Friday, November 25, 2011

Sheikh Hasina Finds Words To Decry India On Tipaimukh

With  the public  sentiment  quickly  rising  against  Bangladesh government’s weak-kneed  policy towards  India,  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Wednesday told  the parliament  that her government would not accept any unilateral Indian move to build the Tipaimukh dam on the River Barak.

During the weekly question hour, Sheikh Hasina told her party MPs present  in  the parliament  that there would be no compromise with Bangladesh’s interests so long the Awami League-led government remained in power. “We know it better how to protect the country’s interests, because we liberated the country,” she said.

She told the House that she would send a special envoy to Delhi to discuss India’s controversial Tipaimukh dam on the Barak, a common river.

 The Barak splits and enters into Bangladesh as the Surma and the Kushiara.
She said that the news about signing of investment deals in India for building the Tipaimukh dam prompted her government to instantly seek clarification from India.
Skeih Hasina  criticised the opposition’s movement over the Tipaimukh issue as indulging in double standards. She  ventilated  her   anger   as  a  prompt   reaction  to  BNP  chairperson Khaleda Zia’s  accusation  about government’s  silence  over  the  Tipaimukh. 
Addressing  a large public meeting in Dhamrai on Tuesday Khaleda asked the government to protest against the Indian plan and realise Bangladesh’s due share of the waters of the common rivers.  Khaleda   said her party would extend support if the government protested against the unilateral move. 
Khaleda’s note to Indian PM
The leader of the opposition in the parliament, Khaleda Zia,  has  also written to the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, requesting him for conducting a joint survey before proceeding with the controversial Tipaimukh dam on  the  upstream  of  the Surma and the Kushiara rivers. 

 Khaleda Zia, whose party has long been criticising the government for not taking any effective measures to stop India in erecting the dam, wrote the letter following the publication of a report that the government of the Manipur state on October 22 signed an agreement on dam construction.
 The BNP spokesperson Mirza Fakhrul Islam said the letter was sent on Monday last.
Violation of international laws 
A former UN water expert Dr S I Khan suggested last  week   that   a regional river commission would have to be formed through mutual understanding among neighbouring countries with a view to resolving the ongoing debate on the Tipaimukh Dam project and also solve the water problems in South Asia.
He said the Indian government seemed set to go ahead with its plan to build the controversial Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak River in the state of Manipur. But this is a violation of international laws.
“According to the international water-related laws and conventions, no country can carry out such activity on common rivers, as there is always the chance of harming the downstream countries.” Dr Khan said.
He mentioned that as per the World Convention on Dams, if a country wants to build a dam with height over 15 metres and minimum water reservoir capacity of 3 million cubic metres on a common river, the project must be acceptable not only to the government(s) but also people(s) of its river basin.

Dr Khan, also vice-president of International Farakka Committee, said although the height of the proposed Tipaimukh Dam is 163 metres and its water reservoir capacity would be 1.5 billion cubic metres, India has not shown any willingness to negotiate with downstream Bangladesh. 
Article 9 of Ganges treaty

“As the Barak-Surma-Kushiara is an international river, Bangladesh should have equitable share of its waters and access to detailed information about any proposed project such as Tipaimukh Dam,” he said.
The water expert mentioned that Article 9 of the Ganges water sharing treaty, signed by Bangladesh and India in 1996, also states that both sides will implement a no-harm policy and refrain from taking unilateral steps concerning all shared rivers.

He also said that according to the Helsinki Convention, upper countries could not carry out any such activities that might adversely impact on environment and biodiversity of downstream counties. But India has taken a controversial move (Tipaimukh Dam project) that will spell environmental disaster for Bangladesh.
Referring to the Mekong River Commission, Dr Khan said there are many common rivers in the world and Mekong is such a common river in East Asia. Laos once tried to build a dam on Mekong River, but it was compelled to abandon the move following objection by other countries in the region.
Foreign office in illusion 

Meanwhile, Bangladesh foreign secretary Mohamed Mijarul Quayes said on Wednesday that is no need to raise the Tipaimukh and Teesta issues at international forums  as  suggested  by  political group  and  environment experts.

 Quayes said that Bangladesh government “has confidence on India’s assurance conveyed at the highest level that it would not do anything at Tipaimukh that could harm Bangladesh”. 
 “I believe that the Tipaimukh and the Teesta issues could be resolved through bilateral discussion,” he told a press briefing.
He  said  Bangladesh Foreign Ministry  has requested  New Delhi to  consult it before initiating any intervention in the flows of common rivers like the Barak upstream.
The foreign ministry said in a statement on Tuesday that Bangladesh also hoped that India would share all relevant details of the proposed multipurpose hydroelectric project at Tipaimukh in Manipur state in full transparency. 
The fresh outcry

The fresh  outcry  against  Tipaimuk  dam  surfaced  following   the signing of a ‘promoter’s agreement on October 22 with the purpose of setting up a joint venture company by the government of Manipur state with two hydro-power developers—NHPC Ltd and Satluj Jal Vidyut Nigam Ltd.  
India earlier clarified its position to a Bangladesh parliamentary delegation led by former water resources minister and current chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on water resources, Abdur Razzak, which had visited India in July 2009 at the invitation of the Indian government.
Subsequently, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh reassured Bangladesh that India would not take steps on the Tipaimukh project that would harm Bangladesh.
The assurance was given during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in January 2010 and Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September this year, he said.
Environment and agriculture experts have warned that the twin interventions — a hydroelectric project at Tipaimukh and a barrage at Phulertal – on the cross-boundary river Barak would dry up the rivers and water bodies downstream and vast farm lands would turn arid, greatly affecting agriculture and livelihoods and threatening food security in the north-eastern districts of Bangladesh.
Tipaimukh dam will also affect Surma, Kushiyara and Meghna rivers and turn Bangladesh’s mid-east and north-eastern region into desert, directly affecting two crore people, they warned.
The people in Manipur, where the dam is being built, also oppose the reservoir as it would dislodge thousands of them from their homes and crop lands from the valley of the north-east Indian hilly province.
Three crore Bangladeshis

BNP last week gave a call for bold protests against the Indian move to build the controversial Tipaimukh dam on the river Barak to threaten at least three crore people of Bangladesh and their livelihoods. 
Speaking at a discussion on Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani’s death anniversary at the National Press Club on Monday, Fakhrul said, “If we fail to protest against it, half of the Megna basin would go dry.” “It is question of survival of Bangladesh,” he said.

Fakhrul said that the controversial Indian dam threatens three crore people living in the Surma-Kushiyara-Meghna basin and heir livelihoods 

He said expansionist India was going ahead with the construction of Tipaimuk dam only to weaken lower riparian Bangladesh economically, ecologically and politically.

Meanwhile, different  socio-cultural organizations  staged demonstrations and  organized  human chain  in  the city  to protest  Indian project  to construct  the  controversial dam on  the  upstream of  the Suma and the Kushiara river.  

Shommilito Nari Shomaj

A women’s platform, named ‘Shommilito Nari Shomaj’ formed a human-chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka on Nov 21, protesting the signing of a deal to construct a dam on India’s Tipaimukh River. The participants later marched towards the Indian High Commission to form another human chain there, and they were dispersed by the police.

The organization went to stage a human chain programme in front of the Indian High Commission to protest the Indian bid. The convener of the organization, Farida Akhter, complained that police intercepted their peaceful human-chain programme which was unacceptable in a democratic country. 
Agitation also is  being  organized  in   north-east  Indian state  of  Assam, Monipur and Mizoram where different  political, social and  environment groups  are  taking  to  the  streets  in  protest  following  the  signing  of  an  agreement  on  Tipaimukh dam. 
BNP calls hartal in Sylhet

BNP Sylhet chapter on Wednesday called a dawn-to-dusk hartal in the city of Sylhet on December 1 in protest against the Indian move to build the controversial Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak River.
BNP central organising secretary and Sylhet district chapter president M. Ilias Ali announced the programme at a news conference jointly hosted by the party’s district and city chapters.

Sylhet chapter of BNP will hold rallies and take out processions in the city on November 24.
Ilias said that BP would hold rallies at all upazila towns in the district on November 26, its student front will hold demonstration in the city on November 27, Shechchha-shebak Dal on November 28, youth front Juba Dal on November 29 and a joint demonstration of  BNP on November 30.  

BY : Abdur Rahman Khan.

Sovereign Status Of The Country And Defence Forces

Synonymous with independent political power, supremacy, self-determination and control; the core meaning of Sovereignty is supreme authority within a territory. The state is the political institution in which sovereignty is embodied. A great nineteenth century American theorist, Josiah Warren affirmed, “Liberty is the sovereignty of the individual, and never shall man know liberty until each and every individual is acknowledged to be the only legitimate sovereign of his or her person, time, and property, each living and acting at his own cost.”
As defined by West’s Encyclopedia of American Law, Sovereignty is the claim to be the ultimate political authority, subject to no higher power as regards the making and enforcing of political decisions. In the international system, sovereignty is the claim by the state to full self-government, and the mutual recognition of claims to sovereignty is the basis of international society.

