Border guards of India and Bangladesh celebrated Holi, a Hindu festival, together on March 12 on the shared international border, according to NDTV. This emphasizes the progression of relations between India and Bangladesh over the last decade.
The festival Holi, which dates back to the fourth century, marks a Hindu celebration of the triumph of good over evil and the beginning of spring. According to importantindia.com, Holi occurs in two parts. On the first night, participants light bonfires and gather, dance, and sing to symbolize the destruction of evil. On the second day, people toss colored powder into the air, completely coating each other as a welcome of the spring season.
Holi is widely celebrated throughout India, as approximately 80 percent of the country identify as Hindu. In contrast, 90 percent of Bangladeshi population is Muslim. Despite the significant difference in religions, the Border Guards of Bangladesh (BGB) joined India’s Border Security Force (BSF) in a Holi celebration on the Akhaura checkpost and other bordering areas of the Tripura state. According to NDTV, the guards tossed colors on each other and exchanged sweets. One Bangladesh official claimed, “Today BGB and BSF troopers have come together in the border and enjoyed Holi… I do not have words to express my enjoyment”.
Behind the colorful festivities, Holi emphasizes forgiveness and encourages people to meet and repair any existing ruptured relationships. It is the only festival in which all caste, class, and race distinctions are abandoned and everyone participates freely.
According to the Diplomat, India and Bangladesh have improved relations significantly over the last decade, with increases in bilateral trade and exchanges of energy. Bangladesh, originally established as East Bengal during the 1947 partition of India, harbored some anti-India sentiments and led to a weak relationship between the two countries. However, historical and cultural similarities, along with a shared desire to enhance economic connectivity with each other and neighboring South Asian countries, has helped strengthen the relationship. The ratification of the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement also served as an important turning point in resolving one of the most significant areas of contention between the two countries– boundary disputes.
Two years after the boundary agreement, the joint Holi celebration between Indian and Bangladeshi guards emphasizes the progress that both countries have achieved. The outward display of camaraderie highlights the diplomatic status of India and Bangladesh, and serves as a notion of forgiveness. This stands in stark contrast to India’s western border between Pakistan and Jammu and Kashmir, which the BBC says lead to significant tension and a militant attack in the summer of 2016. The conflict emphasized the division between Muslim majority Pakistan and Hindu majority India, in which Jammu and Kashmir fall in the middle.
According to BD News, Kanhiya Kumar of India’s Border Security Force claimed, “We hope to face together all formidable challenges in the days to come.” The Holi celebration emphasizes India and Bangladesh’s willingness to put past conflicts or disagreements aside, in effort to cultivate and sustain relations between India and Bangladesh.