Sunday, August 28, 2011

BANGLADESH: A Hero Returns Home

All weekend long the people of Bangladesh thronged into Dacca, preparing to welcome their beloved "Bangabandhu" (friend of Bengal). By Monday noon, hundreds of thousands of jubilant Bengalis lined the streets of the capital, waving flags and shouting over and over, "Sheik Mujib! Sheik Mujib!" Promptly at 1:30 p.m., a blue and silver British Royal Air Force Comet dropped out of a brilliant sunny sky and ground to an abrupt halt on the shortened war-damaged runway. Sheik Mujibur Rahman was home at last.

As the Comet's door opened, the first gun of a 21-gun salute cracked through the air. Then Mujib, looking thin but surprisingly fit despite his nine-month ordeal in a Pakistani prison, began a triumphant, two-hour ride through city streets to the Dacca Race Course. There, as a cheering crowd of half a million showered him with rose petals, Mujib enjoined them not to seek revenge for the 3,000,000 Bengalis slain by the Pakistani army.
"Forgive them!" he cried. "Today I do not want revenge from anybody." But Mujib also declared his firm opposition to Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto's hopes for at least a symbolic reunification of the nation. "Now I say to you Bengal is independent, and let the people of Pakistan and the people of Bangladesh live happily. The unity of the country is ended."

After Bhutto set him free, Mujib flew* first to London—where he stayed in the same special suite at 

Claridge's used by former Pakistani President Yahya Khan—and then to New Delhi. There he was greeted with honors by Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. In Dacca, Mujib's first major decision was that Bangladesh would have a parliamentary democracy on the order of Britain's, rather than the presidential system set up by the government in exile. He relinquished the presidency conferred upon him in his absence last April by the exiled Bengali leaders and assumed the post of Prime Minister. In addition, Mujib took on the defense, home affairs, information and Cabinet affairs portfolios, which will give him direct authority over the police and militia being formed from the Mukti Bahini liberation forces.

At his first official press conference last week, Mujib said that he envisioned Bangladesh as the "Switzerland of the East." It would be a non-aligned socialist state, he said, with a foreign policy of "friendship to all and malice toward none." He appealed to all nations and international organizations for help in getting the shattered country back on its feet. As for the possibility of war crimes trials against former officials of East Pakistan, Mujib said that he had asked the United Nations to establish a commission to investigate atrocities committed during the war. But if the U.N. failed to do so, he warned, "we will follow our own policy."

No Strings. Bangladesh, whose existence as an independent nation had previously been acknowledged only by India and Bhutan, was formally recognized last week by East Germany, Bulgaria, Poland, Mongolia and Burma. Pakistan angrily served notice that it would sever diplomatic relations with all nations that did so—a policy that will surely prove untenable as more countries follow suit. Britain, which has already promised aid to Bangladesh through the U.N., is expected to provide recognition in a few weeks. Despite the urgings of Senators Edward Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey that the U.S. recognize Bangladesh, the White House last week said that it was not considering the move at present. Presumably, the Administration wants to wait until Indian troops are withdrawn and the new government has demonstrated its stability. U.S. Consul-General Herbert Spivack avoided Mujib's inaugural ceremonies—the only representative, apart from the Chinese, to do so.

At the press conference, Mujib went out of his way to give special thanks to the American people who had supported the Bangladesh cause. Later, in a relaxed and affable private interview with TIME Correspondent William Stewart, he indicated his desire for friendly relations with the U.S. Government. "But they must make the first move. I want recognition; and if relationships are to be improved, then the Administration must recognize reality. I have nothing against the American people. I want aid, but there must be no strings attached."

Mujib added that he found his country worse off than he had expected. "Very few times have I wept," he said. "This time I wept. We have almost 3,000,000 dead. I am sure of that figure because my organization is in every village; they know who has been killed." Then, with visible emotion, he asked: "Why did the United States Government remain silent?

* Although an Air-India Boeing 707 was put at his disposal, Mujib chose to fly in the R.A.F. Comet, partly to parry the feared threat of assassination or attack by Pakistani fanatics, partly to avoid displaying so obviously his country's dependence on India.

Terms Of Connectivity : The Longer-Term View

Connectivity is a very important factor in human affairs. At all levels of life connectivity plays a central role in defining the quality of life. But connectivity comes in many forms and in many dimensions. Ipso facto connectivity does not confer much benefit unless connectivity is designed to achieve desired objectives.

That means connectivity has to be purposeful. It has to be beneficial to the seekers of connectivity. Whether it is the individual, or group of individuals or society or a nation; connectivity is very relevant and significant. 

Apart from the nature of connectivity the level and intensity of connectivity is generally determined by a conscious decision to engage a corresponding partner in the network of connectivity.

In an abstract concept connectivity with the Creator is the ultimate connectivity of human existence. But then many do not seem to be very much persuaded by the importance of that kind of spiritual objectives.

Life seems to be more real and more earnest at the mundane level where loaves and fishes are more keenly sought after and demands of flesh and blood get the better of connectivity. Spiritual connectivity is consigned to the forgotten zone of life.

Primacy of connectivity in material life somehow overtakes the inclinations for intellectual and human connectivity.

The type of connectivity that tends to enrich the total quality of life does not seem to make much appeal to political actors. Opportunities for material advantage and substantial financial gains attract the attention of political players, more than anything else.

These gains are measured more in personal terms. Gains of the political party concerned also count at the secondary level. The advantages that may or may not accrue to the country and the society is often of little concern, if any.

Connectivity in the transportation sector has been stridently pursued by India over decades now. It is natural for India to do that. It is in the national interest of India to enhance connectivity with its seven states in the north-east of Bangladesh. In this context of India’s national interest connectivity with Bangladesh is relevant and, in fact, a priority issue for India.

The one billion US dollar credit line offered by India to Bangladesh acquires its economic and political logic in this perspective. Credit means, Bangladesh will ultimately foot the bills for India’s connectivity with its own states separated by Bangladesh.

Indian goods, Indian services including advisors, consultants, contractors will naturally quality for funding from this tied credit line, consequently Indian business and industry will reap the initial harvest from this much publicized generous credit line.  Indian trucks, buses, train wagons and shipping vessels will use the roads, railway lines and shipping facilities built and upgraded inside Bangladesh with Indian credit. That is the more durable aspect of the transportation connectivity: physical infrastructure system built within this framework.
We Bangladeshis would not like to witness a transportation connectivity network built within Bangladesh with the money of Bangladeshi taxpayers (i.e. the final repayment of Indian credit) which will be for all practical purposes (at least that is how it is being widely perceived in Bangladesh toady) by India, of India and for India. India has done the homework.

Obviously, Bangladesh has not as it appears from very vague public statements emanating. Such decisions in Bangladesh are made on impulse by some leaders who feel beholden to India for one reason or the other. There are also some civil society institutions and individuals in Bangladesh who are more Indians than the Indians themselves.

These are the people loudly trumpeting the bounties of connectivity without being able to quantify the specific benefits, both economic and non-economic, that Bangladesh stands to gain from this deal.

India-centric transport connectivity will primarily serve larger interests of India, Bangladesh would have been able to advance its own interests if this connectivity framework was perceived in a wider perspective. Nepal and Bhutan depend entirely on India’s goodwill for connectivity with Bangladesh.

The supporters of India’s connectivity framework involving Bangladesh seem to be making a big deal about connectivity with Nepal and Bhutan. Apart from a very small volume of goods likely to be covered by such connectivity with Nepal and Bhutan, one needs to keep in mind India can any time throttle or thwart the flow of goods in more ways than one.

Connectivity with Myanmar, Thailand and China should have been on the cards so that Bangladesh does not become totally dependent on India for connectivity in the transportation sector. It is very much in our larger national interest to keep our connectivity options open and wide. Any form of dependency is against our national interest.

Ever since the independence of Bangladesh, India has not given much practical evidence of reliability as a neighbour. The agreements signed between Bangabandhu and Indian Prime Minister India Gandhi are yet to be implemented by India. India’s myopic vision and assertion of narrow self-interest stymied the flowering of the concept of “Bondhu Rastra” (friendly nation) evolved during our war of liberation in 1971.

Bangladesh and India had a common cause in 1971. Both of us needed to humble Punjab dominated Pakistan. Together we did. The spirit of “Bondhu Rastra” seems to have withered away with the surrender of the Pakistani Army in Dhaka to the Indian Army. Bangladesh and India relations somehow got lost in the wasteland of India’s hegemonistic aspirations and paranoid pursuit of India’s narrow self-interests at the cost of Bangladesh.

National disunity and political disorientation in Bangladesh seriously sapped the national power and capacity of Bangladesh to engage India in a meaningful process of mutually beneficial bilateral relations. India clearly signified its preference to deal more positively with a particular political party in Bangladesh. Bangladesh-divide-and-rule policy of British colonial exploiters has been reincarnated in the form of divide and dominate propensity. Bangladesh’s relations with India consequently continue to suffer in all their aspects.

The euphoria of connectivity with India may be transient, if the other political party does not see it to be in the national interest of Bangladesh. In our political culture such major diplomatic decisions are taken by keeping the opposition party in total darkness. So for India is concerned, Bangladesh policy of India is based on a broad consensus between the major political parties. A change in the political power structure in Delhi will not mean much of a change as for as Bangladesh is concerned.

Our institutional weaknesses- both political and bureaucratic – are major hurdles in the proper implementation of bilateral agreements with India and for that matter with any other country. Our major political parties do not work together in articulating Bangladesh’s policies towards India. Still worse are the line ministries associated with negotiations and implementation of bilateral agreements with India. The process of elbowing out culminates in excluding the concerned ministries.  The Foreign Ministry is routinely excluded and sidelined by other ministries. There is no designated national focal point. In India nothing happens in terms of diplomatic relations without the Indian Ministry of External Affairs being a key player in the process. Sadly the story in Bangladesh is very different.

Reservations, doubts and even serious concerns will capture the public mind if the current trend of keeping the people in the dark about the terms on the basis of which the connectivity deal is being concluded with India continues. People could be keen to know how this sectoral connectivity will impinge on the holistic connectivity aspects across the spectrum of connectivity in political, cultural, media, trade and economic relations as well.

Connectivity in one sector cannot be evaluated in total exclusion of other areas that concern the national interests of Bangladesh. If the people at large are not very convinced that the current connectivity deals are based on terms that adequately  protect the interests of Bangladesh, the life or validity of the deal may be defined by the outcome of the next general elections due in about two years from now.

The people of Bangladesh need to be taken into confidence. Without the broad support of the people for the terms and scope of connectivity the deal may end up being seriously time bound and regime bound. 

By - Mufleh Osmany.

How To Wipe Out Indian Paws

Indian prominent politician, Dr.Subramaniam Swami wrote in DNA on July 16, 2011, “Annex land from Bangladesh in proportion to the illegal migrants from that country staying in India. At present, the northern third from Sylhet to Khulna can be annexed to re-settle illegal migrants” in Article Analysis: How to wipe out Islamic terrorists.Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs keeps mouth shut up as if it supports Indian aggression.