Our Republic’s Constitution unequivocally confirms, “The State shall base its international relations on the principles of respect for national sovereignty and equality, non-interference in the internal affairs of other countries, peaceful settlement of international disputes, and respect for international law and the principles enunciated in the United Nations Charter, and on the basis of those principle shall(a) Strive for the renunciation of the use of force in international relations and for general and complete disarmament; (b) uphold the right of every people freely to determine and build up its own social, economic and political system by ways and means of its own free choice; and support oppressed peoples throughout the world waging a just struggle against imperialism, colonialism or racialism.”

National security is the obligation or compulsion or requirement to preserve and maintain the survival of the state through the use of economic, power projection and political power and the exercise of diplomacy. With the aim of possessing national security, a nation needs to have economic security, energy security, environmental security, and so on.

Security of a country or state is easier to define and easier to ensure compared to the security of a nation. A country or state consists of a given well-defined territory, a given population and visible assets. A nation’s assets consist in history, traditions, legacy, culture, faith and practices, emotions and inhibitions. The assets of a nation are partly tangible and partly intangible or indescribable or beyond description.

Bangladesh as a country has borders and a geographical territory which has to be secured. A little more than 90 per cent of our land border is with the neighbouring India; the rest being with the only other neighbouring country of Myanmar, previously called Burma.

Our land boundary was demarcated according to the decisions of the Boundary Award Commission of Sir Cyril Redcliff in August 1947. Confusion remained in some parts of the land boundary about its exact path. Therefore, both India and Bangladesh had to jointly work for accurate demarcation. The job is about to be over.

The land boundary runs over plain land and habitations in most of the area. In some parts the land boundary runs along the midstream of rivers and water channels. Yet in some parts the boundary runs through hills and dense forests. It is a difficult task to guard the border in difficult terrain.

The geographical security of a country is guaranteed by security forces. Security forces are also called defence forces or military forces. Bangladesh as well as the neighbours of Bangladesh have defence forces to suit their requirement. After becoming independent in the year 1971, Bangladesh has inherited the territory of erstwhile East Pakistan. The security needs or defence needs of East Pakistan were planned and catered for by the then central government of Pakistan with its capital in Islamabad.

Security needs were ignored
According to most military experts or defence experts, the government of Pakistan had never given adequate thought to the defence requirements of East Pakistan. Till 1969 the highest ranking military officer in East Pakistan used to be a Major General (who would be the General Officer Commanding of 14 Infantry Division with headquarters in Dhaka cantonment). Brigades of this Division were spread to Rangpur-Syedpur in north-west Bangladesh, to Jessore in south-west Bangladesh and to Comilla-Chittagong in south-east Bangladesh. There used to be a very small Naval flotilla in the costal city of Chittagong and a very small detachment of Air force in Dhaka. Over the 20 months or so preceding the declaration of independence of Bangladesh, the quantum of forces and level of command was raised. By December 1971, while Bangladesh was liberated, Bangladesh inherited the military infrastructure of the defeated Pakistan military. Indeed, the infrastructure was firstly rudimentary and secondly damaged.
During the wars between India and Pakistan fought in the year 1948 and again fought in 1965, most battles had taken place in the border between India and West Pakistan. East Pakistan was then open to any intervention from India. India, however, did not make major interventions, because of its own military limitations or strategic calculations.

Era of Sheikh Mujib
A very important question came up in the years 1972 to 1975 to be answered by the political rulers and leaders of Bangladesh. India had assisted in the liberation of Bangladesh, but would India ever be a military enemy of Bangladesh? It was impossible to give an accurate answer. The government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman decided that, Bangladesh needed military forces for more than one reason. One of the reasons was, to assists the government of Bangladesh in various duties which become difficult for the civil administration alone, while the second reason was to take part in internal security duties.

Another reason was, to be able to defend the territorial integrity of Bangladesh from any foreign aggression (whatever remote the chances may be). Fourth and the final reason was to maintain defence forces symbolising the sovereign status of the country. It was a very difficult decision to be taken by the government of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman as to what should be the size or strength of the military forces or defence forces of Bangladesh. An economically poor country and busy in reconstruction of Bangladesh could hardly afford large sums for the military forces. On the other hand a large number of Bangalee officers and men of the Pakistan Army, Navy and Air Force who were stranded in Pakistan were returning to Bangladesh and had to be accommodate somewhere in some manner. The obvious conclusion is that, a number of factors guided the government of Bangladesh in the years 1972 to 1975 in deciding the size and strength of the military forces.

