South Asia

Why did it take so long for the Bangladesh embassy in Chennai to open? Bangladesh Embassy | Chennai Chennai

Why did it take so long for the Bangladesh embassy in Chennai to open?

Bangladesh Live News | @banglalivenews | 25 Feb 2022, 01:09 am

Dhaka, February 25: Bangladesh's first embassy in South India will soon be formally inaugurated in Chennai, the capital of Tamil Nadu.

A few months ago, however, the embassy started functioning from the temporary apartment. On wednesday, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen went to Chennai and reviewed the progress of the work. The new embassy will be of great use to millions of Bangladeshis who go to South India every year for medical needs and also from there Indians who come to Bangladesh to work in the readymade garments or IT sector, according to diplomatic sources in the two countries.

But the fact of the matter is that Bangladesh could not start this deputy high commission for a long time due to the lack of clearance from the Tamil Nadu government.

Bangladesh's high commissioner to Delhi, Muhammad Imran, however, said: "I don't think it's too late. Had it not been for the Covid-19 pandemic, it would have happened earlier. Apart from that, there were some financial problems."

In fact, even before Covid-19, most of the 17 to 18 lakh Bangladeshi nationals who came to India every year, visited hospitals in cities in cities like Chennai, Vellore, Bangalore or Hyderabad.

As Bangladesh did not have any diplomatic presence in the south of the Vindhya mountain, the citizens of that country had to suffer a lot for so long.

Mohammad Jahedul Islam, a resident of Dhaka, who regularly travels to Chennai for the treatment of himself and his relatives and friends, has welcomed the initiative to set up a deputy high commission of Bangladesh there.

Mr Islam told the BBC, "When we go to Chennai, the people of our country have a lot of language problems. Many people don't know where to go, what to do. If our own embassy at that place can help Bangladeshi nationals, give advice on which hospital or which doctor to go to – then it will be very helpful."

"Apart from that, nowadays there are e-passes, air facilities, etc., and you have to download numerous apps to travel to India - if they are not right, they misbehave with passengers after landing at Chennai airport," Mr Islam added.

He believes that if Bangladesh has its own mission in Chennai, such sufferings will be greatly reduced.

The Bangladesh government took the initiative to open its own embassy in Chennai a few years ago – but in the end, it was too late to implement it.

According to the BBC, even after the clearance from the central government of India, Navy and the Coast Guard, the Tamil Nadu government had been pending for a long time.

India's foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla had also held a meeting with the previous AIADMK government in the state on the issue – but even then, the problem wasn't resolved.

Speaking on the issue, senior journalist Gautam Lahiri said, "If the embassy is opened, maybe a large number of Bangladeshis will come to Tamil Nadu. The state government doesn't know much about Bangladesh."

"Apart from that, there was also a political reason – notice that the obstacle came under the AIADMK government. When Panneerselvam of their party became the chief minister, his government was supported by the BJP. At that time, Harsh Shringla could not do much even after meeting the chief minister – because at the local level, the BJP had reservations about the issue."

"That hurdle was cleared only after DMK leader Stalin became the chief minister. The Tamil Nadu government also realises that so many Bangladeshi nationals are coming there - if they have an embassy, they will definitely come in more numbers and the economy will also be better. But there is no doubt that there has been a doubt that has worked among them for a long time before that," said lahiri.

The DMK, led by Stalin, came to power in the state in may last year, and within two months, the Bangladesh embassy in Chennai started functioning from the temporary office.

Although Bangladesh's ambassador to India, Muhammad Imran, does not think the embassy has been delayed for reasons other than Covid-19, he also admitted to the BBC that there is a difference between Bangladesh and the Dravidian culture.

Observers, however, say the reality of the economy is helping to overcome that distance.

Professor Sanjay Bhardwaj of the Centre for South Asia Studies at JNU in Delhi told the BBC: "Bangladesh's economy is growing the fastest in the whole of South Asia, with so many Bangladeshis coming in for medical tourism – so they had to have a mission in South India, and that's what happened."

"The government's hesitation in setting up a foreign mission in Chennai used to work earlier due to the problems faced by the separatist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka – but that thinking has also changed now after the LTTE was virtually abolished."

Chennai, South India's main metro city, has a full-fledged consulate or sub-embassy of handful of countries such as the UK, the USA, Germany, Thailand, Malaysia, Russia, South Korea, Norway and Sri Lanka. In that list, the name of the regional neighbour Bangladesh is now being added.