by Swadesh Roy
( May 10, 2012, Dhaka, Sri Lanka Guardian) Bangladesh shares land boundary with two countries; one is India and another is Myanmar. In 4289km land boundary of Bangladesh, Bangladesh shares only 193 km with Myanmar; another 4096 km boundary is shared with India. It is one of the longest borders between two countries. It is the 3rd longest border between two countries. The longest border between two countries is between Kazakhstan and Russia; it is 6846km. On the other hand the border between United States and Canada is 8893km. So it is clear that, border between Bangladesh and India is a very long border. Bangladesh shares border with five states of India. Including these five states Indian state West Bengal shares half of the total border. Bangladesh and West Bengal share 2217km border.
The boundary between Bangladesh and West Bengal is not a natural boundary. All are manmade boundary. In some places, the boundary line divided a house into two parts. One part is in India and another part is in Bangladesh. The people of both the sides of the border are of same language, culture and they look alike. Besides that, border with Bangladesh and Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya are also same; all the borders are manmade and most of the people belong to same language and culture. They also look alike. That is why; it is true that, management of this type of border is not easy.
Before finding out a way of good border management, two countries have to find out what are the obstacles. If we analyze the history of relation between the two countries we can see that they never maintained a steady relation. The relation between India and Bangladesh is always an ups and down relation. Political power in India has changed among three in last three decades; Indian National Congress or Congress led coalition government, Bharatio Janata Party (BJP) led coalition Government and Congress supported left government. Congress supported left government was a short-term government. But their foreign policy was towards liberal. Then it was branded as Gujral doctrine. BJP lead coalition government’s foreign policy is too much aggressive towards neighbors. Congress or congress led government maintained a flexible foreign policy.
Political power in Bangladesh has changed among Awami league, military and Bangladesh National party (BNP) lead coalition. But according to data India is only comfortble with Awami league. During the rule of Awami league India does major treaty with Bangladesh; like trade agreement between Bangladesh- India 1972,1973, Bangladesh- India border agreement 1974, Bangladesh- India water sharing treaty 1996.On the other hand, during the military and BNP lead era only minor protocols or agreements are signed. Now the question is why India is comfortable with Awami league. According to Indian writers and researchers, except Awami league all have helped insurgent group of Indian North Eastern states. They say that, Begum Khaleda Zia describes the insurgent in the North East as freedom fighter, and so Bangladesh should help them. They also say that, Begum Zia’s previous term has made a strong nexus between her government intelligence agencies and the Inter service intelligence (ISI) of Pakistan who were training insurgent groups operating in India’s North Eastern states.
So, India has taken decision for a tuff border management. They have made fence in border, which can be called a New Berlin wall. This fence shows that, India and Bangladesh are not maintaining a friendly relation. But after Awami league’s coming to power in 2009, India has said that, they want to start a new era of relation between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh also has done a lot for India to build up a good relation with India and also to make a peaceful and militant free South Asia. The common people of North East India are so happy for that. Even then, I have talked with the chief minister of Assam and some ministers of Tripura and many members of the civil society. They are very much pleased with present government of Bangladesh and they have realized what Bangladesh has done for a peaceful South Asia. But India-Bangladesh relation now is not in a good shape for West Bengal chief minister Mrs.Mamata. She is not rational about Tista water sharing even after having a good relation with Bangladesh. Her strategy is similar to BJP. It could be said that, once she was also an ally of BJP. Her politics, her mind set-up is similar to BJP politics and the mind set up of BJP people. Because to her, Tista river water sharing treaty is uncertain now. For the uncertainty of Tista river water sharing, many things have gone in deep freeze; which can be solved easily between these two countries now. But it is reality that, the uncertainty of Tista River water sharing treaty and the agreement of transit cannot stop the border management and others issues. Border management is continuous process. Making fence, shooting men or women is not the solution of it. Besides that, Bangladesh- India border has a common history of growth, culture, language, and rich heritage. So fence is not the ultimate solution of management of a border with a common heritage. India should think realistically and in socio political and economical perspective; and not only in the military perspective. Making fence, deployed more military or paramilitary with more weapons that are modern is not the ultimate solution. Because, it is not a war, it is management. A good management will never be harsh. However, the politicians, experts of border management can think details about the border management of Bangladesh and India. However, in general we can see that, three things are more important in Bangladesh- India border management. These three are common culture, common economy and manmade border. Whereas it is manmade border, so governments of Bangladesh and India have to think that, there is no way to pull out the people of two countries from their common socio culture and economy. Therefore, two governments have to think about the common economy and common culture of the border people of two countries. On the other hand, Bangladesh –India border is the third longest border of the world. When two countries contain a longest border then, economy of two countries, also depend on each other. Canada and United States, Mexico and United State, Kazakhstan and Russia are examples of it. The longest border obviously will be the route of the economic flows.
Therefore, Bangladesh and India have to develop infrastructure of the border area to connect with border economy and main land economy. Such as, two countries are always worried about illegal border trade and illegal migration.
When we talked with any concerned Indian people, it seems that they are always afraid of illegal migration. They are scared about illegal migration. They are always fighting against it. But reality never says that; rather reality says they are fighting with a shadow. If we go through the reality, we can see, it is manmade boundary, culture and language are common. People of the both sides came from same heritage. So, you cannot stop the mobility of them, it is their natural, social and economical mobility. You cannot stop it. Therefore, you have to legalize it through a system that people can move easily and you have to ensure it that it will be mobility of the people not migration. On the other hand, two countries are always doing illegal trade; such as, the biggest item on the agenda is cattle smuggling. More than 1.7 million pieces of cattle are illegally imported into Bangladesh every year. There are about 100 cattle corridors. Why not these two countries make these corridors as a border hat; and why not they legalize the sale of cattle. If two countries legalize cattle trade through 100 border hat then it will solve more than 99 percent of border incident or death. Most of the death causes in the border are due to cattle smuggling.
Besides that, in border management of two countries both the countries have to uphold the political authority not the military authority. Both countries have to engage their people representatives to manage the border and have to think about common culture; because you can give up everything but you cannot give up your culture. People always uphold their culture. Fence may be a New Berlin wall but it never is a solution of the border management.
( Swadesh Roy, Executive Editor, the Daily Janakantha, Dhaka, Bangladesh