by Anisur Rahman * 5 October 2020
The Awami propagandists often very enthusiastically and even irrelevantly says that India was forced to withdraw their troops from Bangladesh due to Sheikh Mujib´s one and only one instruction for withdrawal. Except for Sheikh Mujib, none other could have done it. But what they never say about the fact that within 4 days of Indian troops´ withdrawal, Sheikh Mujib was compelled to sign a so-called “Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace” with India. This 25 year-long treaty between the two countries is also known as the Indira-Mujib treaty. Apparently, it seems that the interests of both counties have been maintained equally in this treaty. But due to the weaker position of Bangladesh, it can be fairly said that India has been benefited more. The most dangerous thing is that despite this new treaty, the 7-Point Secret Treaty between these two countries signed in October 1971 remained in force through which sovereignty of Bangladesh had been seriously undermined. One can rightly argue that by this unequal treaty Bangladesh to a considerable extent surrendered its sovereignty to India. On behalf of Bangladesh, it was signed by Syed Nazrul Islam, the then acting president of the interim government. It is said, he was forced to sign it. This 7-point treaty was so much derogatory for Bangladesh that just after signing the treaty Syed Nazrul Islam fainted on the spot. Humayun Rashid Choudhury, late foreign minister of Bangladesh disclosed these 7 points to journalist Masudul Haq, author of “ Bangladesher Swadhinota Juddhe RAW Ebong CIA” in a recorded interview.
- Those who have actively participated in the liberation war will be able to continue to work as administrative officers. Others will be terminated and their vacancies will be filled by the Indian administrative officers.
- After the independence of Bangladesh, the required numbers of the Indian soldiers will remain posted in Bangladesh. The time frame for how long they will remain in Bangladesh has not been fixed. Starting from November 1972, there will be meetings between the countries every year for examining the matter.
- Bangladesh will have no army.
- For maintaining law and order in the country a para-military force will be constituted comprising the members of the liberation forces.
- In the possible war between India and Pakistan, the head of the Indian army will command the force – not the head of the liberation army. And during the war the liberation force will remain under the Indian command.
- Trade between the two countries will be on open-market basis. The volume/quantity will be calculated year-wise and payments will be made in Sterling.
- Regarding carrying out of relations with other countries the foreign ministry of Bangladesh will consult with the external affairs ministry of India. And India will help Bangladesh in this regard as much as possible.
By this treaty, Bangladesh virtually has been placed at the label and at some cases below the label of Bhutan.
Under these circumstances, the question may arise, how Sheikh Mujib got the strength to ask India to withdraw their troops from Bangladesh and why India accepted Mujib´s demand. Is it not proof of Sheikh Mujib´s courage? But those who are aware of international diplomacy, know that the two sides had no other alternatives. If India had not withdrawn their troops from Bangladesh, Pakistan would be able to carry out propaganda in the outside world that these Indian soldiers were occupying the eastern wing of their country. Without their withdrawal, there was no question of Chinese recognition of Bangladesh, and even the U.S. recognition would be delayed further. It is important to note that within 3 weeks of the Indian troop withdrawal, Bangladesh got diplomatic recognition from the United States. India withdrew their troops from Bangladesh on 15th Mach, 1972 and the U.S. recognized Bangladesh on 4th April 1972.
