By Saikat Bhattacharya
Bengal delta is located to the east of South Asia. It is also called Gang-Brahmaputra delta which is also the largest delta in the world. At the same time, it is world’s most fertile land having above 1000 population per square km.
Bengal starts from Darbhanga (Door of Banga / Bengal) district of the Indian province of Bihar to Chittagong sea coast of Bangladesh and also from lower Assam to Southern part of West Bengal province of India. Our focus is there are elements of destabilization across all societies. The USA being declining power use them to launch hybrid wars against Eurasian Silk Road
Donglang episode that happened between China and India is just to the north of Bengal’s sensitive Siliguri corridor, a small stretch of land that connects restive North East India to the rest of the country. The Rohingya problem of Rakhine province of Myanmar is touching Bangladesh border.
Moreover, just near Siliguri in Darjiling district of West Bengal, the Nepali majority is agitating for the separate Gurkhaland province against Bengali majority West Bengal. West Bengal is a province with low population growth among Bengali Hindus and relatively high population growth among Bengali Muslims and also Hindi speaking migrants from Hindi heartland of India.
As a result of this difference in birth rate, East Bihar and North West Bengal are becoming distinctly Muslim majority while West Bengal cities are becoming Hindi speaking migrants dominated. Bangladesh, Nepal, and Bhutan are becoming a contesting ground between clamor of China and India. In this situation, we will identify the potential causes that may lead to hybrid war engulfing entire Bengal delta, North-East India, and Myanmar.
Importance of Bengal
Kolkata has been identified as an only port city under Maritime Silk Road because of the vast hinterland it caters from Nepal to East Uttar Pradesh and North East provinces of India. Kolkata was also the capital of British India up to 1912.
Before Opium Wars, Kolkata port was a major Indian port catering to most of its maritime trade. But after Opium wars, the importance of ports of Western India like Mumbai grew and Kolkata’s importance declined.
But since the first decade of 21st century, China is back to the top spot, Kolkata and any port in Bengal will see its rise too. But this rise of Bengal ports will definitely be disliked by Mumbai and other West Indian ports. In fact, Delhi-Mumbai based Indian ruling class will hate to see the rise of Kolkata or Chittagong.
The demand for Greater Nepal will spring up. So Delhi will never concede Gurkhaland. So soon Northern Bengal Hills may see the rise of Greater Nepal movement. Such movement will make Nepal and Bhutan even closer to China. Chinese authority have tried a lot to woo West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as well as Bangladesh Prime Minister SheikHasina.
But neither proved much fruitful for China. India still controls Hassina’s increasingly unpopular government and Banerjee in-spite of anti-Delhi and pro-federal rhetorics has proven to be too weak to counter Delhi. In fact, even after being invited in Beijing by Communist Party of China, Banerjee failed to go to Beijing since Delhi did not allow it.
The demographic situation of this region is also very volatile. In West Bengal, Bengali Hindus are majority 57% but their fertility rate is below replacement rate for decades. As a result, Bengali Muslim and Hindu Hindi speaker proportion in the population is steadily increasing.
Bengali Hindus being both Hindu in religion and Bengali in language acts as a bridge between the high population of the other two. As Bengali Hindu population is becoming aged and less in percentage, Bengali Muslims and Hindi speakers are becoming more important politically. This can be seen when we see that the present ruling party is based on Muslim vote bank and radical Hindu party based on Hindi votes is gaining momentum to become the main opposition party.
Rohingya refugees will not result in destabilization of Myanmar on one hand and on the other hand, they can become soldiers of Eurasian Silk Road. The weakening Bengali Hindu population also implied rising population percentage of Nepalese in Northern Bengal hills of Darjiling which is giving weight age to the demand of Gurkhaland.
The North Bengal districts are becoming Muslim dominated too resulting in religious tensions. East Bihar which is also part of Bengal delta is witnessing the rise in Muslim percentage in population and recent electoral success of radical Hindu party in Bihar really heightened the prospect of religious violence in East Bihar districts.
North East India has seen years of separatist movements and rise of Muslim population percentage in Assam is adding extra momentum. Radical Hindu parties now spreading anti-Muslim propaganda is adding a religious dimension to already restive region.
Bangladesh under an unelected government is becoming a political volcano. On the one hand, pro-India sections controlling media, culture, etc. helping to keep existing government in power and on the other hand, pro-China business people want to get rid of it. Rural area also has religious people who see India as an anti-Muslim state.These three forces may result in tremendous political outburst in Bangladesh in the near future.
