IS INDIA CHEATING IN LOVE?
MOHAMMAD BADRUL AHSAN
Eighty-nine year old nuclear physicist Freeman Dyson once said that it was better to be wrong than to be vague. Acting Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh has followed that dictum and called a spade a spade. He proclaimed on behalf of himself, his president and prime minister that India would never support the anti-liberation forces in Bangladesh. Forty-two years later a friend in need once again proved to be a friend indeed! Good to know that hasn’t changed.
Some of our talk show titans absorbed the statement faster than a water-slurping sponge. They supported the Indian diplomat’s remarks, and one of them explained that it was because India had lost 8,000 soldiers in the fight for Bangladesh. He meant to say India has its own goat in the memories of 1971, besides its love for Bangladesh.
Who killed those Indian soldiers is an open and shut case. They weren’t killed by the freedom fighters or civilians of Bangladesh. Those soldiers were killed by enemy fire, namely the Pakistan army. Yet it was India which returned 93,000 soldiers to Pakistan without a scratch after their surrender. It didn’t think of revenge, but abided by the international convention for prisoners of war.
When India talks about anti-liberation forces in Bangladesh, one knows what that means. It means those who collaborated with the Pakistanis in 1971 and betrayed their countrymen. India supposedly hates them more or less as we do, perhaps for separate as well as common reasons.
Why does India appear to be fawning on Pakistan on the western front while fanning out hatred against it on the eastern front? Ever since 1971, India has made numerous attempts to woo Pakistan, not to say it was not the other way around. The world’s longest love letter went from the children of India to the children of Pakistan in 2006. On February 19, 1999, the then Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee traveled to Lahore by bus that inaugurated the DelhiLahore bus service, officially known as Sada-e-Sarhad or Call of the Frontier. The service continued until the 2001attack on the Indian parliament.
National interests have prompted the two neighbours to forge closer ties. The attacks on the Indian parliament and Mumbai brought interregnums to that history, but those undertows hardly prevented the surging tide of bilateral warmth. It’s said that when India was building dams on Pakistani rivers in Kashmir in total violation of the Indus Water Treaty, Pakistan looked the other way because it was part of a larger conspiracy for mutual interests. India has finally succeeded in selling electricity to Pakistan that is supposed to be generated through dams built on Pakistani waters.
There is always more than meets the eye. The two countries have made considerable headway underneath their hostile cover. They have agreed to allow two banks each to operate across the border. According to Indian Commerce Minister Anand Sharma, his country is keen to open more routes with Pakistan to boost bilateral trade.
Last September India and Pakistan signed an agreement in Islamabad to liberalise the visa regime aimed at easing travel by their citizens. Indian daily The Hindu reports that the governments of two countries are in talks to resume roaming service for their mobile users banned in 2004. Pakistani farmers have recently opposed their government’s move to formalise “the most favoured nation” status for Indian farm goods.
The craze of Pakistani people for Indian movies and music is a foregone conclusion. Many Pakistani actors, singers and musicians are now heading for Mumbai to seek career enhancement. The most striking revelation is that despite so much apparent enmity between the two countries, one hardly hears about BSF killing Pakistani intruders.
Perhaps India, Pakistan and Bangladesh have relations that run like a triangular love affair. If Bangladesh has a feeling for India, India has it for Pakistan. So when our politicians are courting Indian attention, the Indian politicians are courting Pakistan. American singer Jill Sobule sings that love is never equal because someone always loves more than the other.
Despite Pakistan’s suspected involvement in the attack on Indian parliament and Mumbai, and despite Pakistan’s obvious support to the secessionist forces in Kashmir, India shows more interest in that country than it shows in Bangladesh. Water disputes, trade imbalance and border killing remain ignored while India selfishly pushes transit through this land.
India treats Pakistan with kid gloves, because it has a nuclear bomb and is a breeding ground for terrorism. But is it cheating Bangladesh in love? The goodwill created in 1971 cannot guarantee future streams of returns forever.
It’s not enough that India vows not to support the anti-liberation forces, unless it can also show that it has respect for our independence. What we have seen so far is that India is getting the best of both worlds.
The writer is the Editor, First News and an opinion writer for The Daily Star.
DECEMBER 28, 2012