During the liberation war Mujib was not in India. Most probably he calculatedly surrendered to the Pakistanis during the fateful night of 25th March of 1971 and spent the whole period in prison in Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib had no such big political obligation to New Delhi which Tajuddin Ahmed had since he had to take refuge in India and led the liberation war under their direct guidance. And that was an advantage for Sheikh Mujib to handle with India. But ironically, besides other factors, the direct and indirect support of the Indian lobby helped Mujib attaining his sky-high popularity. Informed quarters hold the opinion that Sirajul Anam Khan and Associates were working for them. Yes, Mujib got their support. But when “Bongobondhu” out of necessity and practical need requested India to withdraw their troops, New Delhi had no other options. Another point may be mentioned here. Sheikh Mujib took part in the Pakistan movement since his student life. He along with F.Q. Choudhury and some other students and youth leaders joined the Council Session of the All India Muslim League held in Delhi in 1946. Sheikh Mujib himself said life would be spoiled if Pakistan was not achieved. During 1945-46 he worked as an ardent worker and follower of Hussain Shahid Suhrawardi, the then Muslim League leader and Chief Minister of undivided Bengal. He has mentioned all these facts in detail in his unfinished autobiography (Bongobondhur Osomapto atmojiboni). India rendered direct and indirect help and cooperation to Sheikh Mujib and the Awami League in different phases in our political movement and liberation war with the sole intention of dismembering/breaking down of Pakistan. Sheikh Mujib took their help to establish the rights of Bangalees in Pakistan. But his past political background does not indicate that Sheikh Mujib had any unconditional allegiance or illusion to India. Till the very end, Sheikh Mujib wanted to be the Prime Minister of united Pakistan. And his desire was not unjust. As the elected leader of the Awami League which secured an absolute majority in the National Assembly, it was very much due, logical and natural. They wanted a six-point based Pakistan where there would be no exploitation by West Pakistanis over East Pakistan. But the vested interest group of West Pakistan first intentionally tried to create a constitutional crisis and deadlock by manipulations though the matter was very simple. It was just to accept the result of the election. They simply did not want to hand over power to Awami League and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In addition, the indiscriminate killings and terror unleashed and created by the Pakistani army at the “Black Night” of 25th March 1971, made the breakdown of Pakistan and the creation of Bangladesh inevitable. Bhutto´s unlimited lust for power and General Yahiya´s incompetence and inability were the main causes for this development. India took full advantage of this situation. Within a few months, they made the dismemberment of Pakistan materialized for their own interest which they had been waiting for since 1947. On the other hand, we established an independent Bangladesh for our own interest. But it did not take much longer to see clearly that the interests of Bangladesh and India are not common and identical. The 7-point secret treaty between India and Bangladesh is a vivid proof that made Bangladesh a loyal and subservient state to India. The intention of New Delhi became crystal clear even before our independence. However, Sheikh Mujib´s sky-high popularity enabled him to ask India to take back their soldiers from the soil of Bangladesh. No doubt, Sheikh Mujib and Awami League´s bold and unequivocal stand against West Pakistani dominance over East Pakistan was the main factor for his popularity in the province. But simultaneously, behind the scene, the Indian lobby was active to create an anti-Pakistani sentiment in East Pakistan. It is an irony for India that Sheikh Mujib´s popularity in which they had some contribution made him so powerful that he could ask India to withdraw their troops. But what a turnaround! Within 3 years, his Himalayan popularity came down to the rock-bottom level. The most popular political leader became the most unpopular politician. His extent of unpopularity could be seen at the reactions of the people on 15th August 1975, no matter what the Awami League leaders and supporters tell today. The reasons for this tragic consequence is known to all who have witnessed the actual events. No need to explain it here. The only point is whether the present and future political leaders have learned the lessons or will take lessons from it.
We may go back to the issue of bilateral treaties between Bangladesh and India. The 7-point treaty signed in 1971 was a secret one. It should have been placed before the national assembly after independence because it is obligatory under the constitution. The then government could argue that it was signed under some very special circumstances when our liberation war was going on though there was no such scope in the constitution. It did not end there. During the Awami League government under Sheikh Hasina, several treaties have been signed between Dhaka and New Delhi. But the full contents of most of those treaties have not been made public. But according to our constitution (Part X1, section 145 A) “All treaties with foreign countries shall be submitted to the President who shall cause them to be laid before parliament: provided that any such treaty connected with national security shall be laid in a secret session of Parliament.” The citizens of Bangladesh do not know if those treaties signed under the Hasina government contained issues of national securities. No such explanations were given by the government. Man can logically conclude that the interests of Bangladesh have been sacrificed or compromised under these treaties. They are afraid, people will not accept the terms of the treaties detrimental to the interest of Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina has time and again said that her government has given so much to India that New Delhi will never forget it. And it explains everything why this government came to power and could cling on it with the direct patronage of India though they had no people´s support. The totally rigged and farcical elections held with the help of India in 2014 and 2018 testify the extent of isolation of the BAL government from the people.
- Anisur Rahman is a senior Bangladeshi journalist now living in Sweden.