Pakistan-Turkey-Iran must be actively encouraged to maintain refugee camps inside Indian ally Bangladesh. Bangladesh government must be forced to accept Rohingya refugees . The Rohingya issue in Rakhine district of Myanmar is resulting in refugee crisis and is spilling over to India and Bangladesh.
It is said that in the name of counter terrorism, Myanmar army is ethnically cleansing Rohingyas. Now Rohingya refugees can change the demography of Chittagong hills of Bangladesh, North East India, West Bengal. Already Jammu Hindus have criticized Rohingya resettlement in Jammu as it is changing demography there.
World Powers on Rohingya Issue
China in April 2017 scored a success in its quest for Belt Road Initiative when Myanmar government allowed Chinese gas pipeline from Mede Island to Kunming after three years of negotiation. Now China is hoping to get 85% of Kyaukpyu port and also right to develop a special economic zone.
So any chaos in Myanmar is not helpful for China. Moreover, China will always side with a stable government. So China will side with Myanmar government like it did in Sri Lanka, Syria and Venezuela. Russia also gained lot of arms and gas deal from Myanmar government recently. So Russia will remain with China too.
The USA is a declining power and so it always finds present situation always going against it. So the USA needs to destabilize the existing equilibrium. In Myanmar too, USA did not miss the chance to raise Rohingya issue in United Nations Security Council which China and Russia vetoed every time. USA may support different Rohingya elements which seek liberation from Myanmar and can create a permanent chaos in the region which will only create problems for China’s projects.
India’s present radical Hindu government will definitely side with Myanmar government due to three reasons. One, radical Hindu support base will not support pro Rohingya Muslim stand; two, chaos in the region can result in change of demography in favor of radical Muslims in not only North East India or West Bengal but also its ally Bangladesh and three, India will not want to leave Myanmar government completely dependent on Chinese support.
Rohingyas may stir demand for independent Kurdistan across Turkey, Syria, Iraq and Iran, Sunni Turkey and Shite Iran may not take the risk of supporting independent Arakan (!) Iran-Turkey authorities are also showing solidarity for Rohingya Muslims. If they take the matter seriously, then Rohingya issue can have huge potential to really change the global geopolitics.
After Syrian episode, China, Russia, Iran, and Turkey are coming together to form Eurasian Silk Road. China and Russia’s too much pro-Myanmar position may cause the rift in this unity. But since favoring independent Arakan for Rohingyas may stir demand for independent Kurdistan across Turkey, Syria, Iraq, and Iran. Sunni Turkey and Shite Iran may not take the risk of supporting independent Arakan. But Rohingya issue may antagonize a huge global Muslim population from China and Russia. Already Chechens protested Russian government’s role on the issue.
How Should Multipolar Allies Act? China supported Lanka government against Tamil separatist movement. China and Russia stood firm for Assad and Maduro. In case of Myanmar, China-Russia must ensure the stability of Myanmar government but at the same time must see Rohingya issue from the humanitarian point. Pakistan-Turkey-Iran must be actively encouraged to maintain refugee camps inside Indian ally Bangladesh.
Bangladesh government must be forced to accept Rohingya refugees. Rohingya refugees must also get rehabilitation in Muslim majority districts in Assam, West Bengal, and East Bihar. Thus Rohingya refugees will not result in destabilization of Myanmar on one hand and on the other hand, they can become soldiers of Eurasian Silk Road. So the point is it would be politically wrong to forget plights of Rohingyas completely.
Gurkhaland movement is the result of rising population proportion of Nepalese due to migration from Nepal as well as due to falling population of Bengali Hindus. This movement will only grow due to the two mentioned reasons in the near future. Till now Nepalese feel that moving against West Bengal government and petitioning to Delhi will make their dream come true.
But Delhi knows once Nepalese get Gurkhaland, the demand for Greater Nepal will spring up. So Delhi will never concede to the demands of Gurkhaland. So soon Northern Bengal Hills may see the rise of Greater Nepal movement. Such movement will make Nepal and Bhutan even closer to China.
There are elements of destabilization across all societies. The USA being declining power use them to launch hybrid wars against Eurasian Silk Road. Now it is time to launch counter hybrid wars on the empire and their allies. There is every chance that Eurasia will win such counter hybrid wars.