Because of coronavirus pandemic, the entire world is going through a deep crisis. The Indians are also passing their days in utter frustration. We are waiting for return of the good days. However, every morning, I read the Bangladeshi newspapers from my mobile App Store through which I come to know about everyday death toll from the deadly virus. It is indeed a major challenge on the part of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to push forward the country by overcoming the great difficulties. In the political system, there is corruption as well as continuous efforts by the militants to carry on subversive activities. Businesses are also being hit hard by coronavirus. I learnt from an Indian newspaper that Bangladesh is better off than India in RMG exports.
The people of Bangladesh deserve congratulations for such achievement. This business has fallen down by 18 per cent due to the pandemic. Despite this reality, Bangladesh has done a good business in this fiscal year. Bangladesh takes 50 days only for delivery of RMG items while India takes at least 63 days. Consignment reaches Indian ports within 10 days while it reaches Dhaka in one day only. Moreover, Bangladeshi women have taken special garment-related trainings. Garment industry is located everywhere in Bangladesh. Bangladeshi garments have good demands in Europe and the USA. India should take a lesson from Bangladesh in this regard.There is another piece of good news. It is that trade-related complexities have been eased in Petrapole along the Indo-Bangladesh border. Five trucks have reached Petrapole from Benapole. Indian export to Bangladesh via Benapole remained stopped for a week. The reason is that the Bangladeshi businessmen had been demanding import permits. Bangladesh won’t let one way trade any more. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a letter sent to the Indian authorities in Delhi on July 3 demanded for both way export-import. All complexities have been eased following an intervention by Narendra Modi.
It is indeed good news! However, Bangladesh is yet to achieve its goal of a prosperous country as dreamt by Bangabandhu due to socio-economic disparity. After 1947, Pakistanis suppressed and oppressed Bengalees for 23 years. Finally, Bengalees won independence after a nine-month blood bath on December 16, 1971. Afterwards, 50 years passed by.
Today, realising the importance of the major ‘Strategic Position’ of Bangladesh, Pakistan and even China are giving Bangladesh and Sheikh Hasina a special status. The daughter of Bangabandhu is well-aware about it. It is quite natural that she would involve herself in making the base of Bangladesh economy on a strong footing which was once termed as a bottomless basket. Of course, it will not be done at the cost of the very sovereignty of the country.
Bangladesh-China signed an agreement for construction of the first ultra-modern terminal of Payra Sea Port at a cost of Tk 34 crores and 40 lakh. Realising the present role of India-Bhutan-Nepal-China, Bangladesh is now more cautious. As a consequence, Bangladesh signed a big deal with India for supplying cooking gas to India. Again India will get the work of building the Payra Port Terminal. As a consequence of Sino-Indian conflict, the Rohingya problem has got a new dimension. China might change its stance in the United Nations Security Council (UNSC). Because of diplomatic pressure created by Sheikh Hasina, India too is thinking seriously for finding a passage for Rohingya repatriation.
The Chinese Independence Day is celebrated on October 1 and a peace conference is held in China on October 2 every year. In 1952, Bangabandhu went on a state visit to China as a Pakistani delegate on the occasion of the 3rd Independence Day of China. Bangabandhu in his autobiography, ‘The Unfinished Memoires,’ wrote that he had been charmed by observing a disciplined procession of five lakh people. “The revolutionary government has brought back national discipline through new ideas.” Both the former Pakistan and China do not exist now. The Indo-Bangladesh ties also changed. Time and politics change fast.
The period between 1972 to 1975 may be termed as the honeymoon of Indo-Bangladesh relationship. Moudud Ahmed is his book titled: ‘Bangladesh: Era of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’ and journalist Enayetullah Khan in his newspaper, ‘Holiday,’ expressed their negative mentality while narrating the Indo-Bangladesh relationship in 1972. However, there will be diverse opinions in a democracy. Henry Kissinger of the USA is still alive. He was known as a pro-Chinese diplomat.However, the Indian government must realise that the relationship with any neighbouring country should not be taken for granted. China is doing its work. Pakistan is not sitting idle. India must concentrate on strengthening ties with Bangladesh. This relationship is not merely based on love or Hilsa and Rabindranath Tagore. Being a Bengalee of Kolkata, I love Bangladesh. But the relationship should be Dhaka-Delhi based instead of Dhaka-Kolkata based. From the professional point of view, it should be based on fulfilment of mutual needs and demands.
The writer is a senior journalist of India.
Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman