Editorial: She loves me, she loves me not

Discussion in 'West Asia & Africa' started by Rage, May 4, 2009.

  1. Rage

    Rage DFI TEAM Stars and Ambassadors

    Feb 23, 2009
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    This is a candid, nice opinion piece on the present state of Indo-Bangladeshi relations and their metamorphosis since Bangladeshi liberation in 1971. The author discusses the issues that act as a catalyst between the two countries and presents some solutions to resolving them, notwithstanding relations being on the upswing, in the form of greater magnanimity demonstrated by India apropos of water sharing, trade and transit tariffs, and a pursuit of a more tacit diplomacy that recognizes the Bangladeshi government's political constraints with regards to being perceived as 'giving in' to India.

    Inviting discussion on Indo-Bangladeshi relations, the benefits of recent improvements and overtures between the two countries and methods for their sustenance, and plans for course correction in the long run.


    She loves me, she loves me not

    By Misha Hussain exclusively for Dawn.com
    Friday, 01 May, 2009 | 05:30 PM PST |

    India's strong economy creates a sense of helplessness among
    Bangladesh's workers. - APP

    Dhaka-based journalist Misha Hussain considers the Indian elections in light of Bangladesh’s love-hate relationship with the world’s largest democracy.

    The recently elected government in Bangladesh has a special relationship with the current Indian administration. It was, after all, Indira Gandhi’s Congress Party that catalysed Bangladesh’s liberation and secured the freedom of East Pakistan for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Awami League. India opened up its borders, set up refugee camps, helped to train and arm the Mukti Bahini guerrillas as well as collected tax to ease the suffering of the Bengalis. Independence was India’s engagement ring to Bangladesh in a marriage of convenience. Despite a prevailing sense of gratitude, there are many who continue to raise eyebrows at Indian regional hegemony and feel that Bangladeshis are still paying off the dowry.

    The India-Bangladesh relationship began to sour in the mid-1970s with the erection of the Farakka Barrage. The dam, which was meant to run on an experimental basis to help navigation in the Calcutta ports, created problems in irrigation and aquatic life, silted up rivers and increased salinity, thereby threatening crops further downstream in Bangladesh. Over 100 bilateral talks have taken place since then to establish provisions to guarantee water for Bangladesh, but these were never properly upheld. Thirty-five years later, the water sharing of the Ganges is still fresh in the minds of the rural population. As Nadim Shah, a Baul (mystic minstrel) from Kushtia, puts it: ‘What kind of country denies its neighbour water?’

    The fact is, India still regards itself as the regional breadwinner and thinks accordingly. ‘Its attitude towards countries in South Asia was clearly set out in the Indira Doctrine,” says Professor Akmal Hossain from the department of International Relations at Dhaka University. This doctrine essentially argues that India can do whatever it wants, but no other country can act without the express permission of India.

    This attitude was evident in the surprise visit of the Indian Foreign Minister earlier this month, which went against required protocol and shocked parliamentarians. As recently as 2007, India started constructing the Tipaimukh Dam on the Sylhet border without consulting Bangladesh. Previously, in 2002, India made an unprecedented move (anti-dumping measure) to stop the sale of acid batteries from Bangladesh. This was later overturned by the World Trade Organisation, but slapping a least developed country (LDC) like Bangladesh with an anti-dumping measure is the diplomatic equivalent of wife beating.

    The fact is, India still has a long way to go. There is a disproportionate amount of poverty (India is estimated to have one third of the world’s poor) and the health and education systems outside the major population centres are as bad as anywhere else in South Asia. How can a nation call itself a democracy when an estimated 200,000 farmers have committed suicide in the last 20 years, 20 million female foetuses have been aborted in the last 10 years, and people remain unequal due to the caste system? There is a strange mix of pride and denial amongst the Indian elite, resulting in little room for criticism and a lack of recognition that India is still struggling - it’s the image that is thriving.

    That said, one cannot deny the immense progress that India has made over the past 60 years. With the exception of a 21-month period when Ms Gandhi had declared emergency, the 1.4-billion-strong population has seen a succession of elected governments. This uninterrupted political progression has helped to boost India’s GDP from 3.1 per cent of the world’s income to 6.8 per cent (three trillion dollars, purchasing power parity) – and there is a lot that Bangladesh can learn from that.

    India’s economy is so strong, its population so big, its military so powerful that it creates a sense of helplessness in neighbouring countries. Even in the market-leading garments sector, which pulls in over 11 billion dollars a year, Bangladesh is now beginning to lose ground. The depreciating rupee has meant that orders are increasingly being placed in India as the Bangladeshi taka remains strong. In addition to this, India-based companies are setting up liaison offices in Dhaka. Trading from Dhaka using Bangladesh’s ‘most favoured nation’ status means lower tariffs in the US and European markets. The shipment comes out of Bangladesh, but the money ends up in the India. For Bangladesh, there is nowhere to turn. The only platform for protest, SAARC, has been reduced to nothing more than marriage counselling for nation states due to endless bickering between Pakistan and India.

