To compensate for the recent hiatus — caused by microcosmic organisms with evil side effects — a double edition of trashes collected by the senses. Normal ramblings should begin soon.
Last year, I posted Rumi bhai’s video of Amar Shonar Bangla sung during the opening match of the Cricket World Cup. I thought the tone-deaf singing perfectly captured the instinctive attachment with the song that most Bangladeshis feel. But quite a few thought the beautiful song was ‘mis-represented’. Thankfully, no one has taken me to the courts over this.
Just to be on the safe side, let me begin this year’s Independence Day post with a more harmonic rendition.
It is a beautiful song. Nothing I say over the fold will remotely match what you’ve just heard. So feel free to ignore the rest of the post — honestly, I won’t mind.
The last post on this topic is now the most popular in this blog, showing how much people care about this issue. This post covers various aspects of the issue that seems to come up again and again in discussions. Some of it is going to challenge popular perceptions. Others repeat of what I’ve already said in this blog and UV.
Details over the fold.
Prominent Bangla blogger Himu has started a campaign to boycott Indian products on 1 March to protest BSF atrocities. I have no idea how the campaign is faring in the ‘real world’, but in my (limited) observation of the cyberspace — blogs and facebook — the idea definitely resonates with most Bangladeshis.
I personally wish the campaign success. If nothing else, it will be a worthwhile symbolic act. And symbols are important.
The thing is, I am not sure boycotting Indian products will have much more benefit beyond symbolism. In fact, if this is actually successful, the result will probably be more harm than good. That doesn’t, however, mean there is no place for civic activism. There is. And people like Himu can play a big role in leading that activism beyond symbols.
In January 2010, when Bangladeshi prime minister visited New Delhi, our media gave it an extensive coverage. In India, not so much. And here is Diganta’s number crunching, making essentially the same point more generally. As Bangladeshis await the arrival of Dr Manmohan Singh and company, there is once again a blanket coverage of India related topics in the Deshi media. The usual Indophobe crowd is up to the hai hai chorus. And then there is a much bigger contingency of hoi hoi party. Ignoring the hypersensitive vernacular media, let’s focus on the sophisticated lot in the Daily Star. Even there, the India relation is crowding out other issues. And the pieces coming out in that paper make essentially two (not mutually exclusive, but separate) points: it’s India’s turn to give (example: Shahedul Anam Khan), or we’ve got to stop being paranoid about India and do things maturely like it was under Mujib (example: Rehman Sobhan).
Here is a crazy idea: how about a cold peace with India? What do I mean by ‘cold peace’? Let me echo this excellent articulation by Diganta:
I personally think that policy-makers in Bangladesh should not involve in much of ‘friendships’ with India due to the asymmetry between these two countries. Bangladesh built its Garments sector without much help/opposition from India. The rest of the world (may be USA, Europe and Japan) still plays more part in developing Bangladesh than India does. Bangladesh should continue to invest in relationships with these countries.
India is a competitor of Bangladesh in global scale and it has more hungry people to feed. Bangladesh has little to gain by co-operating with India as India has little to complement shortages of Bangladesh – such as infrastructure, industralization or capital. The only area where both might co-operate for a win-win solution is IT/Software – something that’s never talked about.
At the same time, Bangladesh should not enter into a state of enimity too, due to the asymmetry mentioned earlier. Because of geography and difference in size and population, any kind of enimity may come hard on Bangladesh.
However, the political parties in Bangladesh are engaged to color any of India-centric issue with positives of 1971 or negatives afterwards. The problem is – the India-centric issues are ubiquitous – they’ll keep coming – as Bangladesh is virtually surrounded by India. The issue of river-water or killer BSF didn’t arise with other countries, but Bangladesh does not share rivers or borders with any other countries as it does with India (in terms of magnitude). So, more issues might send entire Bangladesh political space into a couple of downward spirals – one smaller positive and the bigger other negative – and every possible move afterwards might be calculated in terms of Indian gain or losses instead of calculating loss or gain of the country itself. Unfortunately, that will let India play even more important role in Bangladesh – something that Indian politicians want and Bangladesh people don’t want. A similar attitude towards India sent Pakistan into dire straits – first it engaged itself in a war in Afghanistan, then tried the same in Kashmir and at the end terrorism is back to Pakistan.
The ideal policy is “you do your stuff, I’ll take care of mine”. The need of the hour is an “easy relationship” with India – issues will be dealt with mostly transparent ways, if required, under International treaties and with suggestions from International bodies. However, I didn’t see any such moves from current Govts towards that direction.
In a question and answer session with the editors of India’s major media outlets, Manmohan Singh had this to say about the Indo-Bangla relations:
With Bangladesh, we have good relations. Bangladesh government has gone out of its way to help us in apprehending the anti-Indian insurgent groups which were operating from Bangladesh for a long time. And that is why we have been generous in dealing with Bangladesh. We are not a rich country. But we offered it a line of credit of one billion dollars, when Sheikh Hasina came here. We are also looking at ways and means of some further unilateral concessions. We are also looking at ways and means of finding a practical and pragmatic solution to the sharing of Teesta waters. I plan to go there myself. The external affairs minister is planning to go later this week. So, Bangladesh, our relations are quite good. So with Bangladesh, our relations are quite good. But we must reckon that at least 25 per cent of the population of Bangladesh swears by the Jamiat-ul-Islami and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the ISI. So, a political landscape in Bangladesh can change at any time. We do not know what these terrorist elements, who have a hold on the jamiat-e-islami elements in Bangladesh, can be upto.
There are more errors here than one would have found in the balance sheets of Lehman Brothers. Let me note a few over the fold.
The idea was to do a post on 13 January, marking the first anniversary of the Hasina-Manmohan summit. But January 2011 had been a very eventful month, with the dramatic re-emergence of BNP as a force to be reckoned in Bangla politics, the bursting of the DSE bubble, unabated border killings, and the furor over the movie Meherjaan consuming a lot of energy. So the anniversary post never happened.
But I still want to write about the Indo-Bangla relations — the idea is to do a number of smaller blogs covering different angles. The one today echoes what I said in January 2010: don’t believe the hype.
I think the past year amply supports my contention. Nothing really of substance has happened, in one direction or other, since the summit. A year on, still don’t believe the hype.