On Dec. 12 in 1996, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina signed the historic treaty with the then-Indian PM H. D. Gowda on sharing the water from River Ganges ending Bangladesh’s long-standing dispute with India. The 30-year accord came only five months into Sheikh Hasina’s first term in office.
Then in 1997 Sheikh Hasina added another feather to her crown by signing a peace treaty with Parbatya Chattagram Janasanghati Samity, the political arm of Shanti Bahini insurgents, ending a decades-old conflict in the hills that claimed thousands of lives: soldiers, insurgents and civilians. The CHT Peace Treaty should have earned Sheikh Hasina the Nobel Prize for peace.
Fast track to July 9 in 2014 when Hasina’s superb diplomacy led to another negotiated settlement of another decades-old dispute with India: the delimitation of maritime boundary. The Permanent Court of Arbitration, a UN tribunal, awarded Bangladesh 19,467 Sq KM out of 26,602 Sq KM in the Bay of Bengal after nearly five years of arguments and counter arguments. The UN verdict has been hailed as Bangladesh’s conquest of the sea.
The list of achievments got bigger. At midnight on Aug. 1 in 2015 Bangladesh and India resolved one of the world’s most complex border disputes by swapping 162 adversely held enclaves thanks to Sheikh Hasina’s skilled handling of the issue. In the exchange 111 Indian enclaves turned into Bangladesh territory adding 17,160 acres of land, while India got 51 Bangladesh enclaves covering an area of 7,110 acres.
These achievements are hard facts, not figments of anyone’s imagination. These are there for all to see. Alas, Khaleda Zia, the chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, is an exception. In all these cases she has seen a Hasina sell-out of Bangladesh to India. In all these successes she has seen failures only. Khaleda’s assertion is so tainted it does not even deserve a serious attention. Yet, she can’t be ignored as such motivated assertions have the potentials to confuse public opinion.
Happily for Bangladesh the people of Bangladesh have never taken Khaleda’s ridiculous statements seriously. They laughed at her when she claimed that CHT Peace Accord would turn a big of the southeast (up to her constituency Feni) into India. This is enough to support the assertion that Khaleda’s allegations are fury signifying nothing except an attempt to fish in the muddy water.
Despite being a laughing stock, Khaleda continues her political madness. She has raised the same old “sell-out” propaganda after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s latest state visit to India from April 7-10 that saw the signing of up to 36 MoUs and agreements between the two “fraternal” neighbours. Under the deals Bangladesh will get power, diesel and LNG from India, a new round of LoC worth $4.5 billion ( and another $500 million in another LoC to purchase small arms for the Armed Forces) besides deals on expanded connectivity, space research, Indian held in nuclear technology.
Bangladesh and India today enjoy the best-ever relations they have had since India’s crucial military, diplomatic and moral support to Bangladesh’s 1971 War of Liberation that saw the emergence of independent Bangladesh and the defeat of occupying Pakistani military. Hasina’s hugely successful visit to India this month has raised the ties up by several levels. The ties will be transformed further when the two countries will be able to end their years of dispute on sharing the water of River Teesta, one of the 54 rivers shared by the two neighbours.
Going by Indian Premier Narendra Modi’s words a mutually fair deal on Teesta is not far away.
After bilateral talks on the second day of Sheikh Hasina’s visit Modi said “I firmly believe that it is only my government and Excellency Sheikh Hasina, your government that can and will find an early solution to Teesta Water Sharing”.
This is hardly a false promise.