Mukti

A cold peace

Posted in foreign policy, India by jrahman on September 5, 2011

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.

Okay, let’s unpack the above step-by-step. 

The first thing to note is how little Bangladesh matters to India. 

Ramachandra Guha is one of my most favourite chroniclers of India.  And his India after Gandhi is one of the best book on modern India.  The book also reveals something quite interesting about which of their neighbours the Indian punditry care about.   Bangladesh is mentioned in the book in 15 pages, out of nearly 800, with four being on 1971.  Meanwhile, there are 200 entries on Pakistan in its index.  Bhutto appears in eight pages, Ziaul Huq in one.  Mujib makes four appearances, none of his successors get a mention. 

Or consider David Malone’s Does the elephant dance? Contemporary Indian foreign policy — a 400 page book where Bangladesh appears in 20 or so pages, slightly above Afghanistan.  And speaking of Afghanistan, here is a comparison of India’s assistance to Afghanistan with the $1 billion lent to Bangladesh (which, in the scheme of things, is hardly a big deal even in Bangladesh).

Any time you hear about the vast Indian conspiracy to subjugate Bangladesh, keep the above para in mind.  No one really cares about Bangladesh in New Delhi, except for one subject — security. 

During the last decade, Indian foreign and national security establishment did come to care about Bangladesh in a very negative manner.  It came to believe, quite justifiably it would now appear, that Bangladesh was either a willing accomplice with, or a passive safe haven to, forces hostile to India’s territorial integrity.  There is a very high probability that extremist groups in the Indian northeast had been active in Bangladesh.  And some rightwing pundits even go so far as to say that groups like ULFA deserve Bangladeshi support in the same way Mukti Bahini deserved Indian support — the mental gymnastics required for the self-professed defenders of the Bengali Muslims’ separate identity to come to this position given the ULFA’s origin in crass anti-Bengali Muslim xenophobia is a subject of its own post.  

However, all that is in the past.  The current government has effectively dismantled the militant infrastructure.  That was the right thing to do regardless of how it is perceived in India.  These militants and extremists have been nothing but trouble for Bangladesh.  Good riddance that they are gone.  Why don’t we leave it at that?

Of course, security concerns can cut both ways.  India did support two insurgencies against the Bangladeshi state.  But both the Shanti Bahini insurgency and Kader Siddiqi’s ‘resistance’ after 1975 are long finished.  In fact, thanks to Ziaur Rahman’s adroit diplomacy, India abandoned both ventures over three decades ago.  If India were to play funny games again, why can’t Zia’s policy be repeated?

So it seems to me that at least as far as security is concerned, a ‘cold peace’ is perfectly fine.  What are the other big issues?  Trade?  Transit?  Water? 

Diganta’s comment above deals with the trade issue directly.  Bangladesh has built a strong export industry without access to the Indian market.  Exports held up remarkably well during the Great Recession.  And there are further positive signs.  Access to the Indian market will be useful.  If it doesn’t happen, will it be a big deal?

In fact, given the general indifference towards Bangladesh in the Indian bureaucracy, regardless of whatever piece of paper the two prime ministers sign, I’d expect very little progress on the ground.  But again I ask, what will it matter if trade with India is sluggish? 

And more controversially, let me contend that a variation of the same basic point holds when it comes to water.  India is upstream, it has been unilaterally diverting water away from us.  We may sign a deal that gives us something.  There is a lot of chatter about a deal on Teesta.  Here is a good primer on the subject, which can be used as a benchmark about what’s a fair deal.  But whatever deal is signed, given Indian constitution, its implementation will be problematic if West Bengal Mamata Banerjee is not involved.  Meanwhile, China may well build dams further upstream, ignoring both India and Bangladesh, making any deal — fair or unfair — completely redundant.  And let’s not even raise the spectre of climate change.

As for transit, well, what’s there to say beyond what I’ve said here — don’t let anyone fool you, it’s not a big deal.

That leaves two other issues — maritime border and border killing.  Here is a good primer of the first issue, which is not even going to be raised during Dr Singh’s visit.  And that’s probably fine.  As Diganta says, if an issue cannot be resolved bilaterally, Bangladesh should take it to international arena.  That’s what’s happening with the maritime boundary issue.

The problem, however, is with the person chosen to represent Bangladesh.  In fact, much more worrying than ‘the threat to sovereignty from transit’ is the sheer nepotism involved in cases like that Mr Tawfiq Nawaz.  And sadly the problem is by no means limited to this case. 

But that’s the thing — nepotism and incompetence is endemic in Bangladesh, and it’s not just India policy that suffers. 

Which then brings us to the border killing.  And here we — private citizens, bloggers, journalists, activists — can play a role.  And I’d say that we have been playing a role.  Couple of years ago, this issue barely registered anywhere outside the rightwing Bangladeshi media.  Now the issue is well acknowledged in western as well as Indian media.  And Indian government has been forced into acting. 

Again, don’t expect a miracle.  People will continue to die.  But at least partly through our collective actions, from both sides of the border, the death toll could be kept to a minimum.

It’s interesting that the latest Economist piece on Bangladesh hasn’t caused much storm in Dhaka.  Here is what they think is being aimed for:

Both countries are attempting to establish ties that West and East Germany were able to take for granted even at the height of the Cold War: an undisputed international border; only infrequent border killings; and a well-established transit system for trains, goods and passengers—income from which helped the poorer country to pay its bills.

A cold peace with ‘only infrequent border killings’ will be just fine.  Let’s stop being fooled by the hoi hoi and hai hai parties, and work towards that.

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20 Responses

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  1. Rumi said, on September 6, 2011 at 8:11 am

    Did you write this post during BNP era? I wonder because the way you kept on saying ULFA as militants. ULFA used to be militants when they were being patronized by BNP. Now these same folks ( Rajkhoa et el), are meeting India’s top leadership, holding big rallies, getting humongous receptions as leaders of Assamese peoples’ liberation movement. And per Indian assessment, the term militant is synomymous with the term Muslim. Kashmiri militants, Palestinian militants, Chechnyan militants, Afghani militants. But Assamese militants, Jhharkhand militants, Nagaland militants, Chakma militants, Timorese militants — does not rhyme well.

    • jrahman said, on September 6, 2011 at 9:45 am

      When someone uses violence and militancy to achieve a political objective, they are militants. When they come to the negotiating table, they stop being militant. When they run in, and win, elections, they become people’s representatives.

      When ULFA was using Bangladeshi territory (you say ‘being patronised by BNP’), they were militants. And the presence of these militants posed a big threat to Bangladesh. Events of 2004-05 are self-evident.

      I think your view of Indians equating the term militant with Muslims is wrong. Assamese/Naga/other ethnic insurgents have been regularly called militants. Same for the Khalistanis, Naxalites, and the Tamil Tigers. None of them were Muslim. But the Indian view has nothing to do with the main point of the post. Even if you were right, and Indians were anti-Muslim in their use of the term, so what?

    • Diganta said, on September 6, 2011 at 11:42 pm

      Rajkhowa and rest of ULFA members are holding peaceful rallies in India after coming to an agreement with the Indian Govt that they will give up any claims for sovereign and separate homeland for Assamese people. Hence the ULFA campaign has de-facto over. Also, holding mass rallies doesn’t prove any popular support in terms of greater population because AGP, the ULFA-sympathetic political party is increasingly losing steam in Asom.

      • Rumi said, on September 8, 2011 at 8:07 am

        It is not the point whether Rakhoa et el enormously popular or fairly unpopular. The point was American style abuse of the term terrorist, militant etc for petty political gain. Yes a government can decide when they woild call one a militant and when they will call them freedon fighter. But independent commentators/ bloggers should refrain from toeing Indian government glossery.

        I still wonder how Bangladesh 2001-2006 made India insecure compared the proceeding and preceeding years. Yes there were some ULFA presence and possibly Bangladesh was one of the rtransit points of ULFA weapon supply chain. But what about Muslim militants infiltration from Bangladesh? A big portion of India believe in this. My question who are these militants infiltrating India to conduct series of terrorism? Where are those 127 or so Afghanistan style militant / al Qaeda training camps? Where did those go, who when , how dismantled them?

        These issues are relevant. How do you envision respectful co-existent/ hot-cold peace when one partner carries such a corrupt wrong impression of the other? In order for you to maintain a peaceful coexistence with your next door neighbour, you must first stop wrongly believing that your neighbor is stealing from your house everyday.

      • jrahman said, on September 8, 2011 at 9:46 am

        Well, this blogger means it when says ULFA was a militant organisation when it was operating from Bangladesh. Whether the Indian government uses the same term or not is completely beside the point.

