The debate and dilemma of transit

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					Transit-Corridor and Sovereignty of Bangladesh :
How Should We Respond?*

By Dr. K. M. A. Malik**



Introduction

The recent developments, especially with the unhindered transport of
goods from Kolkata (India) to Tripura (India) via rivers and roads
using Ashugonj port in Bangladesh, and the proposal for using the
Chittagong port for the same purpose have generated extreme
controversies and uncertainties in the already divided internal politics
of Bangladesh. These issues as well as the proposed Asian Highway
routes through Bangladesh are matters of serious concern to the
people of Bangladesh.

The former Prime Minister and present opposition leader Khaleda Zia
expressed her apprehension very recently (27 October) that by
providing transit-corridor to India, the present government is trying to
turn Bangladesh into another “Sikkim”. The ruling party as well as the
pro-Indian Lobby in Bangladesh would characterize this allegation as
another baseless “anti-Indian outburst” by Khaleda Zia, but in reality
she has simply given voice to the concerns of majority of the
Bangladeshi citizens.

Since the transit-corridor issues have many-fold implications, including
national interests and sovereign status as a state, it is imperative to
get a clear picture of the issues involved and also how we can respond
to the challenges imposed from outside but with the connivance and
collaborations of a section of the ruling government.

Transshipment, transit and corridor

There are three modes for regional and international movement of
goods – transshipment, transit and corridor. Each form has a different
meaning and significance for the parties involved.

Transshipment

Transshipment is the act of shipping goods to an intermediate
destination and then from there to yet another destination.
Transshipment is normally fully legitimate and widely used for
international trade. However, it can be used illegitimately to disguise
country of origin or intent of the goods to avoid restrictions and
customs duties.

Transit

Transit means the transportation of goods and passengers from one
country over a particular land or water route of another country to a
third country in accordance to specific agreement and regulations. The
host country retains the sovereign control of the route. Movement of
goods from India to Myanmar, for example, over a route in Bangladesh
may be said to enjoy ‘transit facilities’.

Corridor

Corridor is usually a narrow strip of land connecting one part of a
country to another part of the same country, e.g. the Siliguri Corridor
(Chicken’s Neck) of India. It also means giving one country full control
over a certain part of the territory of another country for transport of
goods and for other purposes.

During the last two years, Bangladesh and India have signed several
agreements on movement of Indian goods using several points and
routes in Bangladesh. While the term ‘Transit’ has been used in these
agreements, its nature is more in line with ‘Corridor’ facilities.
Bangladesh has not yet given full control to India, but the latter is
being given unilateral use of the route.

In recent months, while Indian lorries carrying heavy equipment
passed from Ashugonj to Agartala breaking the serial, Bangladeshi
trucks carrying exportable goods from Bangladesh to India’s Tripura
state were required to wait. Indian lorries had preference and total
freedom of movement on the Bangladeshi roads. The facilities for
transport of Indian goods from one part of India to its another part
(entry and exit points in the same country) are best described as
‘transit-corridor’ facilities. The term ‘transshipment’ used by certain
quarters in this context is inappropriate and misleading.

Why does India want Transit-Corridor through Bangladesh?

There are several reasons for which India has been insisting on getting
transit-corridor facilities through Bangladesh. Some of these reasons
are as follows:
1. Unfettered, cost-effective access to the northeast states.

It is a geographical reality that Bangladesh is ‘India locked’, being
surrounded on three sides by Indian territories. In the same sense, the
northeast states (Assam, Meghalaya, Nagaland, Manipur, Arunachal
Pradesh, Mizoram and Tripura) of India are ‘Bangladesh locked’. The
so-called Chicken's Neck separating Bangladesh and Nepal is the only
narrow strip of land (24 km in width) that connects West Bengal and
mainland India with the northeast states. Transport of goods and
people through the Chicken’s Neck is very expensive and time
consuming. This hinders India’s access to the resource-rich northeast.
Transit-corridor facilities through Bangladesh would be easier, less
time consuming and also much less expensive (saving about two-
thirds of the present cost of US$ 100 billion per year).

2. Eliminating the insurgency threats in the northeast.

India has been fighting insurgency movements in the north east region
for several decades without any end in sight. The peoples inhabiting
these areas are historically, ethnically, religiously, culturally different
from those inhabiting the mainland India. It is only during the British
rule (in 1860s) that these areas were incorporated into the ‘Indian
Empire’. But the peoples of these lands have always cherished their
independence and waged various struggles including armed struggles
to realize their demands. These struggles are continuing even today.
India considers these movements as threat to its territorial integrity
and security, and wants to suppress them at any cost. Movement of
armed personnel and armaments through Bangladesh would be much
easier for India to suppress these insurgency threats.

3. Preparing for any future military confrontation with China in the
Arunachal Pradesh.

India has longstanding territorial disputes with China, in the northwest
and northeast regions of the Himalayan mountain range. In the
northeast, the dispute over in Arunachal Pradesh (which the Chinese
call Zhangnan or South Tibet (83,743 sq km or 32,333 sq miles in
area) is yet to be resolved. Whether the issue would be settled
amicably and peacefully can not be foretold, but India is not taking
any chances. It has been strengthening its military preparedness (both
defensive and offensive) in these regions for many years now,
especially after the disastrous 1962 border war with China. In recent
years India has been allocating huge resources for the modernization
and expansion of its armed forces. In the northeast, plans are being
implemented to expand the existing capabilities by raising an
additional 100,000 forces including two divisions for mountain warfare
and special operations.

4. Easy access to Myanmar resources and market.

Myanmar is located to the east and south east of both Bangladesh and
India. The country is full of natural resources including oil and gas both
on the land and in the sea. It has also tremendous potential for
harnessing hydroelectric power. Because of these resources, and also
for strategic reasons, direct links and access to Myanmar is very
important to both China and India, the two economic and military
giants of Asia. China already has direct land routes to Myanmar, but
India has none at the moment. India wants to offset this disadvantage
by having direct land routes from its northeast to Myanmar, but by
opposing the route via Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf of the proposed Asian
Highway.

None of these requirements as well as India’s geo-strategic ambitions
in the East can be easily fulfilled without an extensive transit-corridor
system through Bangladesh.

Transit-corridor: India-Bangladesh agreements 2010-11

For the last four decades, India has been trying to get unilateral
transit-corridor facilities through Bangladesh without giving anything
signifycant in return. India’s response to Bangladesh needs and
legitimate demands (expected out of any deal between friendly
countries) has always been one of double-talk, deception, excuses and
backtracking. India did not do anything positive to produce an
environment of trust and friendship with Bangladesh. That is why no
government from 1972 to 2006 granted transit-corridor facilities to
India.

The scenario changed in 2007, when the foreign-backed Moeen-
Fakhruddin semi-military government agreed in principle to grant
unilateral transit-corridor facilities to India, but the regime did not
have enough time to sign the necessary agreements and protocols.
However, once the Sheikh Hasina government came to power in 2009,
granting transit-corridor facilities to India became her highest priority
of all national issues (apart from hanging those found guilty of killing
her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman).

For some unexplained reasons, Sheikh Hasina became too willing to
give in to Indian demands especially on the security and transit issues.
High profile visits to Dhaka and New Delhi by government ministers,
officials and policy makers on both sides became too frequent,
accompanied by intense public relations campaign on the necessity
and benefits of allowing transit facilities to India. Those questioning
the deal to be made in secret and in a haste were criticized in
derogatory terms such as ‘ignorant’’, anti-India, anti-liberation’, etc.

Different agreements and protocols were signed initially during Sheikh
Hasina’s visit to Delhi on January 12, 2010, and finally during
Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka on September 6, 2011. These were
hailed as historic success by India and die-hard pro-Indian elements in
Bangladesh, but heavily criticised by others for granting unilateral
facilities to India without reciprocal and concrete returns.

Full details of the Hasina-Singh agreements have not been published.
However, according to various media reports, the main points of the
agreements are as follows:

(1) Bangladesh would allow Indian container cargo by rail, road and
river transport (no restriction on air traffic).
(2) It would provide India access to Ashugonj Port for transport of
heavy machinery (Over-Dimensional Cargo, ODC) for construction of a
power plant in Tripura.
(3) It would allow the use of Chittagong and Mongla seaports by India.
(4) India would allow Bangladesh the use of Tin Bigha Corridor for 24
hours a day for access to the Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves.
(5) Reopen Sabroom-Ramgarh trade point.
(6) Open land route at Demagiri-Thegamukh on Mizoram border.
(7) Start border Haats at the Bangladesh-Meghalaya border.
(8) India would assist Bangladesh in the expansion and modernization
of railways and in river dredging.
(9) Problems of all enclaves and disputed border lands would be solved
by joint surveys.
(10) Both countries would conduct Joint Hydrological Observations for
water sharing treaty of Teesta and other rivers.
(11) A system of joint border management would be put in place for
prevention of cross-border crimes, smuggling of arms and goods,
drug- and human-trafficking and of illegal movement of people.
(12) Bangladesh would provide assistance to the Indian security forces
for suppression of the insurgency movements in the seven sister
states.
(13) Both countries would collaborate for security, stability and
counter-terrorism in the region.
(14) Both countries would collaborate on healthcare, education,
cultural, scientific and other issues
(15) India would allow some Bangladeshi products entry into the
Indian market without any duties and by removing the existing tariff
and non-tariff barriers, to reduce the huge trade gap.

The above points do suggest that the transit-corridor issues are the
main emphasis of the Hasina-Manmohan agreements. And what hurts
the people of Bangladesh more is that in the so-called friendly
agreements there is no mention of some of their most pressing
concerns. For example, there is no mention of indiscriminate border
killings by India’s Border Security Force (BSF), India’s unilateral
construction of barbed wire fence and security outposts within 150
yards of the common land border (no-man’s land) and the use of
Indian soil by some anti-Bangladesh criminals and terrorist gangs.
Further, there is nothing significant to address the water issues such
as India’s controversial Tipaimukhi dam, its unilateral diversion and
withdrawal of waters from international rivers including the
Brahmaputra and Treesta, dysfunctional joint rivers commission, its
non-compliance of the Ganges Water treaty, and the damages done to
Bangladesh by the Farakka barrage (about US$ 140 billion in the last
35 years).

Proposed Transit-Corridor routes.

Although media reports have suggested a possible 15-17 transit-
corridor routes for India, we do not yet know exactly how many land
and river routes would be used under the recent (and any future)
agreements and which would be the exact entry and exit points. What
is known, however, is that 2-3 routes would be used for now and other
routes would be opened up gradually.

A map published in the Daily Star on July 25, 2011 shows some of the
possible transit routes. This map indicates very graphically and clearly
that most routes would crisscross Bangladesh from west to the east
and from south to the north. All the east-west, and some of the south-
north, routes are surely for easy transport between two areas of India.
A few south-north routes are proposed to be used by land-locked
Nepal and Bhutan (no objection from any quarters of Bangladesh), but
considering India’s hyper-sensitivity about its own security, the
implementation of this part of the transit process may be a very
difficult task.




Map of possible transit routes (Daily Star, July 25, 2011)


The Asian Highway: another transit facility for India.

The proposed ESCAP-led Asian Highway through Bangladesh would
also provide additional transit facilities to India.
The present government has also signed agreement on the proposed
Asian Highway to pass from India to Myanmar and other east Asian
countries. This project when implemented in the present form would
also serve India’s transit requirements. The main part of the route
(AH1) as favoured by India enters into Bangladesh at Benapol (from
West Bengal) and via Dhaka exits at Tamabil (Sylhet) to enter into
India’s northeast. The other main route (AH2) enters into North
Bangladesh at Banglabandha and also via Dhaka exits at Tamabil into
India.