I was born in the village of Burishchar, in Hathajari thana in the district of Chittagong on 4th October 1949. Between July 1962 and June 1968 I was in the famous institution called Faujdahrat Cadet College. Leaving studies in the University of Dhaka incomplete, I joined the Pakistan Military Academy Kakul with 24th War Course. I was commissioned in the Second Battalion of the East Bengal Regiment (Infantry) of the Pakistan Army on 6th September 1970.

Our War of Liberation
I was able to take part in the War of Liberation of Bangladesh with my battalion for the entire nine months. All officers and men who had taken part in the War of Liberation were given the benefit of 2 years of ante-dated seniority. I became a Lieutenant in mid-September 1971, became a Captain in mid-September 1972, became a Major in mid-October 1973 and became a Lieutenant Colonel in mid-September 1979. Meritorious or inquisitive I may have been, yet I consider myself to have been too young to have understood the defence policy of my country or the structure of the military forces of my country in those days. Whatever I write nowadays, is with the benefit of hindsight or the experience of my life in the military or outside.

It was necessary to keep the size of the army small, possibly for two important reasons. First reason was, not to attract speculative and aggressive attention of the neighbours. Second reason was that, the military should not feel itself strong and influential within the country, as was the case with Pakistan army.

On the other hand the number of freedom fighters had to be absorbed into one or the other profession under the government. Whatever small in size the military may have been, it was still necessary to have a counter-force. Therefore, the government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman created a para-military force (or semi-military force) with very sharp teeth called the Jatiyo Rakkhi Bahini (in short JRB). The officers of the force were trained initially in India, by Indian officers and later on in Bangladesh also by Indian officers. The men of the JRB were trained in Bangladesh. Only few selected army officers were allowed to serve in the JRB. This force owed total political loyalty to Bangabandhu through very able military and political lieutenants of Bangabandhu. The government offered disproportionately more support for the JRB compared to the then army. The government also created a number of JRB cantonments across the country. Few examples of such cantonments are Jahanabad cantonment (former name Gilatala) 3 km north of Khulna city in south-west Bangladesh, Savar cantonment 20km north-west of Dhaka city and Bhatiari cantonment 15km north of Chittagong city centre where the Bangladesh Military Academy is located.

The government of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib attempted to ‘cut the wings’ of the Bangladesh army officers in another manner also. In the days of Pakistan the para-military force looking after border security in East Pakistan used to be called East Pakistan Rifles (EPR). The men of the EPR would come from all languages and regions of Pakistan, Bangalee being in slight majority. Officers of Pakistan army of all languages would be sent on deputation to EPR to command the force. The primary task of the EPR was border security and anti-smuggling duties while the secondary task was to be the first-line of defence (although surely thin) in case of any foreign aggression violating the land border of the country.

In independent Bangladesh the system continued while the name of the force was changed to Bangladesh Rifles (BDR). In 1973-74 the government of Bangladesh circulated a policy and wanted to execute the said policy whereby, there would be a separate cadre of officers for BDR to be selected by the civil government. Not written in the policy, not expressed in loud words was the ulterior motive in this step which to have total political control or obtain total political loyalty of the force.

The senior leadership of the Bangladesh military at that time courteously but staunchly fought it out with the political government of the day and ensured the continuation of the policy. The policy is continuing till today, that is, BDR is commanded by officers of Bangladesh army.

Sinister demands
A conspiracy was created (by whoever) and a mutiny was instigated (by whoever) in the BDR in February 2009. One of the publicly stated demands of the mutineers in February 2009 was that army officers should not be allowed to serve or command BDR. The motive behind such sinister demands is obvious, but I refrain from elaborating.

The sad and tragic day in the political history of the country was 15th August 1975. Change in political and military leadership of the country came soon. The changes were not liked by our neighbours. Insurgency began in Chittagong Hill Tracts. Command and maintenance of the Jatiyo Rokkhi Bahini became vulnerable; one or the other decision had to be taken. The government decided to absorb the entire force or organization called JRB into the Bangladesh army. The officers of JRB were given commensurate or equivalent commissioned officer ranks in the army, the leaders of the JRB were given commensurate or equivalent junior commissioned officer-ranks in the army. The remaining men were given respectable equivalence. All property of the JRB including cantonments and installations were absorbed into the Bangladesh army. In one go, in September-October 1975, Bangladesh army gave a jump in size and capacity. The JRB before being absorbed had more than 10 battalions.