        I didn’t say anything about the Islamic militancy. If anything, my understanding of the issue is that it’s Indian trained or linked jihadi militants (again, I mean the term) who had infiltrated into Bangladesh, not the other way around.

        As for the question you raise in your last para — that’s a very important point. Yes, the mainstream English media in North India (I have no idea what happens elsewhere) has a very skewed and inaccurate view about Bangladesh. Even when someone like Jagdish Bhagwati writes an op ed supporting Awami League, he makes embarrassing factual errors. Even the progressives at places like Kafila, who are generally sympathetic towards Bangladesh, have little idea about the political cleavages in Bangladesh. So, what do we about it?

        Here is what Mizanur Rahman Khan says in today’s Prothom Alo:
        ভারতের রাজনৈতিক মহলে আমরা প্রায় বন্ধুশূন্য। সেই দায় মুখ্যত আমাদের রাজনীতিকদের। আমেরিকায় ইসরায়েল লবি কেন শক্তিশালী, কেন ফিলিস্তিনের লবি নেই, সে জন্য বুক চাপড়িয়ে ফায়দা নেই। তেমনি ‘ভারতীয় নৃপতিগণ এমনই’ মনে করে হাল ছাড়ারও মানে নেই। আমাদের একেবারে অন্ধ ভারতবিরোধী গোষ্ঠীকেও ভারতের বৈচিত্র্যপূর্ণ রাজনৈতিক ও নাগরিক সমাজের সঙ্গে ওঠাবসায় অভ্যস্ত হতে হবে।
        http://www.prothom-alo.com/detail/date/2011-09-08/news/183811

        I think bloggers can play a huge role in this. Whatever any of our political ideology is, we will have potential allies in India (and that is true for even the hard core jihadis). We should make the effort to seek those allies. And the fact that this kind of alliance works is evident in the way the border killing issue has evolved. Dozens of blog posts, read and relayed around the world including Indian and western media, achieved what hundreds of fiery op eds in the vernacular print media couldn’t. There is a lesson in that, and it’s up to us whether we apply it in regards to other issues. If we really want to stop Timaimukh or open the Indian sky for our channels, the demand will have to be raised in India.

      • Diganta said, on September 8, 2011 at 12:11 pm

        Rumi – “I still wonder how Bangladesh 2001-2006 made India insecure compared the proceeding and preceeding years.”

        – It did. Let’s sum up a few points –
        1. 10 truck load of arms and ammunition caught in Chittagong. Subsequent investigations point to the fact that DGFI was involved in it and even a few Bangladesh ministers (Babar). So, it’s nothing but a covert war directly coming from Govt officials. More than that, a direct connection with ISI was indicated.
        2. Grenade attack on Sheikh Hasina – AL endangered directly. Again subsequent investigations concluded involvement of BNP leaders.
        3. The very existence of Banglabhai was repeatedly denied.
        4. Ramna bomb-blast attacks involved HUJI but no action taken against them in 5 years.

        These are based on reports made in Bangladesh media only and I think the are very close to being facts.

        I agree to your point of calling terrorists but that’s something globally “mistaken”. In my own opinion, if you are the first attacker to cause a willful civilian casualty – you are a terrorist. As per various reports, Armed forces of a lot of countries fall in this category and I don’t deny those. They are state sponsored terrorists, but so are the other so-called freedom fighters.

      • Rumi said, on September 10, 2011 at 5:58 am

        Sorry for the typos in the previous comment. My smart phone is not as smart as I want it to be.

        In response to Diganta’s four points.

        ULFA arms aide has alreday been mentioned. So all those training camps and militants trained and shipped to India to conduct terrorism — meant ULFA ( Who the Indian government is negotiating with now)? I am trying to understand why India would never specify ( or even mention) ULFA when accusing Bangladesh of harbouring them?

        Other three points are exclusively internal problems in Bangladesh. I’ll be hardpressed to believe that India’s intelligence agencies did not know the capability of Bangla vai etc. Plus Bangla Vai/ Shaikhul Hadis etc were nabbed by BNP government/ their trial was completed by BNP government and they were handed death sentence by the BNP government. I did not see any slowdown in the terrorism shipping allegation in India’s mainstream discourse even after near anihilation of Bangla vai’s JMB network.
        Does India believe BNP was behind 21st August? Although neutral political observers will say categorically that BNP resorted to utter and criminal stupidity in their dangerously irresponsible and negligent handling of 21st August investigation, there has not been too many non- hardcore awami partisan who sincerely believe that BNP directly ordered the 21st August bombings. Yes Hasina wants to implicated Tarique with the bombing. But it would be a surprise for me if this is also the official impression of Indian government.