The last BNP government (2001-6) did not sign the Asian Highway
agreement because it catered for only Indian interests and did not
accept Bangladesh’s proposal for the main route (AH1) to exit at
Teknaf (southeastern tip of Bangladesh, rather than Tamabil). Many
analysts believe that the country was denied direct road links with
Myanmar and other countries in the East including China, mainly due
to Indian objections. India objected to the Teknaf route probably out
of its fear that with direct highway links with Myanmar, China and
other east Asian countries bypassing India, Bangladesh would have a
greater choice and freedom of action outside what India considers its
own ‘sphere of influence’. Those familiar with the writings of the Indian
strategic analysts might have noted that some of them are quite
blatant in raising the bogey of Chinese military presence in Chittagong
port areas.

Is Bangladesh prepared for transit-corridor?

The government is committed to giving transit-corridor facilities to
India. But the people are apprehensive because of many reasons.
Bangladesh’s road and rail infrastructure is very poor, with inadequate
logistics and manpower at Ashugonj and Akhaura ports. It is difficult to
support the country’s own transport needs (about 750 trucks a day).
How could it accommodate hundreds of heavy Indian vehicles (about
1500 lorries and trucks) using the existing rails and roads? And who
will pay for the damages done to the roads and environment?




A dangerous gaping hole on Ramrail Bridge in Brahmanbaria. Railings
of the bridge are coming apart. This stretch of road is an integral part
of a transit route for India. Infrastructure has not been developed, but
transit is on. Inset, this road at Akhaura is too narrow for large
vehicles.




An Indian trailer finds it difficult to cross the Anderson canal near
Kaotoli in Brahmanbaria, Daily Amardesh, March 29, 2011).
Some Bangladesh officials are so enthusiastic that they are willing to
bear all the infrastructure expenses. For example, according to one
recent report in the Weekly Probe magazine, merely at the possibility
of giving transit to India, the Chittagong Port Authority has already
implemented 18 projects at the cost of Tk. 2,100 crore (The Daily
Star, December 29, 2010). And simply to facilitate the possible parking
of Indian vehicles, a Tk. 150 crore transit yard is being constructed in
Chittagong. Residents of the adjacent densely populated area are
being evicted for the purpose.

Bangladesh is spending its own resources to facilitate transit for India
(Chittagong Port, for example) and providing transit facilities at
Ashugonj even without any infrastructure development. Dr. Debapriya
Bhattachariya, a leading economist of the country, who was in favour
of the transit deal before, said very recently that the current Indian
transit is being subsidized by Bangladeshi taxpayers. In Myanmar,
however, India is making huge investments to develop the road
infrastructure in the hope of winning transit facilities there.

India’s US$ 1 billion loan to promote its own interests.

Once ‘transit’ begins in full swing, there will be urgent need for regular
rail and road renovation which will call for manpower and investment.
Over the past decade, India has kept up the pressure for transit-
corridor but has only recently agreed (August 10, 2010) to provide
about US$ 1 billion loan (on severe conditions) for various projects.
Major share of this loan is marked for infrastructure development for
transport of Indian goods, but Bangladesh has to pay the loan along
with interest.

And while Bangladesh swallowed this loan, the World Bank has
cancelled a loan agreement of US$ 1.75 billion with Bangladesh as the
funds remained unutilized. For long it had been said that India was
giving the US$ 1 billion as ‘assistance’, but it is known now that the
‘assistance’ is in fact a loan with a much higher rate of interest than
that charged by the World Bank or other lenders.

China, on the other hand, has made significant investments in the
infrastructure sector of Bangladesh. Despite having no direct ‘transit’
interests here, China has constructed about seven or eight large
bridges in Bangladesh. India has set no such example.

Security considerations for the transit process.
Security is a vitally important aspect of the process. But nothing is
known about the security set up. Who will provide the security needed
for smooth and safe passage of Indian goods and personnel along the
routes? Who will pay for the personnel, their training and other logistic
costs? Will India send its own security personnel to accompany the
trucks or insist on posting them at different points along the routes?

