By Nadeem Qadir;
Increasingly Indian media have started to differ with the opinion of their government leaders on comments made regarding Bangladesh, especially those centering on CAA and NRC.
This is a welcome news for us in Bangladesh as we want our bilateral ties to grow from strength to strength by putting our minds together for solutions to any problems that arises as siblings of South Asia.
The Indian Express and the Hindustan Times in recent weeks published comments of eminent Indian scholars indicating that Indian leaders were wrong in their perception of Bangladesh and must rethink, especially the old mind-set that people from this part of Bengal found India to be a goldmine for employment or any other benefits.
What is more interesting is that the Indian Express commentator Swati Narayan mentioned even the win of Bangladeshi boys against India in the Under-19 World Cup saying “Bangladesh beat India at the junior world cup. So why would Bangladeshis en masse want to leave their cherished homeland?” Thank you Akbar the great!
“In the last decade, on a range of social development indicators, Bangladesh has fared better than India. Even on the cricket pitch,” she writes.
These rebuttals by Indian scholars are against a comment by an Indian Union Minister that “half of Bangladesh will come to India if citizenship is offered.”
Strange it sounded to us in Bangladesh, although we love to visit India not only on business or official trips, but holidays or shopping. My wardrobe is filled with Indian products along with those from Bangladesh.
Karan Thapar writes in the Hindustan Times that “Frankly, I blame Henry Kissinger. Way back in the 1970s, he called Bangladesh “an international basket case”.
“At the time, no doubt, it was. Television images of the frequent devastating floods it suffered confirmed this characterisation. So the description stuck. Today, Bangladesh is a different country. The world may be slow in changing its opinion — although I am not so sure of that — but we in India have no right to be trapped in the 1970s. Yet, that’s precisely what the junior home minister revealed last weekend.”
“Half of Bangladesh will be empty (vacant) if India offers citizenship to them …. Half of Bangladeshis will come over to India if citizenship is promised,” said minister of state for home, G Kishan Reddy.
Thapar retaliated “Apart from the fact that he was undiplomatic and offensive, Reddy also revealed that he’s ignorant of the true state of Bangladesh. Worse, he doesn’t know that, in comparison to India, Bangladesh is performing far better on many, if not most, of the indices that determine quality of life.”
“So when AK Abdul Momen, Bangladesh’s foreign minister, says, “Some Indian nationals are entering Bangladesh illegally for economic reasons”, he may well be right.
People migrate to improve their lives, and life in Bangladesh seems decidedly better. If you’re an Indian Muslim in danger of lynching because you trade in meat, accused of love-jihad because you’ve fallen in love with a Hindu, or in fear of losing your citizenship, you could easily be tempted to cross over to the other side,” Thapar’s candid statement makes all the good sense for any sane person.
In thanking both Karan Thapar and Swati Narayan for raising the issues and giving a factual picture of where Bangladesh stands today under the charismatic Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who has taken major challenges domestically and internationally to bring Bangladesh where it is today and even where it would go in the future.
Sheikh Hasina, on her part despite great political risks, has moved to cooperate with India in a large number of issues, which we believe should be recognised by the New Delhi leadership constructively as well as publicly.
Both the Indian scholars outline Bangladesh’s achievements at a very appropriate time when the two neighbours or siblings, as I like to term them, have issues to settle over CAA and NRC, but in particular random border killings which only increase anti-India sentiments next door.
Prime Minister Narendra Modi is scheduled to be in Dhaka between 16 and 18 March to join the birth centenary celebrations of Bangladesh’s founding Father Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Thus these debates ahead of his visit could be useful for settling these issues which were very minor in comparison to maritime and land boundary demarcations — a wonderfully done job.
India’s new External Affairs Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla, who I know personally and hold him in very high esteem for crucial contribution in cementing bilateral ties, is expected in Dhaka on March 1.
As we in Bangladesh wait to give him a red-carpet welcome coming to his “second home,” as he would say often, we look forward to seeing all thorns trying to raise their heads are uprooted permanently.
Both Bangladesh and India must remember not to go head over heels on any issue and maintain a friendship of equality because the two are the South Leaders. They must keep that position in eternity.
Let me remind the warning given by former Indian High Commissioner Vina Seekri that there were always elements to create problems in murky water as far as Indo-Bangla ties are concerned. She served a very tough assignment under the Bangladesh Nationalist Party of jailed Khaleda Zia and its ally the fundamental Jamaat-e-Islami.
Both the commentators mentioned that “Undoubtedly, since economic liberalisation, Indians have grown much richer than Bangladeshis, but in terms of quality of life our neighbour largely outshines us. India trails across …. composite indices from the latest Global Hunger Index to the Gender Development Index. Even on the 2019 World Happiness Index, Bangladeshis score better. While, technically, on the Human Development Index, Bangladesh scores marginally less, this is largely because the index merges income and non-income parameters.”
“My recent doctoral thesis sought to decode precisely this South Asian puzzle. How have India’s poorer neighbours forged ahead in social development? In the case of Bangladesh, the most prominent factor has been the country’s ability to dissolve inequalities through sustained investment in public services and the bridging of social and gender distances,” writes Swati Narayan.
To end, a quote from Thapar’s piece says it all “However, economic performance is only one part of the growing difference that separates India from Bangladesh. The other is more telling. To put it bluntly, life in Bangladesh appears a lot more attractive than in India.”