        Ramna blast took place during last Awami League rule. After that bangladesh has been ruled for almost equal time by a BNP government and a non BNP government. Trial and investigation still go on. So I hope that is not the measuring standard of harbouring terrorism.

        Maybe, in a sense instability in Bangladesh is a threat to India. Question , how India will or has influenced events in Bangladesh to prevent a return of such instability?

      • উদয়ন said, on September 10, 2011 at 11:21 am

        Rumi bhai, where do you get that India never mentioned ULFA by name in discussions with Bangladesh? I think it was always very explicit, both through unofficial channels (press releases, stories leaked to media revealing details of closed door conversations as part of negotiating/posturing strategies etc) as well as the private discussions that, frankly, neither you nor I know about. Which is why denials from the 2001-6 BD govt were also very explicit. “No inch of BD territory used for anti-India activities”, “Paresh Barua not in BD”, as well as fiery speeches from Dhaka after India pressured Thimpu to flush ULFA out of its territory, “We are not Bhutan, don’t try the same with us”. As well as, particularly when out of power – both pre 2001 and post 2008 – statements by leading figures of the 2001-6 govt and its allies, equating ULFA with Mukti Bahini, freedom fighters etc. Mahmudur Rahman’s recent writings on the subject are an example – and people are talking of him as a future potential leader of the country.

        Here is an example of an Indian news report suggesting Indian govt gave a list of training camps which includes ULFA:

        http://www.expressindia.com/news/fullstory.php?newsid=16671 – ” …The list also includes … 17 [camps run] by United Liberation Front Of Assam (ULFA) …”. From memory, there were hundreds of stories I read like this during that time.

        If there was any subtlety in the public pronouncements and statements, that is because of the rules of diplomacy and the perennial negotiations throwing each other bones and face saving opportunities. The same rules which mean that, when the BD govt decided to change its national position on ULFA in 2008, ULFA leaders randomly showed up at the India-BD border as if by magic out of nowhere, and the Indian security forces miraculously appeared to be waiting for them, even though the BD govt I believe has yet to officially admit that they handed these people over or that they were ever there in the first place.

        On the other issue of labels and definitions, one doesn’t have to toe the Indian govt line, whether or not one is Indian, to stop and think whether ULFA or others like it (anti-Indian state players) are militants as per one’s own criteria. If an organisation is involved in kidnapping / murder of civilians (or incarceration / execution, depending on extreme play with semantics based on one’s personal ideology), blowing up infrastructure, bombing schools, killing children, attacking religious places of worship, threatening people of different ethnicity or religion to vacate their homes or jobs with the explicit scenario of murder / execution if they don’t etc etc I think there is a strong case to be made that they are not just political activists or social workers. If a significant number of people believe that such organisations are in fact not militant (they are welcome to do so), and if a major civilian-political-intelligence nexus in a country provides them material support and promotes the view that they are freedom fighters, then yes, those at the receiving end may well be insecure about the presence and strength of such players.

      • Diganta said, on September 11, 2011 at 11:17 pm

        India does believe BNP involvement in 21st August attack and 10 truck Arms case. The wikileaks documents reveal US also does believe the same – as Tareq has shown to have involvement with Bangla bhai aide.

      • Rumi said, on September 12, 2011 at 8:59 am

        Udayan, Diganta and others,

        1. I hope my comments do not make one believe that I am supportive of ULFA movement. The fact is that I am a neutral observer of ULFA movement and mostly interested in it’s implication on Bangladesh. What Jyoti says is very true, it is a hypocrisy when a rightwing politician in Bangladesh sheds tear from ULFA. However I see a similar double standard hypocrisy when our progressives/ left leaning folks are so dismissive about India’s indigenous peoples’ ( Nagaland/ Jhharkhand/ Assamese etc.) movements while at the same time very sympathetic to the demands/ problems of our own indigenous peoples’ troubles.

        2. Udayan, in world as well Bangladesh media, militancy meant Islamic militancy. Infiltration into India meant Muslim terrorists entering India to bomb Mumbai etc. Terrorists camps meant Afghan style Al qaeda training camps. Even in a very late stage BNP rule, after Ten trck arms haul etc, a small minority of very informed observers could read between lines of majority of India/ western press reports.