In the case of any security lapse/threat (real or imaginary) to the
transit process, would India send its own armed/security forces?

Will Bangladesh have the rights to scrutinize and monitor on regular
basis the nature of the goods being transported? Will it have the right
to open and inspect the containers to check that the goods are as
declared by the Indian authorities prior to entry into Bangladesh?
Would some goods be dumped into Bangladesh market?

Strategic implications

More important, would the containers passing through Bangladesh
carry arms, ammunitions and other war materials for India’s ongoing
anti-insurgency campaigns in the north east or for potential
conflicts/wars with China and/or Myanmar or even against Bangladesh
at a future date?

This is a very relevant question to ask since it has great risks for
Bangladesh to get involved in somebody else’s conflict/war. Some
members in the current government seem very naively to ‘assume’
that India will never wage any war against Bangladesh, but for its own
independent and sovereign existence, Bangladesh must have its own
defence and security strategies independent of the Indian strategy. It
does not mean that Bangladesh adopts a militarily hostile policy
towards India, Myanmar or China, but by ignoring these aspects and
putting the ‘security and defence’ egg only into Indian basket, the
country would invite potential disasters to itself.

Remember that India is a rising economic and military power and its
expansionist and imperialistic ambitions are no longer secret. It
considers itself as the natural and rightful successor of the British
Empire in Asia. To fulfill its imperial ambitions India must ‘control’ the
smaller and less powerful neighbours such as Bangladesh, Nepal,
Bhutan, Sri Lanka and Pakistan first before it can dominate countries
like Myanmar and Afghanistan. A sovereign and successful Bangladesh
with an independent foreign policy and a credible defence system
stands in the way of India’s economic and strategic domination of the
resource rich north eastern and eastern land masses as well as having
total control in the Bay of Bengal regions.

Gains for Bangladesh – a great deception

Indian policy makers and their blind supporters in Bangladesh have
been saying for more than a decade that by granting transit facilities
to India, Bangladesh would make huge “economic gains”. It was
frequently said that Bangladesh would earn many billions of dollars
through transit. This view was also advanced by some international
organizations like the World Bank. The latest situation, however, does
suggest that the talks of ‘billions of dollars’ and ‘Bangladesh turning
into a Singapore’ were nothing more than a pro-Indian propaganda to
mobilize public opinion for the transit-corridor deal. There is nothing
significant and concrete to show as gains from the transit deal. The
departing Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, Rajit Mitter, has said
that Bangladesh would gain by having the hiring charges for river
vessels and trucks used for the transport. He perhaps forgot to tell
that Bangladesh would also get some money by selling ‘tea and
cigarettes’ to the Indian truck drivers!

Dubious role of the Bangladesh Government

We can not blame the Indian side for wanting everything ‘free’ from
Bangladesh. It is very natural that they would look after their own
interests and try to get maximum benefits from other countries
including Bangladesh. Sweet talks, vague promises, deception,
bribery, blackmail, etc., are not unacceptable tools in international
diplomacy.

The tragedy is: the Dhaka authorities have given in too easily to the
Indian demands in the vague hope of some hypothetical gains for the
country. They do not seem to have the necessary will, commitment
and competence to stand solid for Bangladesh interests. They are too
eager and enthusiastic to comply with the Indian demands expecting
that India would somehow respond positively to Bangladesh’s needs
and reciprocate in kind.

In dealing with India, especially in the transit-corridor issue, the role of
the Bangladesh government has been very dubious and mysterious
from the beginning. Sheikh Hasina has spoken very little on the issue
but two of her senior advisers Moshiur Rahman and Gauhar Rizvi have
argued in favour of the deal in a way that is clearly against the
interests of Bangladesh.
For example, Dr. Moshiur Rahman said, ‘we can not ask for any transit
fees from India because we are not uncivilised’! Dr. Gauhar Rizvi, a
hired hand from abroad, with extensive connections in India and the
US but with little roots in Bangladesh soil and political landscape has
said, ‘we have been waiting for 40 years for such a deal’! Could an
Indian negotiator put it better to advance his country’s cause? The
pathetic performance of these two advisers has put Bangladesh in a
situation of unpredictable dangers

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina loves to talk about democracy,
transparency and people’s power, but in dealing with India, she has
kept the people of Bangladesh in total darkness. She has relied not on
foreign ministry or any elected member of parliament, but only on two
unelected advisers for strategic decisions that would have serious
implications for the country’s national interests and sovereignty. All
the deals have been made in extreme secrecy without any democratic
debate and discussion in public or in the national parliament.

There remain serious confusion and lack of policy directives regarding
the so-called fees and charges payable for the transit facilities.
Different ministries and government officials have made contradictory
statements for and against charging fees. There are confusions also
about the nature of the ongoing ‘transit’, i.e., if it is ‘trial transit’ (no
fee to be charged) or ‘regular transit’ (some kind of fee to be
charged). No body knows what is happening and why and who is in
charge. Bangladesh custom officers cannot decide anything for lack of
clear directives from unspecified ‘higher authorities’. Apparently, no
minister or official wants to take responsibility and displease some
powerful people who hold the supreme power in Bangladesh today.

Some arguments against the transit-corridor deals

1. Despite the talks of ‘friendship’, India’s water aggression against
Bangladesh has continued unabated since 1975. The experiences from
the Farakka, Tipaimukh, Teesta and other issues have been very bitter
for Bangladesh.

2. India’s has attempted from the very beginning to marginalise and
subjugate Bangladesh, to interfere in the internal politics, carry out
continuous anti-Bangladesh, anti-Muslim propaganda, and portray it as
a ‘failed’ and ‘terrorist’ country requiring a ‘guardian-angel’ like India!
3. India has not honoured the Mujib-Indira Treaty (1974), especially
by not handing over Tin Bigha Corridor in exchange of Berubari.

3. India has encircled Bangladesh with a ‘Barbed Wire Fence’ (a kind of
Israeli ‘Apartheid Wall’ as in occupied Palestine) on the pretext of
stopping Bangladeshi infiltration. Nobody having any pride in the
independence and sovereignty of Bangladesh can accept this hostile
arrangement and at the same time agree to providing transit-corridor
facilities to India. This is an issue of our national dignity. India cannot
demand unhindered movement of goods and people through a country
whose people have been put in an ‘iron cage’. According to Dr Mushtaq
Khan, a Professor of SOAS (University of London), this issue alone is a
good enough reason for not allowing transit-corridor facilities to India.

4. Indian authorities justify the indiscriminate killings of Bangladeshi
civilians by BSF along the border, but do nothing to stop the smuggling
of phensidyl and other illegal drugs into Bangladesh. There are 132
Phensidyl factories on the Indian side of the border, earning about 347
crore rupees through smuggling drugs to Bangladesh alone (News
Today, December 29, 2010). At least 32 different kinds of unlawful
drugs enter Bangladesh from at least 512 points from India.

5. Immediately after liberation, the Chittagong port could not be used
for export-import. In 1972, Sheikh Mujib requested India to allow the
use of Calcutta Port for only six months, but India refused the request
citing ‘security’ reasons.

6. In 1996, India promised to allow Bangladesh the use of its roads for
trade with Nepal. Bangladesh commerce minister Tofail Ahmed and his
Indian counterpart jointly opened the transit process. It was stopped
by India only after one day. But now India wants more than 15 transit-
corridor routes (river and land, rail) with no visible gains for
Bangladesh.

7. The talk of allowing transit routes through India for trade with Nepal
and Bhutan is a deceptive ploy to give it a kind of ‘regional flavour’
and lure Bangladesh into its game. India is extra-sensitive about its
own security and trade monopoly, but insensitive to the needs of
others including Bangladesh.