The military’s faults
The lengthy narrative above can be a fountain of information for the inquisitive youth of today, while it can also be an aberration to those who would prefer to keep the information buried in history not to be uncovered.
Over the last few years the Bangladesh military seems to have come under politically motivated propaganda attack. The Bangladesh military partly earned the attack by its own faults. Obviously I am referring to the period of two years (2007-2008) commonly called the one-eleven period. Formally speaking it was the caretaker government which administered the country; informally speaking the military stood behind the civil government either as a patron, or as a guardian or as a warden or as a guide or everything in part. The caretaker government aided by the military did some good jobs, but these are rarely mentioned. They have done a bad job of disturbing the political status-quo or the political equations.

Surprisingly, the military’s bad job is mentioned equally even by those who benefited from them and those who feel to have been victimised. The burden or liability squarely lies with the top military leadership of the day who are mostly out of the public eye now in 2011.

Camouflaged proxies
The motivated political assault on the Bangladesh military does not necessarily always come from identifiable political faces. More often these come from camouflaged proxies. And the assaults are also directed to various aspects of the military or organs of the military. Over a period of time, in Bangladeshi literary circle, intellectual circle, business circle and of course political circle, there has grown a coterie who hate the Bangladesh military, who dislike the Bangladesh military and as a result who would love to see the Bangladesh military become feeble or even perish. Such elites are unforgiving enough to snatch every opportunity to castigate the Bangladesh military. One such occasion or excuse is floating in the ‘discussion platforms of Bangladesh. It relates to the route of the metro-rail in an around the old airport and the beautiful building of the Parliament of Bangladesh—-the Sangsad Bhaban. When the planning for the route was being done, why was not an opportunity created for the Air force to ventilate its limitations? I am not contesting the opinion of the planners or of the Air Force, I am only asking the question as to why the opportunity have been created to criticise the military? As if the military does not want the traffic problem of the Dhaka city to be solved or eased.

At least for 16 years now, on and often, someone or the other, would on some or the other excuse, cry out for taking the Dhaka cantonment away from where it is now. Very recently, the cry is to close down the old airport at Tejgaon. Crying is easy; but consoling the one who cries is difficult. Crying is easy and welcome, but subduing the urge to cry or suffocate the feelings is dangerous. I mention this to remind that while a quarter or a section is crying for dislocation or relocation of the cantonment or the old airport, another quarter or section is definitely suffocating the urge of crying.

Have many of us not visited New Delhi or Islamabad or Washington DC or Singapore or Kolkata? What we call cantonment, some countries call them garrison, yet some countries call them barrack, and some name them as fort. In reality, they are all military establishments.

Part of the Delhi cantonment is very much in the main Delhi city; Fort William is very much in the heart of Kolkata city; at least two military establishments are within the city of Washington DC. Therefore, the location or existence of the Dhaka cantonment is not surprising or an outlandish idea.

When the cantonment was first envisaged early in 1948, who on earth had imagined that there will be so many people in the city of Dhaka that they will extract and drink away or waste away five to six meters of underground water level every fifteen years. When Dhanmondi residential area was planned, who on earth had imagined that it will be crowded with so many schools and hospitals? So many land developers are developing (or assassinating virgin water-land) areas and so many real estate developer companies are developing residential areas and giving them beautiful names—-but why is no real estate businessman ever attempting to develop an office-township?

So the fault is not with the cantonment and where it was established, the fault is with our inability to plan for a better living.    It is time enough for Bangladeshis to give a fresh thought about its own security and defence. More importantly, the community of one hundred and sixty million people called Bangladeshi nation needs to give fresh thought about the security of the nation. Which way are we going? How much of our faith are we abandoning? How much of our tradition and ethics are we discarding? How much are we borrowing and from what sources? It may be advisable to study the relationship between USA and Mexico, USA and Canada, Malyasia and Singapore, India and Sri-Lanka and then give a thought about the relations between India and Bangladesh. It may be advisable to study the last 90 years of history of Turkey, Soviet Russia and the 40 years of history of Afghanistan. There is no dearth of educated, learned and wise people in the country who will look at the country’s security issues impartially and objectively.

BY :  Major General (Retd) Syed Muhammad Ibrahim, Bir Protik

Sovereign Bangladesh And Her Security Concerns

Bangladesh was born through a bloody war, a war of liberation. The whole nation got united, took up arms and fought. The objective of the war was to create a country independent and sovereign, happy and prosperous based on democracy. The New Statesman of London commenting on the war said: “If blood is the price of people’s right to independence then Bangladesh has overpaid it.” This emphasized the value of our independence and sovereignty. It is most dear to us and we will protect it at any cost. We will build our defence capability, heighten it and make it a true deterrent against any external aggression. We need to build up a military machine, which will act as a bulwark of our national defence.

Geographically Bangladesh is placed disadvantageously. It suffers from the tyranny of a geography which gives rise to the concept of defence vulnerability. Because of Bangladesh’s political culture and weak governance, many security strategists cast suspicion on its internal security. But invariably the unique geo-strategic location directs its focus on its external national security.

Bangladesh does posses threats from external aggression. The tyranny of geography brings challenges to our security concerns. But we should not forget that all challenges bring new opportunities, unlock areas of new hopes and new potentialities. In one way we call Bangladesh a geographic tyranny but in another way some may call it a geographic boon. Geostrategically, geopolitically Bangladesh is placed in a most significant place - a place can be termed, pivotal. Bangladesh is in South Asia, the eastern most country. On the east of Bangladesh, there are the economically prosperous ASEAN nations. Bangladesh spans as a bridge between South Asia and Southeast Asia. Bangladesh is situated between two Asian giants. In the north just hundred kilometre away is China, and in the south surrounded by India with a land border of 4098 kilometre. The geo-strategic location of Bangladesh adds more to its importance being situated along the Shiligury Corridor, which very narrowly connects Arunachal province with mainlnd India. China claims 95000 sq km of land of Arunachal to be her own territory where she fought a war in 1962 and occupied it. Besides, the restive Seven States engaged in secessionist insurgency, a low intensity war are all located in close proximity to Bangladesh. Bangladesh as such is geo-strategic pivot in the South Asian sub system where active geo-strategic players like China and India are there. Bangladesh can exploit these very unique situations of geostrategy with correct vision and diplomacy, with appropriate military preparedness and right deterrence.

Bangladesh borders with only two countries - India and Myanmar. With Myanmar we have no border dispute but the maritime boundary is not yet demarcated. Although Dhaka’s relation with New Delhi is friendly but India’s military intervention may not be all together discounted in the event of any development in Bangladesh considered prejudicial to the regional giant’s perceived security thereat. The continuing insurgency in India’s north-eastern states might adversely affect Bangladesh’s security in that the common borders might not remain peaceful and India might attempt to use Bangladesh territory to quell the armed groups.

It must be appreciated that India has helped Bangladesh resolve it’s insurgency in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). However it can not be guaranteed and India could repeat its role by sheltering, arming and training the CHT rebels should they choose to launch another insurgency against Dhaka. India may very well use this strategy to provoke and incite the tribal community of CHT to fight against Bangladesh, in the name of secessionist movement when she requires to put pressure on Bangladesh to achieve her objectives, political, economical or both. Bangladesh has serious bilateral disputes with India over sharing water of 54 common rivers, demarcation of maritime boundary, sovereignty over South Talpatti Island in the Bay of Bengal, demand for corridor in the name of regional connectivity etc.

Against this backdrop of the threat perception, Bangladesh pursues a defence policy of no aggression but defend every inch of her land. To achieve a military deterrence in land, air and sea Bangladesh was looking for friends, who can help her to strengthen her defence capability. China, a close neighbour having ancient ties after opening diplomatic relationship in October 1975, immediately came forward. Bangladesh opened its embassy in Beijing and along with political and economic relations, defence cooperation also started. The writer was posted as first military attaché in Beijing, President Zia visited China in July 1980. He was given a rousing reception. After Chairman Mao Zedong’s death Hua Guofeng assumed charge. He assured all military support for Bangladesh. 

Bangladesh almost from the scratch started building its armed forces, its Army, Navy and Air force with PLA’s strong assistance. Whatever the defence capabilities till today we could muster, are mostly procured from China. China supplied the military hardware and many of the consignments during my time as defence attche there in the 80s, were on gratis, free of charge or on special goodwill price. China during this period also modernized, upgraded and expanded our only ordnance factory at Gazipur built by them during Pakistan time. China as a sincere friend always wanted Bangladesh to be strong militarily and prosperous economically. China considers Bangladesh a good friend, a strategic ally and extends full cooperation in military supply, technology transfer and training of military personnel. In 2002 Prime Minister Khaleda Zia during her visit to China also signed a broad-based defence agreement. It is an umbrella defence cooperation arrangement. It provides very wide ranging defence cooperation scope.

