Making a departure from the usual length of between 2,500 and 3,000 words per article in Forum, we carry in this issue a crowning article of 13,000 words by Naeem Mohaimen. We do so in recognition of the valuable, thought-provoking and directional nature of its contents. Naeem convincingly critiques Sarmila Bose's Dead Reckoning and takes on her 'bizarre and shrill agenda of absolving Pakistan of allegations of a genocide' demolishing it in the process. He then builds up a case advocating a deeper investigation into 1971 to reveal the embedded layers of human history of that defining year in the annals of Bangladesh.
Nearly four weeks have passed since Indian PM Dr. Manmohan Singh's eventful, if a somewhat less than productive trip to Bangladesh. We have had enough of a cooling period to dispassionately judge its outcome and likely impact on future relations between our two countries.
The very first psychological gain for both sides is the pleasant lack of recrimination over the unfulfilled parts of the agenda that they had worked on, but evidently fell short of a foolproof way to yield conclusive outcome. If Bangladesh felt let down on Teesta, on the leadership level it didn't have to blame India, because India itself accepted it responsibility for the Teesta fiasco. The Indian political leadership, opinion leaders and media were on the same page there. One therefore senses a certain measure of maturity in handling post-summit ambience on the part of both countries.
An in-depth analysis of the media coverages revealed as a Bangladeshi academic and writer put it: 'the visit reflected a positive and healthy trend towards fair and unbiased journalism across the border'.
But was it 'a failure of negotiating skills on both sides'? This is the question that the professionals whose responsibility it was to do the ground work to lay the basis for agreement, should be asking themselves. That way, they can find an answer for steering future negotiations to satisfactory conclusion.
The border protocols and partial slashing of the negative list to accord duty-free access to Bangladesh products to the Indian market apart, the framework agreement “has introduced some new elements” to bilateral relations. For instance, joint financing of project for development within sub-region and joint management of cross border rivers have been stressed.
What has been achieved is not inconsiderable, by past standards. But Indo-Bangladesh leaders will have to decide whether they would rest content with symbolism or build durable bridges of mutually beneficial relationship in the service of their peoples.
Regionally, South Asia has the potential to become the largest economy after the US and the EU; yet, a regional vision still gets a lip service, remains a low-key priority.
Muchkund Dubey, the reputed former Indian external affairs secretary and a powerful voice for poverty alleviation makes a significant point: exemplary Indo-Bangla ties could have a region-wide salubrious effect.
So the dividends can be substantial if India and Bangladesh succeed in taking their bilateral relations forward to a higher level on a firm foundation of demonstrative respect for equality, sovereignty and non-interference in the affairs of each other.