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Wednesday, April 22, 2015, Baishakh 9, 1422 BS, Rajab 2, 1436 Hijr

LBA : India playing a confusing game 
Published : Wednesday, 22 April, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 29
Anis Ahmed
India seems to love to play games, especially with a non-protesting or too soft neighbour like Bangla-desh, about anything and everything to reflect on its regional supremacy due to huge size of land and population, economic and military power and political influence regionally as well as globlly.
It has been doing so ever since the Sub-Continent was portioned into India and Pakistan in 1947. The partition was done mainly on the basis of religion - Hinduism in India and Islam in Pakistan.
Later, Bangladesh was born out of Pakistan in 1971 after the Muslim majority Bengalis in former East Pakistan had found it impossible to live as part of the undivided Islamic republic because the West Pakistani rulers not only cheated and exploited the Bengalis but also harassing them politically and economically.
Pakistani military dictator General Yahya Khan, in conspiracy with West Pakistan's majority leader Zulfikar Ali Bhutto of Pakistan People's Party, denied Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the undisputed leader of the Bengalis and overwhelming winner in Pakistan's 1970 parliament election, of his rightful claim to become Prime Minister of Pakistan.
This was followed with history's deadliest massacre and worst genocide in East Pakistan by the Pakistani occupation army and their local collaborators, Jamaat-e-Islami, Muslim League and Islami Chhatra Shibir.
Bangladesh under Bangabandhu's leadership launched the War of Independence in March 1971 and won freedom on December 16 that year, following a nine-month war that had cost millions of lives and unprecedented sacrifice.
Bangladesh's historic friendship with India was rooted deeply as the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and her Congress government profusely offered diplomatic, military and material support to Bangladesh during and after the war. India also hosted 10 million refugees from former East Pakistan through the nine months of the war and genocide in what is now Bangladesh.
But the ties with India suffered many ups and downs over the last four decades, especially since Bangabandhu was killed in a 1975 army coup, along with all but his two daughters in the family. The rulers after the 1975 change pursued an anti-Indian stance that developed a rift in the friendly relations between the two countries. 
Bangabandhu's elder daughter Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made every effort to further strengthen India-Bangladesh relations, with the Congress in power for many years as a single governing party or partner of UPA coalition. Congress was relegated to a very unimpressive opposition entity in Indian parliament following last year's Lok Sabha election in which Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) of current Prime Minister Narendra Modi had won massively.
Congress and Bangladesh's ruling Awami League had been trusted friends as regional allies ever since Bangladesh parted from Pakistan (in 1971). But disproving all speculations the AL and BJP also continued to pursue historic ties between the two unequal countries as equal neighbours. India fully respects Bangladesh as an independent sovereign country and keeps pushing home its huge business interest in Bangladesh.   
However, the warm relations between the two countries somewhat thawed in September 2011 when then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh of Congress came to Dhaka but the inking of the Teesta water sharing agreement was shelved due to last minute opposition of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
In 1974 Prime Minister Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his Indian counterpart Indira Gandhi signed the historic Land Boundary Agreement (LBA). Bangladesh ratified the LBA in the parliament. But Indian parliament is yet to ratify this. New Delhi has been delaying ratification of the LBA along with a crucial agreement on sharing water of the Teesta river for no clear reasons, often irritating Bangladesh.
But the government in Dhaka has been patiently dealing with the issues. Narendra Modi after taking office reaffirmed his willingness to settle all outstanding issues with Bangladesh including LBA and Teesta agreement.
But bad news travelled to Dhaka last week, that the BJP would place the draft of LBA deal in the next parliament session next month for approval - but delinking Assam from the deal. This is a sheer breach of the understanding reached between Bangabandhu and Indira Gandhi long ago and Dhaka simply cannot accept any change to the terms and conditions agreed then.
The LBA is designed to settle all boundary issues between Bangladesh and India including transfer of enclaves in one country to the other. Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and Bangladesh enclaves in India's bordering states of Assam, Tripura and West Bengal have been a long soar in ties between the two countries. The enclaves' people have been deprived of all their political, health and social rights, thus virtually living as homeless people and they want a quick solution of their problems.
Modi, like his predecessors, promised to redress the issue at the soonest and he also assured Dhaka not to worry about the Teesta deal.  It was also speculated that the outstanding issues will be resolved before Modi made his repeatedly promised trip to Bangladesh. No date for the visit has yet been set while Delhi's plan to delink Assam from LBA came as a bolt from the blue for Dhaka.
Bangladesh felt very disappointed at Delhi's sudden twist and must insist that the LBA cannot be changed even a bit without concurrence  of Bangladesh as it was a deal proposed and agreed between two sovereign countries - and it cannot be altered unilaterally.
Reports from India say a large section of the population in Assam is strongly opposed to the LBA. The issue is linked to strong Assamese sentiment and the BJP is, therefore, planning not to hand over Assam's land to Bangladesh at present. But India must know that LBA cannot be ratified partially.
 Indian Minister of State for Home Affairs Kiren Rijiju recently struck everyone by surprise as he told reporters that the Constitution amendment Bill to ratify the 1974 Indo-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement might be introduced in Parliament by delinking Assam.
 As the LBA was signed between two countries, India unilaterally cannot change the agreement at least without consultations with Dhaka. If it does, it will be a total breach of good neighbourliness and close friendship. We wish India will refrain from such a move or at least clarify its position to Bangladesh.

Editor : Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury
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