China in recent decades has made a phenomenal rise as an economic and military power, positioned herself in the centre of world stage. China is winning over friends all over Asia, Africa and Latin America. She is opposed to big power chauvinism, opposed to expansionism and hegemony. She stands for world unity, peace and stability. South Asia is China’s backyard. She has her security concerns. China does not recognize Mc Mohan Line and claims much of Arunachal province of India as her own land. Dalai Lama, is an irritant to China on Tibet issue. In recent years a strategic special relationship of Indo-US has developed in the aftermath of civil-nuclear agreement, which China considers motivated against her in pursuance of US policy of containing China. China maintains excellent relations with all the small South Asian neighbours including Bangladesh. Bangladesh may find in China a natural ally in her strive to consolidate her sovereignty and security. 

The caldron of South Asia is heating up. Terrorism is taking an ugly shape day by day. There are two nuclear power nations in the region. External forces are also getting involved to counter terrorism. 
The doctrine of pre-emption practiced in Iraq may not be out of place for the region. Security in 21st century has become more complicated and it is taking new dimensions. South Asia and the region around are intensifying their military build-up. The countries with which Bangladesh shares land border and sea territory are already much more militarily strong and are trying utmost hard to become stronger. The Regional Cooperation Organization of South Asia, SAARC, which was expected to bring peace, harmony and prosperity, could not do so as desired. Against this background Bangladesh should not remain a passive simple onlooker of the events developing all around. She should make her armed forces appropriately up to date and modern to face the regional challenges. She should have long term vision and planning in her defence preparedness for the present era, next and beyond. We should not forget that not very distant past Kuwait, an oil rich Gulf country, Sri-Lanka, a model of developing country in South Asia had to pay very heavy price because of their neglect and failure to raise strong armed forces.

I would like to conclude with a small personal anecdote. I had the honoured privilege to pay a courtesy call to His Excellency Jiang Zemin, the President of China in 1996 when I visited China as Chief of Army Staff. I remember President Jiang told me that China had changed a lot. It was not the same China which I saw when I lived there in the 70s and 80s. He said, “It is a changed China, developed China and it is a new generation, a new leadership.” 

He said, “The world is changing; I heard Dhaka skyline has also changed. But in all these changes one thing has not changed and it will never change and that is our relationship with Bangladesh, our policy for Bangladesh” He said, “I assure you, General, China will ever remain a friend. In time of need, she will be always beside you”. His words still ring in my ear. I treasure them. I believe this epitomizes our true relationship. It epitomizes the ethos and spirit of our defence cooperation in 21 century and beyond.

BY : Lt. Gen. M. Mahbubur Rahman (Retd)

