A Game of Spite
Bangladesh presented a Liberation War Award to Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi on June 7, 2015. He received the award on behalf of former Indian Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee who is supposed to have played a key role in the ‘liberation’ war that certain elements in the former East Pakistan waged to break away from Pakistan and form Bangladesh. Vajpayee had made a speech in the Indian parliament on December 6, 1971, in which he had said that the friendship between India and Bangladesh was like a bond which would not break under any pressure or become a victim of diplomacy. This was in the backdrop of the then Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi denying all along that her country had any role to play in the break-up of Pakistan and the formation of Bangladesh.
It is true that the Bengali population of East Pakistan had developed a high level of discontent against the manner in which Pakistan’s central government and the army was treating the eastern wing. Both were, consequently, accused by the international community of dealing with the population of East Pakistan with obvious discrimination and of not giving them their due rights. A major instance of this was that while Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, who was the head of the Awami League, had led a win that amounted to the highest number of seats in the Pakistan elections in 1971 and had been declared as the future prime minister of Pakistan by President Yahya Khan, he was still denied the PM’s post by the leading West Pakistani politicians, including ZA Bhutto. This uneven attitude towards East Pakistan and towards the democratically-elected leadership of the Awami League was conveniently exploited by the anti-Pakistan elements in the eastern wing as well as the Indian leadership. The fire of antagonism against West Pakistan was thoroughly stoked by India as it harboured some kind of hidden animosity towards Pakistan. The resultant mass frustration of the East Pakistanis and their resistance movement turned into a regular war, with India fully and properly invading East Pakistan and helping the Mukti Bahini, the liberation army of Bangladesh, to break the eastern wing away. It became a situation on which the Indian government and leadership eagerly pounced and encouraged anti-Pakistan elements to speed up the formation of Bangladesh. India was directly assisted in its evil designs by the Soviet Union while the United States of America, though being a defence ally of Pakistan that was supposed to send its forces to help the country in its hour of need, allowed the invasion to proceed and Bangladesh to be formed. The US just parked its 7th Fleet at a safe distance in the Indian Ocean and watched the war from afar.
If the Bangladesh government today acknowledges the role played by AB Vajpayee and his compatriots in the so-called ‘liberation’ struggle of East Pakistan and the Bengali population recognizes them accordingly, it is for good reason. No matter how vehemently the Indians may deny that they had any role to play in breaking up Pakistan, the very acknowledgement of Indian hostility against Pakistan by the Bangladeshi president and prime minister is proof of who was aiding and abetting whom in the subcontinent in December 1971. The presentation of the so-called ‘liberation’ award to Vajpayee comes at a time when Pakistan and China have concluded an agreement on the building of an economic corridor and the Indian government has loudly expressed its rejection of the whole process. The liberation award further demonstrates that Bangladesh and India deem themselves as being very close.The people of Bangladesh are always highly obliged to India for giving them a nation of their own. For India, demonstrating closeness to a large nation like Bangladesh provides a convenient counter-poise against the China-Pakistan equation. India plays the role of Big Brother to BD and is quite happy to throw its weight behind the third largest country in South Asia. It is a friendship that may not have the same game-changing profile as the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor but it does serve to create a large block of population (that of India and Bangladesh combined) and a collective military force that could offer considerable resistance to the success of any project or projects in the neighbourhood. At the same time, while Bangladesh plays cricket with Pakistan, it is obvious that it does not have the bile to tolerate any other game that its former parent country may play in the region – and it finds many opportunities to spite it.
Syed Jawaid Iqbal