Indo-Bangladesh relations: View of a new horizon | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, January 17, 2010 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, January 17, 2010

Indo-Bangladesh relations: View of a new horizon

Taking the relationship to a new level.Photo: AFP

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THAT small is beautiful does not hold good in this world, not at least in the domain of international relations. In the new world order, it is quite natural that the nations of the world, particularly the economically weaker and smaller ones, will re-evaluate their development needs and revise their politico-economic requisites. Therefore, it is more pragmatic to think regionally than nationally for the obvious reason that meaningful inter-state economic cooperation would invariably ensure sustainable growth and development.
Establishing sustainable development cooperation in the impoverished South Asia, particularly with India, has been all the more imperative. Obviously, such a partnership may not only lead to a strong Bangladesh but also usher in a new horizon of economic development, regional peace and security.
The Indian subcontinent (India, Bangladesh, Pakistan) was once the richest region of the globe, not only in terms of resources but also in learning and culture. When the Romans were unable to solve simple arithmetic for want of a "zero" and the Europeans in general were in the dark and accustomed to a sort of cave-life, the Hindu sages of India were well-versed not only in higher mathematics but also in such disciplines like astronomy, chemistry, biological science and so on.
Thousands of years of pillaging and plundering, from Alexander of Macedonia, some despotic Muslim rulers of West and Central Asia to Robert Clive of East India Company and his imperial descendants, made this subcontinent a poor third world,. There is no doubt that after the Industrial Revolution, the British could have attained their imperial status only at the cost of this part of the world.
After World War-II, the British were no more able to hold on and Lord Mountbatten left the subcontinent in a precarious situation, sowing the seeds of discord instead of concord among the conflicting interest groups. However, much water has flowed down the Ganges, Padma and Jamuna since then, and India is now one of the giant economies with enough clout to sway international relations.
There is no denying the fact that, given perceptive leadership in India and Bangladesh, there are almost infinite opportunities for mutual development, mostly in the areas of education, culture, communications and trade. With assistance of India, we can develop our power-generation, ports and railway system, which may lead to FDI in our key industrial sectors.
It may be mentioned that the rail system in India is the second largest in the world, with about 62,000 km of tracks. Indian Railways has over 1.6 million employees and is the world's biggest employer. On the other hand, we may also avail such a vast network and sell our products in the huge Indian market. With sincere attitude on either side, the two countries can confidently look forward to gainful trade and development. There is no doubt that India-Bangladesh economic cooperation has tremendous possibility.
India, being the biggest country in South Asia, has a great responsibility towards its small neighbours like Bangladesh or Nepal, and should be reasonably considerate in dealing with them. If there is a sense of purpose, issues like border disputes, migration, trade imbalances, and so on, could easily be solved through normal dialogues. In short, India has to take the small neighbours into confidence and ensure their security and territorial integrity without interfering in their internal affairs. The smaller countries of the region like Bangladesh have, of course, to take on reciprocal responsibilities and must not allow any subversive activities against India.
Inter-religious and inter-cultural cooperation is another important aspect of Indo-Bangla relations. Senseless hatred has to be rooted out once for all and both India and Bangladesh have to play a positive and decisive role in this respect. The Hindus and the Muslims lived peacefully in this subcontinent for over a thousand years and they will have to live in harmony for thousands of years more.
Politicising of religion has vitiated the communal concord of the subcontinent. Therefore, no peace is possible unless religious hatred and discriminations are totally stopped. The state mechanisms must be secular in outlook, and ensure peaceful co-existence of all faiths in all aspects of the lives of their respective peoples.
It is widely believed that Prime Minister Hasina's visit to India has been upbeat and useful. The problems between the two countries cannot be solved overnight, or through a visit by Sheikh Hasina. However, things have started to change in favour of Bangladesh. We would like India to be our friend as it was during our liberation war. On the question of national interest, we should settle our minor internal political differences and display united and enlightened disposition, internally as well as externally.
Obviously, a $1 billion dollar credit from India for our infrastructure development, 250 megawatts of electricity, removal of 47 items from the negative list of imports from Bangladesh, combating international terrorism, organised crime and illicit drug trafficking, inter alia, are but good gestures on the part of India and could serve as a stepping stone for a lasting, meaningful and mutually beneficial relationship with India, the largest democracy in the world. May we not forget that positive attitude is said to be the sine qua non of a successful relationship and unfounded suspicion and hatred are thousands of miles away from it.

Hafeejul Alam is a former Civil Servant.

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