Bangladesh foreign policy: Directionless and subservient

FOREIGN policy has been an integral element of all nation states since their very emergence centuries ago. Only its manifestation and execution have varied from one state to the other and with changing times, depending on their goals. What, however, has not changed is its declared objective of protecting one’s national self-interest, both perceived and real. The same is, or ought to have been, the case with Bangladesh.
During the early years of our independence, the foreign policy of the new state was driven by external pressures to demonstrate gratitude to the forces that had directly, or indirectly, supported our Liberation War. As a result, we had an Indo-Soviet centric foreign policy. This severely restricted the manoeuvrability of the country’s foreign policy and left us out of the equation with emerging and important global players like China and Saudi Arabia, a status that largely remained unchanged till the political changes of August 1975. 
Geo-political realities
It was only in the mid- seventies that Bangladesh was able to create an independent foreign policy that reflected our geo-political realities, our true economic goals and the aspirations of the vast majority of the country’s population. It was aimed at protecting our national self interest by being more inclusive. Bangladesh regained its sense of dignity and earned the respect of the global community, our economic challenges not withstanding. This found reflection in the depth and dimension of our ties with the Muslim world and the form and content of our relations with China, without seriously compromising our thrust on regional diplomacy and our growing economic and trade ties with the West. 
In the Muslim world, the image of Bangladesh was one of a moderator. This was reflected in her role in addressing the issues that most afflicted the member countries of the Organization of Islamic Countries (OIC). Our leading role in the Al Quds Committee dealing with the all important Palestinian question and the efforts to end the fratricidal Iran-Iraq war earned special respect and praise for Bangladesh at home and abroad. 
SAARC is a reality
The election of Bangladesh to the UN Security Council in 1978, defeating a power house like Japan, was the ultimate manifestation of the success of that pragmatic, and yet dynamic, nature of the foreign policy of Bangladesh as guided by President Ziaur Rahman. More importantly, the success of our foreign policy made the nation proud as Bangladesh was able to stand with its head high in the comity of nations. In short, Bangladesh had arrived.
On the regional front, President Zia’s concept of institutionalised regional economic cooperation in the highly divided and distrust ridden South Asia was not just bold, it was as much visionary. While it may have had its expected share of initial misgivings and had caught bigger regional players off guard, none could in the end resist it. SAARC is now a South Asian reality.
The collapse of the Soviet Union and the end of the cold war had very little impact on the foreign policy of Bangladesh because our ties with the countries of East  Europe had been largely marginalised since the mid- seventies.  
Those were the glorious days of our foreign policy. It had a ring of pride and dignity around it and a Bangladeshi diplomat felt proud to represent this nascent state. 
‘Look East’ policy
The ‘Look East’ policy adopted in 2001 added a new dimension to the country’s foreign policy. Under this dispensation, Bangladesh’s relations with the countries of South East Asia gave our foreign relations a strategic depth that went beyond South Asia.
I thought it was relevant to highlight here the golden days of the foreign policy of Bangladesh to put the prevailing situation in its proper perspective. 
Today, things are in reverse. What the average Bangladeshi has been witnessing since the coming to office of the incumbent government is a subservient foreign policy that does nothing to protect our national interest. On the contrary, its sole aim is to appease. What is worse, the whole approach lacks any transparency. 
That this was going to be the case was first signalled following the visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister to New Delhi in January 2010. The contents of the fifty-point joint declaration issued following that visit raised more questions than it answered; even more so because the public in Bangladesh remained in the dark of what was actually agreed upon.
Importantly, what was in the script had very little relations to issues that are of grave importance to Bangladesh, especially, on the sharing of the waters of the common rivers. Being a riverine and irrigation- dependent country, this particular issue has assumed critical importance in Bangladesh following our harrowing experience with the present government’s handling of the Farakka Barrage Project in India from the very beginning and its debilitating impact on the ecology and economy of Bangladesh. Much is being made by the government on the thirty-year Ganges Water Treaty signed in 1996; but the present government does not feel it necessary to argue that the damage already done is irreversible and hence there has to be a sense of urgency in reaching mutually acceptable accords on the other rivers before large chunks of Bangladesh dries up. 
Weak-kneed policy
The outcome of the visit of the Indian Prime Minister to Dhaka in September this year and what has been happening since then has made the degree and extent of this government’s weak-kneed foreign policy all the more glaring. The sixty plus point joint declaration of September 7th is the perfect case in point. As subsequent events have shown, the follow up has been lopsidedly weighed against the interest of Bangladesh.  Much hype was created prior to the visit on reaching an agreement, and that too an interim one, on sharing of the waters of the Teesta river. 
What happened in the end is now history. It now seems to have entered the realm of uncertainty and  periodic government assurances to the contrary are increasingly looking ridiculous. Similarly, disappointments are rife among the residents of the enclaves and protests and hunger strikes there have continued unabated as they feel cheated and deceived. But does the government care? It is too busy facilitating the uninterrupted passage of Indian goods through Bangladesh and without collecting any fees in return. So much was said that the revenue emanating from granting transit to Indian goods would not only mitigate our gaping trade imbalance with our giant neighbour, it would also turn Bangladesh into a Singapore. The reality is there for all to see.
Public umbrage in Bangladesh has been boiling over the sustained killings of Bangladeshis along the border by Indian border guards over the years, made worse by this government’s inaction on this issue. The government was content with denials coming from the Indian side on this, notwithstanding all the evidence that this was actually happening, that people, including young children, were being routinely killed. 
It was not until the graphic image of a dead Felani, a 15-year old Bangladeshi girl, hanging from the barbed wire fence that our government woke up to the reality of the situation. But it was already too little too late for Felani, and others like her who have been victims of a failed foreign policy. What a shame! 
Holding brief 
Mutual benefit and mutual respect are among the fundamentals on which foreign policies are built. Today we have neither. What is even more demeaning for us as a nation is the sight of senior government officials, including and especially relevant Ministers and the all-powerful Advisers, conducting themselves in a manner as if their sole task is to hold the brief for the other side, that they have no responsibility to protect the interests of the people of Bangladesh.
It is indeed hard to imagine that the pride, dignity and interests of a people who did not hesitate to sacrifice their lives for a language and a country they could call their own are being bargained off with such impunity, all for the sake of appeasing a powerful neighbour. But that is exactly what is happening today. 
The title of a recent book by a Bangladeshi residing in the United States, critical of the prevailing situation, “You can be sold yourself, but do not sell my Country” captures the true depth of the anger and frustration of the people of this country today. 
This is not what we bargained for. 
 BY : Shamsher M. Chowdhury, Bir Bikram.