        3. I understand the rationale Udayan and Diganta presented about why India considered Bangladesh under a non Awami League government as a security threat. But I am still trying to understand who no one tells the Indian authorities that an unfriendly government or Ismalist friendly administration could fuel much less hateful infiltration into India than India’s policy of ignoring Bangladesh. Every single Felani effects much more than what Tarique purportedly could do. A friendly government in Bangladesh will be able to do little to secure India, of India keeps on it’s masked cultural blockade/ trade embargo ( by blocking our TV/ by setting up numerous layers of tarriff / trade barrier).

        4. I also fail to understand why it always takes a non congress government to earn something for Bangladesh. ( Desai- Farakka accord, Vajpayee– CHT peace accord, Gujral — Ganga accord)

        5. Jyoti, all the above discussions are vry pertinet, IMHO, to Indo-Bangla relations. And I stand by my statement and repeat that only hard-core Awami Leaguers believe that Tarique directly ordered 21st August bombing.

  2. Diganta said, on September 6, 2011 at 11:36 pm

    Thanks for posting such a big article on top of my comments. It’s actually true that a cold peace is better than fluctuating relationships. I think BSF killings are the sole issue that stands out between India and Bangladesh. It needs to be resolved as early as possible. For everything else, the negotiations would be on for years before there is any, even interim, conclusions. There are no fixed/statistical norm prevailing to resolve these. So, it will take years of negotiation before a treaty is reached. Yesterday’s transit-Teesta fiasco again reminded me of that. In the mean time, Bangladesh should continue to focus inside and it’s the same for India. I think neighbors need not be ‘friend’s if they are peaceful, at least for the time being.

    • jrahman said, on September 7, 2011 at 6:52 am

      Not only does it take years of negotiation, issues such as water or connectivity are ever evolving, and new issues always crop up. As such, any claim to ‘resolve all outstanding issues’ is just political rhetoric. Politicians will always try to put the best spin possible about their actions, and paint the opponent in the worst possible light. But we should not be fooled by the spin.

      That any transit deal would be worth little has been obvious for a long while. Regarding Teesta — Mamata’s action makes perfect political sense for her. She gets to take a ‘tough stance’, prove her credential as ‘fighter for her people’, at little cost to her. I think it was Tacit who predicted something like this a long while ago. It’s not at all surprising that the ‘game changing summit’ changed little. It would have been a huge shock had something actually happened.

      It will be interesting to see whether this has any effect on Bangladesh’s domestic politics. Meanwhile, Chinese are observing patiently — subject of its own post.

  3. Dilbor said, on September 8, 2011 at 7:16 am

    “Cold Peace” will be the eventual expected outcome in BD-India relationship. Right wingers are already convinced on both topics – (a) India will not or cannot offer much to BD, (b) Whatever we have done, we achieved without India’s support. Now AL needs to be convinced of it. I think the failure of Indian PM visit will sow the seed of that realization. I think that failure of India’s delivery will be the downfall of AL in domestic politics. Whole Awami hypothesis that India’s support is needed to take BD to next level of progress is ripe in Awami circles primarily and some were converted in new Djuice generation. This converted circles are finding out that incompetence of this administration is directly impacting lives of their friends and family (e.g. road safety) and this government’s whole basis of “India Friendliness” is no value if our big neighbour cannot deliver any substantial benefit for BD.

    On the border killings issue, it will continue until BGB starts shooting back. Need I remind you that it rarely happens in India-PK border, after all it is the same BSF. Until AL accepts steady state “Cold Peace”, our political polarization will continue without any fundamental platform acceptable to BNP walas and ALers.

    • jrahman said, on September 8, 2011 at 10:04 am

      The failed summit will have political ramifications, which deserves a serious analysis (including whether AL-ers will be convinced of the ‘cold peace’ logic from this fiasco). But I am not sure if the entire anti-AL right is convinced of the ‘cold peace’ logic. That ‘India can’t/won’t offer much’ and ‘we can/have/will achieve without India’ are two elements of the ‘cold peace’ logic. ‘India is not out to screw us’ is the third element. I suspect a strong element of the anti-AL right still believes that India actively seeks to undermine Bangladesh, whereas I don’t believe that to be the case. The powers-that-be in India simply don’t care much about Bangladesh, which means they can’t/won’t help us, but it also means they can’t/won’t screw us.

