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Volume 3 Issue 2 | February 2010



Original Forum Editorial

The Next Step--Rehman Sobhan
Rising Tides-Sadiq Ahmed
A Precipitate Outcome-- Reaz Rahman

The Key Issue --Nazrul Islam


Photo Feature: Celestial Devotion--Jashim Salam
A Bold New Beginning-- Farooq Sobhan
Running the Numbers--K.A.S. Murshid
A Fistful of Takas-Jyoti Rahman
One Year On--Khalid Hasan
Nationalist, Anti-Nationalist or Beyond Nationalist?-- Shamima Nasreen
Ideas That Change the World-- Pial Islam


Forum Home


Editor's Note

The long-standing internal debate as to how Bangladesh should manage its relationship with India has always split along two key fault lines. The first of these is to what extent can India be trusted in its dealings with Bangladesh, and the second one is how well has the policy status quo served Bangladesh's interests.

I would suggest that we have spent too long arguing over the first point and not enough arguing over the second. The fact of the matter is that India's trustworthiness as a partner or what India's intentions towards Bangladesh are, is ultimately a matter of interpretation, if not opinion.

Those on either side of the fault-line are not likely be able to convince the other of the correctness of their point of view. More crucially, since what is being debated is, essentially, an interpretation or an analysis, it is not really an issue that is subject to being resolved, one way or the other.

A more productive approach would be to accept that different people have differing views of India, but to focus in on whether the non-cooperational or even confrontational relationship that the two countries have had over the years has best served Bangladesh's interests and will best serve them in the future.

When those who advocate a tough line against India complain of Bangladesh's poor treatment over the years, they are actually making an argument against their own position. The paucity of Bangladesh's gains over the years proves the point that a confrontational stance has achieved very little

The argument for closer cooperation need not be premised on the notion of Indian goodwill. It merely needs to be grounded in the reality that our long-standing adversarial approach has been a signal failure in terms of results, and that the time is long overdue for a fresh approach, something that we have never tried.

Ultimately, if it is true that issues such as water rights and market access need to be resolved, and they do, and if we also agree that enhanced connectivity is necessary for Bangladesh's economic development, which it is, then better relations with India are not a choice, they are an imperative.

In the final analysis, the argument for better relations lies in the sober realisation that trying to play hardball with India has got us precisely nowhere. The dismal results of this strategy stand as testimony to the sheer political amateurishness of its exponents, their lack of anything approaching a cohesive and coherent policy, and the fundamental unseriousness of their position.

Let the tenor of India-Bangladesh relations be judged by the results. There should be no other yard-stick used to measure the effectiveness of the prime minister's ground-breaking new India policy.

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