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Modis canceled visit to Bangladesh is an opportunity


Modis canceled visit to Bangladesh is an opportunity

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi shakes hands with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina before their meeting at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, India on October 5, 2019. REUTERS / Altaf Hussain

decision of To cancel the public
Mujib centenary celebration event due to public health concerns after
detection of three cases coronavirus in
the country is a welcome development and deserves to be appreciated, but it also
saved the government from political embarrassment. Sheikh's centenary
Mujibur Rahmanthe, leader of the nationalist movement who established
Independent Bangladesh in 1971 was planned by the government led by its
her daughter, Sheikh Hasina. The government has declared the year beginning March 17
Mujib Year.

the inaugural public event was supposed to be attended by several internationals
dignitaries, including the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modis tour
became a controversial topic and provoked large-scale demonstrations and protests in
Bangladesh. Last week, left wing
political parties
Islamists, some members of civil society, and students demonstrated and
demanded that the government of Bangladesh withdraw the invitation. The protesters had
planned new protests in the days leading up to Modis' arrival in Dhaka.

Large-scale protests against Modi and
scathing critics of the invitation surprised many observers outside the
Region. The governments of Bangladesh and India have described the current situation
relationship like in a golden
. Modis' previous visit to Dhaka in 2018 did not cause any
reactions. Such a massive demonstration against a state visit of Indian prime ministers
in any country was unprecedented. This reaction in Bangladesh should give
pause at the Indian government. Although stimulated by recent events in India,
Bangladesh’s domestic political environment and widely perceived
Relations between Bangladesh and India have supported these protests. the cancellation of the event and the visit of Modis will bring out the problem of
cycle of news, but ignoring it will be a mistake. Instead, it provides both
The Awami League in Bangladesh and Indian policymakers have the opportunity to
assess the underlying aspects.

Opponents of the visit highlighted the recent
actions of the Modi government against the Muslim community in India, including
the national
Citizen Registry (NRC
) and the Citizenship
Amendment Act (CAA)
as the reasons for their campaign. Violence against Muslims in Delhi by BJP activists in February
galvanized protests last week in Bangladesh. Indian government repeatedly
assured that the NRC and CAA will
hands off
Bangladesh, but these assurances have not
Bangladeshi convinced because there are reports of Indians migrate in Bangladesh in fear of persecution and virulent rhetoric
BJP leaders say the illegal migrants are from Bangladesh; BJP leaders have
described them as termites and threatened with throw
in the Bay of Bengal. Bangladeshi officials
have echoed the Indian position that the NRC and CAA are
matter but their discomfort is palpable as Hasina said that he
was not necessary,
and Bangladesh canceled
of several ministers since the passage of the CAA
and the violence of Delhi.

As a result of these protests, the ruling Awami
League doubled on invitation and the Secretary General Obaidul Quadir said this, by refraining from inviting the Indian Prime Minister
would have been an act of ingratitude. The ruling party and its supporters
alleged that their opponents are trying to disrupt the year Mujib. Mujib's criticism has become a sensitive subject
problem since Hasina's return to power. The draconian digital security law (DSA), promulgated in October 2018, made negative propaganda
about Sheikh Mujibur Rahman a punishable offense. Several people were stopped by law in the past year.

Many protesters had expressed their opposition
language they hoped to appeal to and protect the girl Mujibs
to be labeled as anti-government, a potentially dangerous label. They
insisted that the municipal policy of division of Modis inconsistent with the secular ideals of Sheikh Mujib. It failed to swing
the government. Linking criticism to Mujibs' ideals to avoid persecution is a
testimony to the remarkable shrinking of the dissent space in Bangladesh.

Since the 2014 elections, boycotted by the opposition,
The country has moved to electoral authoritarianism. The 2018 elections described
through The New York Times as grotesque and The economist as transparently
situation given that freedom of the press and of assembly has decreased, opposition has
been sterilized, and extrajudicial
and enforced disappearances have soared. the
government and ruling party activists have already ruthlessly
popular movements such as road safety
in 2018. In the absence of a strong opposition party capable of taking charge
government, problem-oriented social movements have become the means to ventilate
resentment against the government. Protests against Modis' visit were
partly fueled by this national political environment. Many Bangladeshis consider
invitation as unreserved approval of India by the Hasina regime. Express
critics of India have become perilous. Last October, an engineering student
was tortured to death in his university dormitory by student activists from
the Awami League decision after posting a Facebook comment critical of the
agreement signed between India and Bangladesh during Hasinas' visit to India.

The widespread perception that relations between these two countries have become uneven and that Bangladesh has given more to India than it has received is reinforced by unresolved issues between the two countries. The number of Bangladeshi civilians killed on the border between India and Bangladesh has increased triple to forty-one in 2019 despite repeated promises from Indian authorities to the contrary. In the past five years, 158 Bangladeshis have died at the hands of border security forces. Recent statements by the Indian Minister of Foreign Affairs that the killings equal numbers Indians and Bangladeshis is not supported by the facts and has further irritated the Bangladeshis. A water sharing treaty for Teesta Riversupposed to be signed in 2011 has not yet seen the light of day. Bangladesh, however, has allowed India to withdraw water from the Feni River. Since Hasina came to power, Bangladesh has authorized India to transit its goods through Bangladesh and has authorized transhipment Indian goods through the seaports of Bangladesh without imposing customs duties or transit charges. Bangladesh has allowed Delhi to settle radar for coastal surveillance system in Bangladesh in the Bay of Bengal. Indias support in Myanmar on the Rohingya crisis, however, does not bode well for the Bangladeshis.

The recent protests in Bangladesh against Modis' visit speak volumes, literally and metaphorically. Instead of dismissing them as a conspiracy, the two countries will be better served if their policymakers listen and seize this opportunity to reassess their relations and the national political environment in Bangladesh.

Dr. Ali Riaz is a non-resident principal investigator at the Atlantic Council South Asia Center and a distinguished professor at Illinois State University.

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