Marking Bangladesh’s 50th year of liberation, India will host a contingent of 122 Bangladeshi soldiers at the upcoming Republic Day parade. The move recognises the historic collaboration between Indian forces and the Bangladeshi Mukti Bahini against the Pakistani forces and Razakars in 1971 that led to the birth of independent Bangladesh. That Bangladeshi soldiers will be marching down Rajpath sends out a signal of deep friendship and cooperation between our two countries.
That said, the optics aside, India-Bangladesh relations haven’t exactly been smooth in the last few years. The BJP government’s championing of the Citizenship Amendment Act and the National Register of Citizens in Assam had the effect of vilifying Bangladeshis as infiltrators and criminals. Union home minister Amit Shah had even described such infiltrators from Bangladesh as termites while threatening to send them back. This had caused considerable outrage in Bangladesh, putting pressure on Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina. This in turn created an opening for Pakistan to rebuild its ties with Bangladesh.
Meanwhile, China has been putting in extra effort to expand its footprint in Bangladesh, raising the prospect of a twin Beijing-Islamabad attack on New Delhi’s interests with Dhaka. In that context, the hosting of the Bangladeshi contingent in the Republic Day parade will help address any misgivings in Dhaka about New Delhi’s commitment to this bilateral partnership. It would also help if leaders in India refrain from raising divisive issues like CAA and NRC, and avoid using disparaging terms for Bangladeshis in future.
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