Foreign Policy Blogs

India Signaled Dissatisfaction with Bangladesh in 2005 SAARC Summit

The widely read Indian newspaper The Hindu reports that the Indian delegation to the 2005 South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC ) Summit refused to attend the affair hosted in Dhaka because of long-standing tension about a series of terrorist events throughout Bangladesh in 2004 and in early 2005.

This revealing bit of information was found in documents obtained by The Hindu from the much discussed Wikileaks diplomatic cables.  The most interesting cable of all reports a conversation between U.S officials in the Embassy in New Delhi and Taranjit Sandhu, the Director of the Ministry of External Affairs, showed that India’s refusal to attend the SAARC Summit says “much about India’s Big Brother attitude towards Bangladesh.”

Anger and bereavement over loss of prestige aside there was never any fear that relations between India and Bangladesh would be severed.  The cross-border economic relationship between the two countries was and remains far too rich and fruitful for either party to stay cross at the other for too long. Yet there it was-a diplomatic row.

Indeed, “GoI [Government of India] remains unapologetic about the last minute cancellation and the resulting unhappiness in Dhaka…With no apparent sense of urgency to make things right with Dhaka, the MEA explained that the GoI’s decision was intended to send a message to BDG [Bangladesh government].”

Moreover Mr. Sandhu claimed that “in light of increasing intolerance in Bangladesh and ‘sustained anti-India sentiment’ there, India needed to bring pressure to bear on Dhaka.” One would do well to realize that in 2005 the BNP was the party in power in Bangladesh.

All this tension stems from India long-standing fear that successive governments in Bangladesh have and continue to let Islamist organizations free to go about their business, which typically involves chastising India and calling out against India’s supposed interventions into Bangladesh’s affairs.  There is good reason to suppose that that fear escalated under the BNP’s last tenure in power when it was aligned in a coalition with the Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami.

Six years past the fracas and the news of this row is clear proof that India has long been worried about the Islamization of Bangladesh-even claiming that the ISI-Pakistan;’s intelligence agency has a strong presence in Bangladesh. Certainly these cables show that the increasingly closer relationship between the tow governments can fall victim to events, though the rift might not be too wide.  The two neigboring countries need each more than the leaders of the two countries will ever admit to.



Faheem Haider

Faheem Haider is a political analyst, writer and artist. He holds advanced research degrees in political economy, political theory and the political economy of development from the London School of Economics and Political Science and New York University. He also studied political psychology at Columbia University. During long stints away from his beloved Washington Square Park, he studied peace and conflict resolution and French history and European politics at the American University in Washington DC and the University of Paris, respectively.

Faheem has research expertise in democratic theory and the political economy of democracy in South Asia. In whatever time he has to spare, Faheem paints, writes, and edits his own blog on the photographic image and its relationship to the political narrative of fascist, liberal and progressivist art.

That work and associated writing can be found at the following link: