Some time ago, I posted about what to do in Bangladesh. Of course, that was addressed to diaspora kids (at heart, if not literally). Dhaka Shohor’s adventures made me think about the subject again, with foreigners rather than Deshis in mind. What would I suggest to any foreign friend?
I’ve played host to Desi friends in the past. I had taken them to the historically relevant places in and around Dhaka — Lalbagh Fort and Ahsan Manzil, Shaheed Minar and the National Memmorial, Dhaka University and Ramna, Liberation War Museum and Dhanmondi 32. I had taken them to the eateries — Nirob Hotel and New Market, Star and Razzaque. I had even bought them Economist from the footpath.
Had they stayed longer, I’d probably recommend them Sylhet, Chittagong Hills, and the Sunderbans.
And I would try to organise a crossing of the Padma or Jamuna during a full moon.
But what about if I was advising a Firangi friend? Why would any westerner want to go to Bangladesh?
Our political and chattering classes went into frenzy in January when the Prime Minister visited India. On the one hand, there was a lot of hai hai — the country was being sold, sovereignty was going to be lost, we are one step away from servitude. On the other hand, there was the hoi hoi brigade who claimed that the visit marked a paradigm shift, the beginning of a new dawn, which would bring unprecedented benefits. My post noting that there was nothing in the public domain to believe either the hai hai or hoi hoi hypes came under fire from both sides.
One particular hoi hoi criticism raised a possibility that I hadn’t consider earlier. This is the ‘qualified hoi hoi thesis’, which says that: the PM’s visit did mark something special, but its benefits to Bangladesh would become apparent only over time, and not right away. Particularly, the thesis holds that the trip ‘has laid a firm foundation for resolving the major outstanding issues from the Indian side’.
In January, I said this about how we would know if the thesis was right:
Well, a Joint River Committee meeting is scheduled for the first quarter of 2010. Presumably if the Indians are ready to resolve outstanding issues, then we will see some solid movements in this meeting? Not just promises to resolve river-related issues, but actually resolve them? Or may be some political commitment about the killings at the border? Or postponement of Tipaimukh Dam?
The ‘qualified hoi hoi‘ theory has a testable prediction: resolution of at least one outstanding issue within a reasonable time.
We have had nearly four months since the visit. How does the qualified hoi hoi thesis look now?
Over the fold, I consider the developments in three areas of Bangladeshi concern — border killings by the Indian BSF, sharing Teesta water, and Tipaimukh.
Of course, things could always improve in future. But as of now, there is still little to be hoi hoi about in any of these fronts.
There are 192 countries in the United Nations. Many of their leaders attend the General Assemby every September. This year has been noted for the first UNGA speech by President Obama. The Bangladeshi Prime Minister also gave a speech. As has been noted, Bangladeshi media chose to focus on the speech being in Bangla, even though that’s routine for the country’s heads of government. This post focuses on what she actually said.
About 20 para, of which only about half that the world is interested in, of which only one that actually made a strong argument. Madam Prime Minister, next time do better.