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Sunday, April 5, 2009

Why Aren’t India and Bangladesh the Best of Friends?

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I came across an excellent article on Vinod's blog by the same title. I heard most of the points that we were put forward, for the first time and the article gave fresh perspective.

I am mentioning some of the points. But do read the entire article.

  • Indians tend to (wrongly) assume that because East Pakistan revolted against West Pakistani domination, it has given up its aspiration to be an Islamic country. Bangladesh is doubtless proud of its Bengali culture, but it never gave up its Islamic character either.
  • Sheikh Mujib-ur Rahman, the father of the Bangladeshi nation, was a member of the All India Muslim Students Federation since 1940. Mujib-ur Rahman was very close to Huseyn Suhrawardy, a leading member of the Bengal Muslim League, who worked actively for the cause of Pakistan. Mujib-ur Rahman was based in Kolkata in 1946, working under Suhrawardy’s guidance, when the Muslim League organised Direct Action Day, leading to large scale communal violence and deaths.
  • Even in 1965 when India and Pakistan went to war, East Pakistan stood fast with West Pakistan though they complained that the Pakistani army was not present in strength in East Pakistan to defend it in case of an attack by India.
  • Even when the Pakistani army was systematically murdering hundreds of thousands of civilians, many thousands of Bengalis collaborated with the Pakistani army. Doubtless such people were fired by their Islamic zeal, which made them want Pakistan to remain unified as a single Islamic nation.
  • Soon after independence, Bangladesh sought membership of the Organisation of Islamic Conference (OIC) and the Islamic Development Bank.
  • In 1974, less than 3 years after independence, Mujib-ur Rahman made a trip to Lahore to attend an OIC conference and patch up ties with Pakistan. After Zia-ur Rahman came to power, Bangladesh moved much further into the Islamic camp.
  • Even now, Bangladesh has an Islamic fundamentalist base which fights for stronger ties with Pakistan and other Islamic states, rather than with India.It is wrong to assume that this core group of Islamic fundamentalists is something new. Bangladesh always had this hardcore chunk, for without them, East Bengal would not have voted to break off from West Bengal and the rest of India.
  • Disaproportionate number of victims of the pogrom in East Pakistan were Hindus. Currently Hindus account for around 10% of Bangladesh’s population, as opposed to around 28% in 1941 and approximately 15% before the Pakistani army pogrom.
  • Another reason for the average Bangladeshi on the street to hate India is India’s treatment of Bangladeshi immigrants. As we all know, immigrant inflows and outflows are dictated largely by supply and demand. Poverty stricken Bangladesh has a large number of people willing to work very hard just to make enough to eat two square meals a day. India, despite its poverty and other problems, has many areas where an individual willing to work hard can make an honest living.
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