As Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina tours China, a debate is brewing in Bangladesh. Who is a greater friend? India or China? The answers vary.While Hasina is seeking regional connectivity involving Bangladesh, India, China and Myanmar, many Bangladeshis think differently.
“The key to Bangladesh’s global vision is connectivity. This means opening up Bangladesh to India and China, and frankly anyone else who wants,” The Daily Star newspaper said Friday.
That being the case, senior journalist Zafar Sobhan deprecated attempts to draw China in but keep India out. “There is a profoundly foolish school of thought among certain circles in Bangladesh that suggests that Bangladesh should seek to play China off against India and looks to China to provide a counter-weight to what they see as the regional hegemon.
“This kind of thinking, which governments in the past have dabbled in with notable lack of success, is the worst kind of amateurish realpolitik that would only antagonise both neighbours,” said Sobhan.
Leaders of the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have advocated using China as a counterweight to India.
Haider Akbar Rono, leader of the Communist Party of Bangladesh (CPB), has called for Dhaka-Beijing proximity to “counter imperialist attacks” from India that he sees is in stratetic alliance with the US.
Lt Gen (retired) M. Mahbubur Rahman, a former Bangladesh Army chief, laments the “tyranny of geography” under which Bangladesh is surrounded by India.
“Although Dhaka’s relation with New Delhi is friendly, India’s military intervention may not be all together discounted in the event of any development in Bangladesh that might be considered prejudicial to the regional giant’s perceived security threat,” he wrote in the New Age.
“Against the backdrop of perceived threat from India, Bangladesh pursues a defence policy of no aggression but defending every inch of her land. To strengthen its position, Bangladesh can seek help from China,” he wrote.
Retired diplomat Mohammed Amjad Hossain wrote in New Age: “Although Bangladesh considers developing relations with China from political and economic point of views, India sees it from a different perspective.”