      On the border killing issue, it’s not quite as simple. Firstly, none of India’s other borders are as populated, or as porous as the one with us. Much of India-Pakistan border, for example, is desert. And there is simply not much economic interaction between the two Punjabs. That said, if BGB were ordered to fire back, BSF shooting would definitely diminish.

      But this raises the second point. Every year, 1.5 million cows, worth about $500 million, are smuggled from India to Bangladesh. Not just cows, but all sorts of other food products. If India-Bangladesh border were to resemble India-Pakistan border through Punjab and Kashmir, that would mean a massive shortage of beef (and onion and daal and egg and who-knows-what-else) in Dhaka market. I think far more than anything to do with Tipaimukh or transit or Teesta (or war crimes trial or corruption or 21 August or whatever), such a beef crisis would lead to whoever in power being overthrown through a popular uprising.

      No. Border lilling can be diminished through a concerted effort that raises the issue in India and the west. The government has a clear responsibility here. But we as private individuals also can make a difference (see the response to Rumi bhai’s comment).

      • Fugstar said, on September 9, 2011 at 1:36 am

        “…such a beef crisis would lead to whoever in power being overthrown through a popular uprising. ”

        Oh dear, petniti it is then.

        On the Subject of Cows, are they deemed Halal and are they part of the qurbani goings on.

        Is there a Cow Research Institute anywhere?

      • jrahman said, on September 9, 2011 at 7:34 am

        Why won’t they be deemed halal? They are smuggled live, and slaughtered in Bangladesh. Incidentally, Secular India legally exports $800 million worth of beef products, with Communist Vietnam being the largest market. However, Hindu India cannot sell cows to Muslim Bangladesh.

  4. Syeed said, on September 9, 2011 at 8:15 am

    Fug: “On the Subject of Cows, are they deemed Halal and are they part of the qurbani goings on.”

    – As far as I know, nationality, religion and charecteristics of a cow are not part of Halal calculation. Meaning, a cow with different nationality and with dubious charecteristics (like Ershad, if you know what I mean) is halal if its processed right🙂

  5. jrahman said, on September 12, 2011 at 7:21 am

    Rumi bhai/Udayan/Diganta, few quick side notes to your debate:

    1. The post said nothing about Islamic militancy in Bangladesh (or anywhere else). I don’t believe Bangladesh exported Islamic militancy to India. It had a largely homegrown Islamic militancy, with influences from abroad (including India). And this sort of militancy surfaced before BNP came to power. The attack on Udichi was in 1999.

    2. It’s not just AL-ers who believe Tarique Rahman (or some other senior BNP leader) had some involvement with 21 August / 10 trucks etc. As the recent Economist articles show, what the foreigners believe about Bangladesh is what they hear from the Dhaka elite. The wikileaks show that the diplomats believed in Tarique’s culpability. Unless one believes that the entire elite class of Dhaka were hardcore AL-ers, it follows that the view that ‘Tarique or his friends were involved, if not in ordering these, then at least covering them up’ was the common view in Dhaka. Personally, I have heard even hard core anti-AL-ers / BNP-wallahs harbour some nagging suspicion about Tarique’s involvement. None of this says anything about Tarique’s guilt or innocence. But it definitely points to a generally held perception. And if everyone from Kamal Siddiqui to Harry Thomas believed something, then why would the Indians think any differently?

    • jrahman said, on September 12, 2011 at 9:50 am

      Rumi bhai, of course all these points are very important. And don’t mean to cut off discussion by any means. Hope the debate will continue. There should definitely be a discussion about why non-Congress governments seem to be more friendly towards Bangladesh (though, the Vajpayee government was no more friendly to BNP in 2002-04 than Singh government was in 2004-06).

      And yes, I fully echo your observation about the hypocrisy of our progressives when they are vocal about CHT and silent on problems in India. But there is a slight difference. No one sincerely vocal about CHT has been close to power in Bangladesh, ever. Awami supporting intellectuals might have been vocal about CHT when BNP/army was in power, but they are silent now. It’s not the same in the right. Mahmudur Rahman was/is far closer to BNP leadership than any pro-CHT activist/pundit is to AL-leadership. So the right wing hypocrisy matters more.

  6. In India’s shadow « Mukti said, on August 12, 2012 at 5:58 pm

    […] in terms of foreign policy, I maintain that Cold Peace is Bangladesh’s best option.  And in terms of domestic politics, this would mean discarding […]


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