The India connection

Posted in foreign policy, politics by jrahman on August 7, 2011

The Deshi chatterati is abuzz with two Economist articles (here and here — also see this post).  A few weeks ago, it was Manmohan Singh’s weird comments.  Are the two connected?

And why are Dr Singh and so many other senior Indian leaders visiting anyway?  Yes, yes, I know — long live, or victory to, Indo-Bangla friendship and so on.  But seriously, why take the trouble to come to Dhaka?  I mean, Dr Singh doesn’t need to sign anything as far as transit is concerned.  Ditto for geting ULFA leaders.  Surely no one goes to Dhaka for the sight seeing (my Delhiwallah readers, Dhaka is every bit as ugly as your newer suburbs, and has little of the charm of Lutyens and Shah Jahan’s cities).

So, what’s going on?

Over the fold are four wild, unsubstantiated, contradictory speculations.  The reader should take the previous sentence very seriously.  I have no inside knowledge, nor any reference.  But hey, what else is a blog for except to write one’s crazy ideas?

1. It’s hoi hoi time

When Sheikh Hasina visited New Delhi, I said don’t believe the hype.  But maybe things have finally changed.  The same issue of the Economist has an editorial commending India’s changed attitude towards neighbours.  And the Indian officials are accepting responsibility for BSF.  Maybe the Indian leaders are coming because they finally realise that better relations with Bangladesh is worthwhile.  Maybe we will see a major water sharing or trade agreement.  Maybe this time it will be different.  Maybe this time for hoi hoi.

2. Enter the Elephant

Whatever transit might be worth economically, there maybe huge strategic benefits for India.  Yes, yes, I know that Indian ministers have said transit is for peaceful purposes.  Well, India’s nuclear explosion in 1974 was also for peaceful purposes.  Soviet Union used to sign military pacts friendship treaties for peaceful purposes.  I am sure an India-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship and Amity will also be for peaceful purposes, particularly if the said treaty calls for multi-pronged collaboration to fight extremism, militancy and threats to each others’ territorial integrity.

3. Hasina ney bulwaya

Dev Anand didn’t know where his awara dil would end up, but Sheikh Hasina knows who her friends are, and who calls the shots in India.  The Sonia Gandhi trip was about sending a message to Mukherjee / Bannerjee / Krishna / Chidambaram / Singh.

Now, from Shammi Kapoor to Shahid Kapoor, no one has had any idea what their hasinas want.  What does Hasina want?  Maybe she wants the hoi hoi time, for real.  Or, may be she is seeing the writing on the wall, and wants an insurance, you know, the kind that India did not provide in 1975.

Whatever it was, one hopes Mrs Gandhi didn’t fall ill with some annoying bone from her hilsa becoming a গলার কাঁটা (yes, bad joke, but also a metaphor — got it, good).

4. Here today, gone tomorrow

The establishment support, that is.  The Economist correspondent gets his view from, among other places, folks he shares an over-priced beer with at the Sonargaon.  The people who can afford the over-priced beer in Sonargaon — the establishment — have had it with Hasina (without warming to her nemesis).  And she is aware of it — hence the need for the insurance.

8 Responses

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  1. Diganta said, on August 9, 2011 at 6:44 am

    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.

    • jrahman said, on August 9, 2011 at 9:11 am

      Diganta, spot on. I wish I had said this. 🙂

      I’ll write more on this later.

  2. উদয়ন said, on August 9, 2011 at 9:07 am

    “The people who can afford the over-priced beer in Sonargaon — the establishment — have had it with Hasina (without warming to her nemesis).”

    So what’s next? Another 1/11? But wasn’t one lesson of that experiment supposed to be, people at Sonargaon completely underestimated the pulse of gaon?

    • jrahman said, on August 9, 2011 at 4:46 pm

      He he, as one of those people, I have absolutely no idea what’s next.

  3. […] Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is visiting Bangladesh next month. The questions has been asked: why does he need to come to Bangladesh all of a sudden? Part of the answer may be that we are in […]

  4. tacit said, on August 12, 2011 at 1:50 am

    Forget any Sonia Gandhi-Sheikh Hasina detente. Rahul Gandhi needs to get on a plane and spend two weeks with Tarique Rahman to get some pointers about surviving a crackdown by an opposing regime and sparing your mother the worst of their attacks.

    Because when Prime Minister Nitish Kumar/Narendra Modi takes office, Rahul Gandhi is going to find that things will get significantly more, let us say, challenging. It won’t be in-and-out visits to UP jails any more. It’s going to be 1977 all over again, and Rahul Gandhi will have to face the same things his grandmother did.

  5. A cold peace « Mukti said, on September 5, 2011 at 2:16 pm

    […] 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 […]

  6. The Indian Connection 2 « Mukti said, on September 12, 2011 at 1:20 pm

    […] I guess I can turn to the speculative.  Over the fold is a follow up to some previous speculations.  Further speculations will […]

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