Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh.
The contemporary global scenario has multi-dimensional facets and this interesting feature stems from history, which undeniably, sets the pace for the present and future course of the events even though such a phase is also often characterized by aberrations despite our disliking for this kind of unhealthy trend. No wonder that the world affairs have its own charm and unique characteristics although the topsy-turvy developments impact the large canvass in varying ways. It is in this context, the regional matters assume particular importance and more so when it comes to bilateral relations. True, the world is increasingly moving towards multilateralism as inter-dependence grows for all rounds economic and social developments regardless of the strength and prowess of different countries. Basically, greater interactions among the nations have become a hallmark for present day quest for a healthy and happy society. Nevertheless, it is the bilateralism that counts heavily for determining many an indication for promoting inter-state relationship and in turn helps develop fraternity among people. As such, this aspect of the modern international behaviour is essentially a pre-requisite of promoting peace and stability, and this in essence effectively contributes to growth of an atmosphere conducive to desirable peace and tranquility.
The bilateral relations have special meaning for any nation since such linkages carry particular significance. Bangladesh and India, two south Asian neighbours, fall in the category of a pattern that is unique as far as the bilateralism is concerned. While every sovereign country has relationship with other nations - good or bad - the Indo-Bangladesh ties are something which has few parallels in the realm of inter-state relations in terms of uniqueness and rare ingredients. It is not only the commonality of history and heritage, but the presence of certain spectacular elements have turned the Dhaka-New Delhi ties into a relationship that is fundamentally different from many others. It is not meant to say that such relations are totally unprecedented, but the underlying stress is on the glorious history that has come to distinguish the bilateral ties on a different plane.
It is a matter of common knowledge that India threw its entire weight behind Bangladesh when the people of erstwhile eastern wing of Pakistan were engaged in a bloody liberation struggle in 1971.It is also known to all how the course of events in today's south Asia - formerly the sub-continent - have undergone especially in the last century. The emergence of two sovereign states - India and Pakistan - from the British India has definitely been a remarkable development. But the emergence of Bangladesh from the Pakistan represents a greater glorious chapter since it was achieved by much heavier a price as countless people shed their blood for this achievement. And, here, India played an important moral and political role, and eventually involving itself militarily in helping Bangladesh find its place in the world map as an independent nation. Bangladeshis were desperate for their separate identity as they found it impossible to remain with Pakistan for disparaging characteristics that united a nation and their victory against the aliens was a foregone conclusion. However, the journey was tough and arduous, and Indian help and assistance came as a great source of inspiration for the freedom loving people of Bangladesh.In this month of December, the Indo-Bangladesh relations come for discussions as a logical corollary to what happened in this month,1971.
More than four decades have passed by since Bangladesh came into being as a sovereign nation and Indo-Bangladesh relations- their uniqueness notwithstanding- have gone through ups and downs during this period. It is not uncommon that the sovereign nations will have different policies and attitudes on many issues and as such, the good and bad times in the bilateral ties are also nothing very unusual. But if aberrations take place in the relations and that determine the basics of the relationship, it cannot be called as healthy and desirable situation. Incidentally, such a pattern is often discernible in the Dhaka-New Delhi relations and unquestionably this does not augur well for the interests of both the nations
India is the largest democracy in world and this system of governance has withstood the trials and tribulations despite occasional strain in the fabric of pluralistic society. Definitely, it goes to the credit of that country that political and other crises have not seriously jeopardized the system even though it may be said that democracy can still function better if the true spirit of the system is adhered to more sincerely and steadfastly. Corruptions at higher echelons that have become a subject of public discussions in India - definitely contributes to weakening of the democratic edifice and consequently, public trust in the system wanes. Nonetheless, democracy is being upheld in India and this remains a source of inspiration for those who care for the representative form of governance. Although the system can be better served.
The quest for democracy in Bangladesh, by sharp contrast, has intermittently been scuttled when over- zealous forces sought to put the clock in the wrong direction. However, the nation is back on the democratic track and it is also heartening to note that all the eight nations of the south Asian region are now practicing democracy. There is some doubts about tiny Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which too is showing admirable sign of embracing the representative authority as the monarch himself is demonstrating willingness towards that direction.
It goes without saying that the form of government in different countries can be a very strong basis for cooperative relations and friendship although expediency and strategy also play a big role in shaping such ties among the independent countries. Bangladesh and India share a glorious history and that has been further cemented by the democratic way of governance by both the nations. But only democracy can not be the panacea for all round economic and social uplift, especially for the common people and hence is the need for comprehensive thrust for the economic well being of the people, particularly in the countries like south Asia, where many of them are mired not only in poverty, but abject poverty. South Asia has more than one and a half billion people and here the practice of democracy will be worthwhile only when the teeming millions taste the fruits of freedom as independent nations. The adage that political freedom becomes somewhat meaningless unless matched by economic emancipation remains valid these days and could continue to remain so unless the yawning disparity that exists in the society much to the dismay and discomfort of the overwhelmingly big majority of the multitude is minimized. As such, it is imperative that Bangladesh and India quest for creation such an economically viable society for the masses - nationally and efforts also be made at the regional levels.-while the task is definitely quite Herculean, what is important is the sincere effort and the commitment that must not be lacking at any scale. Indo-Bangladesh relations need to be strengthened and for genuine consolidation of the ties what is important is to create a win-win situation for both nighbours.If one grudges at the other and feels that the big one has been benefited at the cost of the smaller one, then the true essence of the unique relationship will be lost.
Secularism is one of the most important cardinal principles the for modern day finesse and sophistication in the governance of the nations that also impact positively in the bilateral and multi-lateral relations among the nations. For Bangladesh and India, it is particularly important since the bigots often seek to disturb the communal harmony that is essential for all round growth and development of countries that are struggling for progress and prosperity. This takes place in both the countries and there can be no slackening of this principle.
Indo-Bangladesh amity is the cornerstone of happy and healthy bilateral ties and all of us must continue our efforts in that direction not only for the bilateral interest, but also for regional and wider international betterment and welfare. But the bottom line is that the relationship has be built on a sound and pragmatic footing.
The writer is a retired joint secretary
to the Bangladesh government