    No doubt, there is an inferiority complex that can be associated with any smaller nation. But Bangladesh should realise that it has a lot to offer in terms of fighting terrorism (both separatist movements in Assam and religious extremism), allowing transit to the Seven Sisters, and, of course, taking the edge off the threat posed by an increasingly unstable Pakistan. However, the lack of magnanimity shown by the current Indian government and its predecessors with regards to water sharing, the lowering of tariffs and transit to Nepal has left Bangladeshi politicians with their hands tied. To be seen as giving in to India would be tantamount to political suicide.

    Indeed, there has to be a shift in attitude from both sides. ‘If the Indian elite become a little more generous to their smaller neighbours, they will automatically have a spiritual leadership over this area,’ says Nurul Kabir, editor of the left-leaning New Age, an English-language daily in Bangladesh.

    India is also increasingly being seen as America’s puppet in the region and thus running the risk of isolation. ‘Go to any SAARC capital and you’ll find a significant number of well meaning intelligentsia who are anti-Indian,’ adds Kabir.

    For the most part, though, Bangladesh has mixed feelings towards India. No one here truly believes that a BJP or Congress-led coalition will do much in the way of improving the country’s situation and it is clear that the government is in no position to negotiate. Still, Bangladesh remains thankful to have a thriving industry that it can tap into, both officially and unofficially. One just hopes that matrimony doesn’t turn into acrimony, as is so often the case.

    DAWN.COM | World | She loves me not
  3. Singh

    Singh Phat Cat Administrator

    Feb 23, 2009
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    A missing excerpt from the author's original piece, not printed in dawn.


    The media also play an important role. Type ‘Farakka Barrage’ or ‘Tipaimukh Dam’ into Google and you’ll note the number of negative articles recovered from Indian papers – ZERO. They don’t want to print it, because Indians don’t want to read it. If you’ve ever watched a Bollywood flick you would never guess that there are poor people in India too. Perhaps that’s why Danny Boyle’s ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ was so hard to swallow and consequently flopped (for Bollywood standards) in the Indian box office.

  4. Yusuf

    Yusuf GUARDIAN Administrator

    Mar 24, 2009
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    I think our neighbors give us more credit than due. If we were that arrogant and our polity had balls then we would have not given up on one third of our land in Kashmir. Not got a bloody nose in Sri Lanka.

    Bangladesh's troubles have been compounded by the alternate terms of pro India, anti India governments. Not to mention years of Dictatorship. If Bangladesh had a stable pro India government all through the years, and not have an anti India stand it would have been better off.

    Our neighbors instead of making use of the size and market available to them in the form of India, have for some reason stayed away and remained wary of it for no apparent reason. They have unnecessarily felt intimidated and dug themselves into a hole.
  5. Su-47

    Su-47 Regular Member

    Apr 20, 2009
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    Bangladesh is one country that really ticks me off. They got freedom coz of us, we trained their people to fight the PA, and when they were being slaughtered like rats we offered them refuge, and all they can still do is bitch about India.

    I have met many Bangladeshis online and a lot of them hate India, believing India to be the cause of their problems. They conveniently forget that a lot of people in Bangladesh don't starve because their relatives have illegally immigrated to India and send money back. If they hate India so much, they should stay in their flood-soaked country.

    As if that wasn't enough, a lot of terrorists in NE India are sponsored, or silently backed, by Dhaka. If we ever support a terrorism movement in Bangladesh, we'll have them by their balls, but atleast we are above that level.

    I believe that India should fence and mine the border between Bangladesh and India. i know its not possible to fence every inch, but if we fence most of it, atleast we will only have to patrol the unfenced areas, with the fenced areas having light patrol. It will prevent this influx of useless illegal immigrants. Also, sea levels in Bangladesh are rising. soon the whole bloody nation will come storming into India. We have to prevent that. I think that the risk of an exodus of refugees is only second to nuclear war. A conventional war with Pakistan will be less costly than an internal war (not a literal war, i mean a problem of catastrophic proportions) with refugees.

    Lastly our politicians need to grow a pair of balls and be more firm dealing with Bangladesh. We should treat them as equals, and listen to their concerns, and address them where possible, but we should take a firm stance on issues like Terrorism and Illegal immigration.

    Then, i believe India and Bangladesh will get along well.
  6. Pintu

    Pintu New Member

    Mar 22, 2009
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    With respect all the members in this forum, and regards for Singhji for his update , I personally feel this is an example of usual negative false remarks we tend to hear from any Pakistani journalist , this is a link of Indian website of Farakka Barrage:


    and as for Movie 'Slumdog Millionaire' is concerned it is simply a film based on a biased angle that many western countries loves to view us, and propagates to depict us as impoverished nation, and that tradition and propaganda goes on and its a poverty porn , link from TIMES ONLINE: http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/comment/columnists/alice_miles/article5511650.ece

    if the writer thinks that Bollywood (I personally hate calling our famous movie industry by this name) don't depict poverty in India then he is intentionally misleading.There are many mainstream movies that depicted the Poverty but with kind human touch there, not Hollywood's emotion less stereotype misleading depiction and if he not mix 'Masala Movies' with remarkable Movies made in Mumbai.


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