8. India’s seven sister states now depend on Bangladesh for many
manufactured goods, but with transit, India will send its own products
to the region and Bangladesh business will lose.
9. Financial benefits from transit process are uncertain, any fees would
outweigh other disadvantages. Bangladesh would risk destroying its
own roads and highways, infect its citizens with AIDS. Roads and
highways will be neglected by the chauvinistic Indian traders and
security personnel using the routes.

10. Bangladesh must not get involved in India’s war in the north east
or with other countries as a part of India’s war strategy.

11. India must stop meddling in Bangladesh internal politics. It must
not encourage dissension and destabilisation to keep Bangladesh
weak.

12. Indian must stop sending its security and special units into
Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina has already taken great political and
security risk by helping India’s anti-ULFA campaigns and handing over
to India more than 50 insurgent leaders (without any extradition
treaty). But India has not reciprocated by handing over the
Bangladeshi criminal and terrorist ring leaders who operate from
across the border, some connected with Indian intelligence agencies.

13. India must give up the idea that Bangladesh is its ‘backyard’ to be
insulted, blackmailed and exploited at its will.

14. The Indian rulers and many of the media people do not hide their
impatience and disgust at any opposition to India’s hegemonic policies.
Those in Bangladesh who oppose the unjust policies of India are often
damned as “fundamentalist anti-India outfits” (Saugar Sengupta, Daily
Pioneer, September 16, 2011) or accused as being ‘too emotional’ to
make ‘things more difficult’ (Kuldip Nayar, Gulf News, September 17,
2011). A former Indian diplomat, Muchkund Dubey, has very correctly
described the attitude of “Indian political leaders, senior officials,
business magnates and strategic thinkers towards Bangladesh” as
“one of disdain and apathy”. This attitude must be changed for
genuine good neighbourly relations.

15. India has yet to prove its goodwill, fairness and genuine respect to
the smaller neighbours including Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Sri
Lanka. It has to reciprocate in kind, in concrete terms, not in abstract
expressions.

16. India must note that despite many obstacles the people of
Bangladesh have made significant progress in different areas, and that
they will protect their sovereign rights and vital national interests at
any cost. Those who work against the interests of Bangladesh will be
opposed and thrown into the dustbin of history.

17. The AL government, especially the two Advisers in charge of
negotiations on the transit-corridor deal, have led Bangladesh into a
trap. They have misled the country and seriously compromised
national interests.

18. The terms of the agreements have not been made public or
discussed and debated in the parliament.

19. Crucial agreements such as transit-corridor that have vital present
and future economic, security and strategic implications must not be
concluded in secret and in a hurry without national debate and
consensus.

20. We demand full disclosure of the India-Bangladesh Agreements-
2010-2011 and a referendum on the vital issue of transit-corridor.

The People of Bangladesh must insist upon all the Government and
opposition political parties for unity on vital national issues, especially
when it comes to protecting the national interests and sovereignty
from foreign pressure and domination. Only this unity will strengthen
country’s negotiating position with India and other countries and
ensure that Bangladesh does not become a ‘satellite state’ of India or
suffer the fate of ‘Sikkim’.

----------------------------------------------
* The essay is a modified version of the keynote paper presented by
the author at a Seminar on “Transit-Corridor and Sovereignty of
Bangladesh” organized by the ‘Bangladesh Sommilito Peshajibi
Porishad, UK’ in London on October 31, 2011.

** Dr. K. M. A. Malik is a former Professor of Chemistry, Dhaka
University, and a Lecturer in Chemistry, Cardiff University (UK). He
has published about 370 research papers in chemistry journals. As a
freelance columnist, he also writes regularly on contemporary political,
social, human rights and security issues. His published books include:
Challenges in Bangladesh Politics – a Londoner’s view (2005); War on
Terror – A pretext for new colonisation (2005), and Bangladesher
Rajniti - Mookh O Mookhosh (2003). His e-mail contact:
kmamalik@aol.com.

				
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