is a one-way traffic.

Bengalis are way smarter than Pakistanis. Without investing in Bangladesh, Islamabad should not expect much from Dhaka, least from Hasina, except diffusing hatred. Aligning with rogue countries like China and Pakistan will cost Bangladesh in long term. Bangladesh won’t buy from India but still remain friends. China offered 97% tariff free access to Bangladesh but still can’t be a friend. China’s credibility is exposed after the Hambantota and Gwadar Ports, non-transparent deals of the CPEC, and debt trap of the African countries.

Pakistan talks of sharing culture and history with Bangladesh. Which culture? Which history? In 1971, Pakistani General had threatened to change the “genetics” of the Bengalis. Can the reprehensible deeds of Pakistani soldiers be forgotten? Rather, the Indo-Bangladesh ties are rooted in language and culture.

India’s tango with Bangladesh might have miss-stepped but not over yet. Bangladesh was created with the help of India and China was the last to recognize. Can Bangladesh be so ungrateful? Though both countries seek deeper ties with Dhaka, India still helps Bangladesh economy while China offers loan only for self-interest. That’s why the world is running away from China-the international pariah and a sinking ship. No country ever ventures near this China-Pakistan combo. Bangladeshi PM is way smarter than Pakistani PM to circumvent the Chinese bait to help Pakistan. Just one phone call and the Pakistanis have started making sand castles, and visualising landing at Dhaka to seek jobs. Allow them the premature delight for the time being! Bangladesh has taken money from China, hence tilting but won’t follow Chinese diktat to cultivate close ties with Pakistan. Pakistan is on the sole drowning ship that is China!

Bangladesh is smartly following its own interests through independent foreign policies without tilt to India and China, as balancing relations with both yields maximum advantage. It won’t go all out against India which houses five crore Bangladeshis and Rohingyas. China is getting closer to Bangladesh not for development but to pursue its own interests, that is give loans, build infrastructures through Chinese companies, bribe the Government and sell its own products. Bangladesh will be just be another market for the Chinese products. Camping with China will impact exports to the US especially textiles and wean Dhaka away from the European Union and the USA. Saudi Arabia is also a big factor. Dhaka can’t displease the Arabs.

A morally and economically defunct Pakistan has nothing positive to offer. So, it delights in India’s discomfort. A big lesson for India is to not appease the neighbours but focus on own people. All major countries-China, the US, Russia-protect own interests. Why not India? China is pushing India further into the US camp. With the USA, Russia and the EU on its side, India should learn to rise like Israel and hope that there is a much smaller China by the next decade.

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