Unusual developments are happening within the traditionally tangled skein of diplomacy. It is almost unprecedented for a foreign Head of State to send congratulatory messages in the aftermath of State assembly elections. And yet so it has been in the equation between Bengal and Bangladesh.
Very critically and despite the hiccups over Teesta since 2011, Mamata Banerjee has been warmly complimented by the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Begum Hasina, and the country’s foreign minister, AK Abdul Momen.
“The huge victory of Trinamul Congress in the Assembly election of 2021 is a reflection of deep-rooted trust of West Bengal in you,” was at the core of Hasina’s message. Profoundly significant was her stress on what she called a “joint battle” against coronavirus by the people on either side of the border.
Both Bengal and Bangladesh have been acutely affected by the resurgence of Covid. Miss Banerjee has already responded to the letters from Hasina and Abdul Momen. The exchange of complimentary messages, post a State election, has been deemed as “quite unusual” by the diplomatic class in either country.
The polls were closely monitored by the media across the border. Amit Shah’s reference to infiltrators as “termites” was deeply resented in Bangladesh. In course of the campaign he had said that “not even a pigeon” would be allowed to fly into this side if the BJP came to power. The saffronite leaders have ruffled the feathers of the Awami League, the BNP and hoi-polloi in Bangladesh.
Feathers were also ruffled with the BJP stalwart’s pledge to implement the Citizenship Amendment Act, if the party was voted to power, as also deport illegal infiltrators. The Chief Minister’s assurance that “everyone is a citizen of India” and that she will oppose the Citizenship Act till her “last breath” was sufficiently robust to impress the people of Bangladesh.
At another remove, Bangladeshis have welcomed Mamata for upholding secular values and principles. Her standing across the border is considerable, though Teesta signifies a dichotomy in the equation, one that has been overshadowed by the post-election euphoria.
Foreign minister Momen’s compliments delved on history. “We are grateful to you as you spiritedly upheld the values of Bengal, the spirit of religious harmony and brotherhood that Mujibur Rahman spearheaded”. His message was couched with an allusion to Teesta water-sharing as well. “Bilateral relations,” he said, “would be strengthened further and help resolve the outstanding issues”.
Implicit was a message to India and the ministry of external affairs. Teesta is scarcely a state issue; it involves the Centre no less acutely. Was this the reason why Hasina had to send another message after Momen’s letter, presumably to mollify sentiments at Nabanna? The foreign minister did not express a personal view. Hasina has been more diplomatic than Momen.