Leading by Force

The CAA has had a negative impact on the Bangladesh-India diplomatic
relationship though the leaderships in both countries may deny the fact.

By Sabria Chowdhury Balland | March 2020

‘A leader leads by example, not by force.’
- The Art of War by Sun Tzu, 5th. century BC

Sheikh Hasina has long ben accused of sacrificing her country’s interests and well-being to India. This is not only the viewpoint of her political critics but there is a widespread, general consensus among the majority of Bangladeshis. It is a well-known fact that anti-India sentiments run deep in a sizeable portion of Bangladesh’s population. Recently, the murder of Abrar Fahad, an engineering student at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology by the ruling party’s student wing has triggered countrywide protests by students, academics and the public.

Unmistakably, Sheikh Hasina’s obvious allegiance to India over Bangladesh, be it in trade or water sharing or in any number of a myriad of other factors, has fuelled questions about her closeness to India.

It is extremely important to mention here that as an authoritarian leader, Sheikh Hasina, is in power due to her alliance with India and not because of the mandate of the people, but she has never cared for public opinion. India’s Citizenship Amendment Act seemsto have altered the ball game. The CAA, launched in 2019, amended 1955 law, by providing a path to citizenship to illegal migrants of Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, Jain, Parsi and Christian minorities who have fled persecution from Pakistan, Bangladesh and Afghanistan before December of 2014.

India’s ruling party, the BJP, being a xenophobic party whose fundamental doctrine is to obliterate the Muslims, has made sweeping derogatory statements and suggestions that Hindus in Bangladesh have been systematically and sufficiently tortured and now they seek refuge as illegal migrants in India. Such accusations are important for the BJP in order to justify its systematic and indiscriminate torture and killing of Muslims in India.

Sheikh Hasina and her Awami League party have caught on to the BJP’s tricks and stated that the Bangladesh government will look into the matter. Although their undisputed allegiance has been to India, the CAA has hit many sensitive nerves. Another point causing unease within the Awami League, a point vastly echoed among the Bangladeshis, is the possible exodus of mainly Muslim migrants fleeing persecution in India, particularly from the state of Assam. Bangladesh is still in a state of limbo having accepted nearly one million Rohingya refugees from Myanmar and cannot possibly envision taking any more refugees from India or anywhere else. Although India’s claims are that these are originally Bangladeshis who fled East Pakistan during the partition of India in 1947, yet another bone of contention has been created between the two countries. Bangladesh rightfully demands that India should provide proof of its claims, which, logistically, will be an extremely tedious task. This is not to say that illegal border crossings into Bangladesh are not taking place on a daily basis.

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The writer is a teacher, political columnist and member of the US Democratic Party.
She can be reached at

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