TRUE TO IT’S CHARACTER, INDIA NEVER LETS ANY OF IT’S NEIGHBOURS BE AT PEACE
Unlike the past wars, being fought through the traditional armies with tanks and machine guns, the arena of war has changed, encompassing all the spheres. In the modern era, electronics have made it difficult for the military to serve as the automatic dominant sphere in every war, covering all the land, sea and space domains. Now, war with non-lethal weapons can be more harmful in damaging the interest of a rival country or enemy. It will be conducted in non-war spheres, entailing non-military means and tactics as part of the new warfare.
New technology is being utilized by the new warriors to carry out all forms of financial, network and media attacks. Most of these attacks are of non-military-types, yet they can be completely viewed as equal to warfare actions. In other words, bloody warfare has been replaced by bloodless warfare as much as possible.
Judging in these terms, India’s plan for the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam, built on the river Barak is part of its most dangerous scheme of bloodless warfare, being conducted against Bangladesh in order to further harm all political, economic, financial and social spheres of that small country.
India had already started it bloodless war against Bangladesh when the latter had refused to serve as satellite state of New Delhi which had played a key role in the dismemberment of Pakistan. For this purpose, India constructed the Farakka dam on the Indian side of the Ganges River to stop flow of water to Bangladesh.
Despite the protest of Dhaka, Indian rulers used various delaying tactics to resolve the issue of Farakka dam. In this respect, Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) met many a times to settle the issue, but could not produce any positive results. In April, 1975, India assured that it would not operate feeder canal until a final agreement was reached between New Delhi and Dhaka on the sharing of Ganges water. Bangladesh was assured of getting 40,000 cusecs during the dry season.
After the assassination of Sheik Mujib’s on August 15, 1975, by availing the political unrest in Bangladesh, India violated the agreement (MOU) by stealing and diverting the full capacity of 40,000 cusecs of water. The matter was brought to the attention of UN General Assembly, which on November 26, 1976 adopted a consensus, directing the parties to arrive at a fair and expeditious settlement. On November 5, 1977 the Ganges Waters Agreement was signed, assuring 34,500 cusecs for Bangladesh. But the JRC statistics shows very clearly that Bangladesh did not get her due share during the subsequent years. After Sheikh Hasina was elected Prime Minister, she visited India and signed a treaty with her counterpart Deve Gowda on December 12, 1996. The treaty stipulated that below a certain flow rate, India and Bangladesh will each share half of the water. But New Delhi has continued violating the treaty by using more water of the river at the cost of Bangladesh. The JRC report of March 9, 2009 revealed that from 1999 to 2009, India intermittently reduced the water flow to Bangladesh.
A study conducted in the United States by Bridge and Husain, have identified Farakka as the root cause behind arsenic poisoning with groundwater in Bangladesh. A report of 2004 stated that over 80 rivers of Bangladesh dried up during last three decades due to the construction of the Farakka barrage by India. Some environmentalists have termed Farakka Barrage as the greatest man-made economic disaster of our time.
However, people of Bangladesh have been facing disastrous effects of the Farakka Barrage such as frequent flooding due to changes in the natural flow of the Ganges; river transportation problems during dry season; increased salinity threatening crops, animal life, drinking water and industrial activities; reduction in agricultural products and conversion of the fertile agricultural land in wasteland due to shortage of water.
While researchers have already been describing Farakka dam as the last of criminal calamity imposed by India on Dhaka, the proposed construction of Tipaimukh Dam in the neighboring Manipur state will prove as another Indian water-bomb on Bangladesh, giving a wake up call to the people in connection with its prospective dangers.
The Tipaimukh, a multipurpose hydel project on the Barak river is located about 200 km upstream of the border of Bangladesh, and where it is, recently, under attack in Bangladesh by opposition parties, students and environmental groups who have been protesting by saying that it could cause desertification, entailing other adverse effects like Farakka dam.
On December 16, 2006, India’s Union minister for industries laid the foundation stone of the Tipaimukh project. According to a source of the North Eastern Electric Power Corporation (NEEPCO), the work in January of 2007 mainly dealt with underground drilling at the reservoir site of the project. The Brahmaputra Board, a wing of the Union water resources ministry, drilled those sites in 1997. This year, New Delhi is fully prepared to start building this dam by setting aside its impact on Bangladesh, while neglecting protests in this regard.
In July, this year, a 10-member all-party delegation of parliamentarians from Bangladesh reached Tipaimukh and studied the project site. Meanwhile, in New Delhi, Bandladesh’s delegation led by Abdur Razzaq, chairman of the standing committee of the parliament water resources held a meeting with Indian Power Minister Sushilkumar Shinde who told the former that the Tipaimukh “project is not an irrigation project or a water diversion scheme, it is a hydel project and in no way will harm Bangladesh’s interest.” But in fact, just like the Farakka dam, Indian leaders have been verbally satisfying Dhaka by totally ignoring the drastic effects.
Some reports suggests that in connivance with the central authorities, the state government of Manipur kept all the documents relating to the Tipaimukh project in secrecy due to the reaction of Bangladesh. In this regard, even the proposed dam is unpopular in the Manipur State where it is being constructed. Barak river has been the source of livelihood for the Hmar people for the last many years and will affect the source of their livelihood once the Tipaimukh dam is erected. Hmar Students’ Unionhas strongly warned the authority against initiating any work without prior consent of the people of the areas to be affected by the dam. Nonetheless, villagers are feeling fear of losing their dwelling places along with their living ways—submerging some of the villages into the water.
Citizens’ Concern on Dam and Development (CCDD) has also warned the Indian authorities that if the construction of the dam is taken up without the consent of the people to be affected, they, with the support of other like-minded people, will block its construction under any circumstances.
Besides, damaging bilateral ties between the two neighboring countries, this new dam will especially target millions of Bangladeshis, snatching away their means of livelihood, forcing them to become internally displaced persons, and thereby worsening Bangladesh’s overall economy. No doubt, it will result in political, financial and social implications. In the modern era of technological innovations, Indian such a criminal act by the construction of the dam will amount to the consequences of a full-scale war, though bloodless in nature, but will make Bangladesh vulnerable to unemployment, shortage of products, reduction of resources, thirst, starvation and deaths including a number of inter-related problems of grave nature.
Bangladeshi people have already suffered miserably from the Farakka Barrage and cannot afford to see another one built to threaten them. In light of New Delhi’s previous records of dishonoring agreements on Farakka dam, Bangladesh, cannot trust on any new promise.
If India wants to meet energy needs of its people, it can better do so through its several nuclear power plants. As a matter of fact, India seems determined to erect Tipaimukh dam as part of its bloodless war against Bangladesh in order to affect millions of people adversely, and to destroy Bangladesh’s infrastructure without the use of a single bullet.
Best option for Dhaka is to cope this new style war of New Delhi through its own tactics of modern warfare. In this respect, demonstrations inside Bangladesh, contacts of their opposition leaders with the affected communities of Manipur, particularly abroad, organising protests in the US and Europe in cooperation with the environmentalists are essential for the survival of the country. All these efforts are likely to succeed with the help of media which has become an important tool of warfare, and can also be employed for defensive purposes. Such a reaction is necessary for Bangladesh to eliminate Indian bloodless war trap, forcing New Delhi to abandon the project.
Sajjad Shaukat is a regular writer for Opinion Maker. He writes on international affairs and is the author of a book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations.