The Chief of Army Staff’s remarks on February 21 at a seminar co-organised by the HQ Integrated Defence Staff have triggered a flurry of responses. To understand why his comments are problematic, we need to unpack their content and place them in a wider context. Start with his analysis of the problem of illegal immigration from Bangladesh into the northeastern states.
General Rawat acknowledged that such movement of peoples happens owing to two reasons. The first is the sheer demographic pressure on the land in Bangladesh. The second, which he emphasised, is “planned immigration” taking place owing to the machinations of Pakistan with the support of China. Pakistan, he argued, was waging a form of proxy war: “they will always try and ensure that this area is taken over”.
Each of these assertions is open to question. The point about demographic pressure is well taken, though it is surprising that the army chief chose to use the word “lebensraum” to describe it: apparently he is unaware of the deeply distasteful association of the word with the policy of the Nazis in eastern Europe. More importantly, large-scale movement of people from Bangladesh is a long-standing trend going back to the late 19th century