On the other hand, Adam Robert, the South Asia bureau Chief wrote an article in The economist in July 30, 2011 issue, headlined India and Bangladesh embraceable you“Ever since 2008, when the Awami league, helped by bags of Indian cash and advice, triumphed in general elections in Bangladesh,relations with India have blossomed”.Ministry of Foreign Affairs agitated and protested on it as they considered the information caused huge heart bit.(

The politicalprotest against Hasina`s hardline politics and administration becoming stone under BNP, even though opposition (pro-Indians) running rats to Indians through backdoors. Her pro-socialist ministers and MPs already lost the direction of Journey and are seriously criticized by general public and even threatened by the Awami league right wings. To jump the friendly relation in 4th gear with Indian government and Gandhi family,Hasina`s attempts of surrendering Bangladesh trend has already shaken the entire nation and rapidly forming mass up-rise after watching the sabotages.She acts with massive preparations thus her cruelty might break all the records of past fascists in near future. The architects of 1/11 are in action thus their enemy remain uncountable in power game and stand rock with RAW.

The dramatic appearance of BJP president Subramanian Swami and hiding signal of the Congress Chairperson Sonia Gandhi are significant for Indo-Bangladesh regional power game.Sonia Gandhi is playing escapist card as she is not Indira Gandhi to the Indians and also she is a European.The leadership inauguration of Rahul Gandhi might be properfor them in this circumstance. But Indian leadership design is to turn Bangladesha battle field. It`ll happen unless Bangladesh is ready for pro-active Defense.

However, It is known to all, Indian BSF attacked Padua village and Raumaree strategic areas twice in 2001 to grab during Hasina`s previous regime. But failed as Tiger BDR smashed combined BSF Jawans and Indian Army Captain in one battle and in second invasion surrendered the Indian battalion without killing, a heroic record in War history. Bordering Bangladeshi villagers supported BDR. Now, in 2011 Hasina awarded Indira Gandhi the top most reward of Bangladesh and 261 acres of Padua Village for bridging her family tie with Gandhi family and practical surrender to India together. Sonia Gandhi has received this political reward for her mother –in-law.

Let memorize Philkhana episode! The assault of Director General of BDR and other 56 BDR commanders and insulting their wives on February 25-26, 2009 was the prior gift package of Sheikh Family to Gandhi family. Mysterious successes of December 29, 2008 election magic and operation BDRHeadquarter in Philkhana connect the Indian target of eliminating Bangladesh defense and total surrender of Independence as per the Indian Military design. So, Sheikh Dynasty though widely considered the top of the traitor list to the public and also holdschief collaborating position to the Indian Army in North-Eastern region. Indira Gandhi and Sonia Gandhi are appeared as top Dracula.

The arrests and confinement of ex-DGs of NSI and DGFI are nothing but to keep permanent threat on Bangladeshi Intelligence and Defense.It has no relation with Awami-BNP-Jamat politics. The election magic in 2008, Operation on Philkhana, dismantle BDR, crushing Intelligence networks, set up RAW offices in Bangladesh, political war crime tribunal, recruitment of Indian trained Hindu operatives in the government, Posting Indian trained Hindu peoples in key positions of the government, Force retirement of patriot officers from government offices and Defense, crushing opposition political party leaders and Military transit to 7 sisters through the heart of Bangladesh and mistreatment with noble laureate Professor Mohammed Yunus andHasina`s childish response with Hillary Clinton are the different steps to eliminate the Independence of Bangladesh.

Ms.Dipu Moni, one political appointee in Bangladeshi Ministry of Foreign Affairs feels upset with the article that was published in The Economist. It appeared heart bit disclosure to the Government. And their Home Minister Ms. Sahara Khatun has been shouting as angry cat in jungle.Khatun is preparing to ban The Economist in Bangladesh. Perhaps it`s very risky though they don`t care. But they have nothing to do with one of the witness of election engineering that went from New York and stayed in Bangladesh to observe the parliament election 2008.The real documents are preserved to disclose in time.Indian intention toward Bangladesh is correctly highlighted through this recent statement. “Annex land from Bangladesh in proportion to the illegal migrants from that country staying in India. At present, the northern third from Sylhet to Khulna can be annexed to re-settle illegal migrants”.

Mr. Subramaniam has campaigned for Indian military strategy that is effective for terrorizing Bangladeshis. He perhaps, on the other hand, extends privileges for Bangladeshis to annex the 7 sisters in North-Eastern region states as because hundreds of thousands illegal Indian illegal migrants live in Bangladesh for feeding their families since India is separated. Mr. Bhaskar Roy and others know, these vast people have similarities in history, culture and food habits with Bangladeshis. As Bangladesh is not so large in size and it is over-populated country, it could be wise to re-settle those Hindu migrants in that vast region if any one agrees with this Indian politician`s policy of annexing districts of other sovereign country through the “might is right theory”. He has also attempted to misinterpret the Islamic history knowingly and purposefully.That`s to be considered rubbish or any one may research on Islamic History in India for correcting Subramaniam.

In such situation what is wise for Bangladeshi guerrilla freedom fighters and their present generation worldwide, as Indians are in attempt to turn Bangladesh a battlefield through the Indian Military transit or corridor? What the Bangladeshi general people should do? What should the Political leaders do? That circumstance directs two options; either total surrender under Indian colony or form resistance battle against Indian Paws on Bangladesh.

If the first option is chosen, then slaves have to carry out the order of Indian Masters for decades long.Otherwise, the last option isto safe the Independence. None can safe Independence hearing Indian songs and dances and believing Indian politicians.It has tocut off chicken neck to isolate 7 sisters from India or extend supports to the freedom hungers of that region, Shake hands with China and Convince USA-Europe for supporting the liberation struggle of the “United States of North East” and continue supports for their freedom, democracy and economic empowerment.Indian nation is a coward and follow fanaticism. They never stand like freedom fighter NetazeeSubash Chandra Bosh.

Mr. Subramanianadded, “Fanatic Muslims consider Hindu-dominated India “an unfinished chapter of Islamic conquests. All other countries conquered by Islam 100% converted to Islam within two decades of the Islamic invasion. Undivided India in 1947 was 75% Hindu even after 800 years of brutal Islamic rule. That is jarring for the fanatics”.

Anti-Muslim campaigns of Indian politicians are never new. These terrorist politicians are widely identified. Gujarati Chief Minister Norendra Modi is another central leader of their BJP that was ban to enter in USA till today and his USA diplomatic and business visa were cancelled in 2005.This fanatic and Anti-Muslim politician is widely accused to misuse administrative capacities in killing more than 200 Muslims and terrorize thousands. The high ranking politicians that draw ethnic killing designs in own country, the nation that tolerate such evils in leading their governance do one have to consider them civilized? These fanatic communalists are never be friend of their neighbors in or outside the border.

What is the theme behind the Indian fake Secularism? Just to eliminate Muslims and Independence of neighboring nations. Mr. Rajnath Singh, the President of Janata party made statement in July 22,2006, “I demand that after taking the international community into confidence, India attack Pakistan to dismantle terrorist centers, not only Pakistan but Bangladesh should also be attacked where terrorist centers are operating”-.Baratia Janata Party that ruled so-called secular India since 1998 to 2004.It did hold 138 seats in parliament and was main opposition party in July 2006 at the time of his declaration.

Prime Minister Mon Mohan Singh also sang the same Corus in Indian National Parliament in VJP voice at the same time and the communist Chief Minister Buddha Dev of West Bengal state join with them. Interestingly they all are united in their Military strategy against Bangladesh and communal fanaticism against Muslims.

But the Bangladeshis never accept fanaticism and communalism in their society. This society is liberal to all believers and never believes in aggression on the neighbors. It always protests against terrorism, fanaticism, communism, and communalism and never supports Indian Secularism (disguised discrimination).The Indian political leaders and policy makers purposefully misinterpret Bangladeshis as anti-Indian for vested interests. Indian tricky politics hatches Indian terrorists under state terrorism since India becomes an Independent state though it always keeps blaming the Muslims for terrorism. This is major part of Indian brain`schronic decease since it`s birth in 1947.

Hundreds of Bangladeshis demonstrated against Indian hegemonies and threatening to attack Bangladesh, in front of Indian consulate in Manhattan, New York in August 28, 2006 and submitted memorandum to Secretary General Kofi Anan in UN and Indian Prime Minster Dr.Mon Mohan Singh under the banner of Promote Bangladesh Worldwide-PBW. A freedom Fighter leaded the protest.

Indian politicians and political analysts are over smart as baby playersliar and liar game. They accusefor bomb blast in Bombay on July 13, 2011 as they need for their funny campaign against Muslim and any country as they like.

(1)“The terrorist blast in Mumbai on July 13, 2011, requires decisive soul-searching by the Hindus of India. Hindus cannot accept to be killed in this halal fashion, continuously bleeding every day till the nation finally collapses”. Dr. Subramaniam in DNA on July 16,2011.

(2)Sanchita Bhattacharya of Institute for conflict management, accused HuJI-B in her write up in SAIR on August 1.2011.

(3) Bhaskar Roy wrote in C3S dated July 19, 2011 Most Indians will be closely watching the outcome of US Secretary of State Ms. Hillary Rodham Clinton’s second visit to India in her current capacity. As she arrives in New Delhi on July 19, it is all too obvious that the bilateral talks will exceed the already prepared agenda, thanks to the triple explosion in Mumbai on July 13 that killed 17 and injured more than one hundred.

(4) Next day, on July 20, an Indian senior politician and Parliament member claimed CIA and MOSAD operated the bombing in Bombay last week as these two countries jointly igniting vulnerabilities in India as they continue in Pakistan.

It`s highly appreciable that the USA and Europe developed better communication inside Bangladeshi social norms and culture and that really support them to understand Bangladesh closely. Noble Laureate Professor Mohammed Yunus is considered as the main architect of bridging Bangladesh with USA-Europe and other continents. It is mentionable that the USA state department is more attentive on Bangladesh at present. Secretary Hillary R. Clinton and Ex- President of United States of America William Jefferson Clinton keep focus on BD-USA alliance.During the administration of President Clinton, the U.S. enjoyed more peace and economic wellbeing than at any time in its history. He was the first Democratic president since Franklin D. Roosevelt to win a second term.

By - Abu Zafar Mahmood. 

Friday, August 26, 2011

BANGLADESH: Not Yet A Country

At 5:30 a.m. last Sunday, the city of Dacca resounded with the thunder of a 31-gun salute that marked the beginning of Bangladesh's first independence day. A year and a day earlier, on March 25, 1971, Pakistan had launched its military crackdown against rebellious East Bengal, which led to the brief, bloody war between India and Pakistan, the death of as many as 3,000,000 Bengalis—and the birth of a new nation.

Today, as TIME Correspondent William Stewart reported last week from Dacca, the Bengalis have a homeland, but they do not yet have a united country. "The present government, fearful of opposition, devotes itself to patronage rather than crisis; the government of reconstruction and reconciliation has yet to appear. If it does not, then the high Administration aide in Washington who referred to Bangladesh as 'an international basket case may yet be proved right." 

Across the vast, hot stretches of flat, brown delta, which awaits the life-giving monsoons in late May, there is a state of unease. Mutual distrust is pervasive. It is no longer sufficient to be 

Bengali; one must be a Bengali with the right inflection in his voice. "Collaborator" is an easy word to use, and the effects can be devastating. In Dhanmandi, Dacca's most fashionable quarter, residents are now accustomed to having groups of armed youths enter their houses in quest of money and goods. Acts of revenge against the non-Bengali minority of Biharis have subsided in the capital but have continued 

sporadically elsewhere; at the city of Khulna two weeks ago, a Bengali attack on the Bihari community reportedly left some 2,000 dead. Bitterness against the Biharis is widespread. "Those bastards," says Altafur Rahman, a Dacca law student. "Let them go to Pakistan." 

During the nine months of struggle in Bangladesh, the real freedom fighters, the Mukti Bahini, battled as best they could with little outside aid. The Mukti resent the fact that the government has given them few jobs and little patronage, and they have retained most of their firearms. Ranging from ardent patriots to outright thugs, the Mukti are among the most resentful critics of the ineffectual Dacca government, which has been accused of consolidating the position of Sheik Mujibur Rahman's Awami League instead of concentrating on reconstruction. 

Moscow Links. Only Mujib himself, the country's Prime Minister, escapes such criticism. Despite his undiminished popularity, Mujib has yet to provide the kind of leadership that Bangladesh needs. Since his triumphant return to Dacca last January, after spending nine months in prison in Pakistan, he has visited Calcutta and even Moscow, but has scarcely ventured out into his own country at all. 

Two weeks ago, Mujib welcomed India's Prime Minister Indira Gandhi to Dacca—where she was greeted at the airport by a pipe band skirling Skye Boat Song—and signed with her a treaty of peace and friendship. Mrs. Gandhi promised that India would hand over to Bangladesh all Pakistani military prisoners who have been accused of committing war crimes against Bengalis during the fighting (the list of suspects is said to total 1,500). The most important effect of the treaty is to link Dacca closely to India in matters of foreign affairs, and thus make Bangladesh in effect a member of the Delhi-Moscow entente. 

Drop of III Will. While the U.S. has paid a heavy price in South Asia for backing the loser of the India-Pakistan war, the Soviet Union has strengthened its position on the subcontinent. The Soviet mission in Dacca already has a staff of 90, with more to come, and the Russians have undertaken salvage operations at the ports of Chittagong and Chalna. By contrast, the U.S. appears to have extracted the last possible drop of ill will out of Bangladesh. The handful of American officials in Dacca, however, make no secret that they would like to see U.S. diplomatic recognition at long last, as well as a small but hardhitting aid program. 

Such assistance is urgently needed at the present time, for Bangladesh's most pressing problem is the threat of hunger. The population of the capital has been swollen by thousands of famished, unemployed refugees from rural areas. As Toni Hagen, director of the U.N. relief operation in Dacca, puts it, the situation is "desperate." "Blankets won't do, baby food won't do, midwifery kits won't do," says Hagen. "Cash is required for 

employment and reconstruction—plain cash." Food is urgently needed, of course, especially in the next two months, before the arrival of 700,-000 tons of wheat pledged by India. But vital repairs of roads and bridges must be made in order for such supplies to be distributed. Factories, too, lie stagnant for lack of operating capital—a reminder that their former owners, the majority of whom were Pakistanis, repatriated almost all the money in the country to West Pakistan.

Anti-Corruption Protests In India : I, The People

An anti-graft crusader steamrolls a hapless government.

SQUELCHING barefoot in the sludge at Ramlila Maidan, a park in central Delhi, a middle-aged man praises the people’s love for his guru, Anna Hazare. His eyes shine with zeal and hunger. His legs have cramp from fasting, for over a week, beside his 74-year-old leader. So what? We train our bodies to go without food for 30 days, he says. To lose flesh is to gain energy.

Mr Hazare, who has himself lost 6kg, is prone on a platform nearby, framed by a huge poster of Mahatma Gandhi, whose methods he has adopted. A bank of television cameras and a devoted crowd, tens of thousands strong, watch him intently, day and night, cheering and chanting in a sea of mud. Groups of uniformed schoolboys march about, flourishing the Indian tricolour. Young men sport white Gandhi caps with “I am Anna” penned on the sides.

Trade is brisk in Hazare rosettes, headbands, T-shirts, and badges. Five rupees (10 cents) gets three swipes of paint—saffron, white, green—on your cheek. Even police X-ray gates have “corruption-free India” scrawled on them. Dozens of cities have their own marches and protests. The country’s thicket of excitable cable-news networks reports on nothing else.

Mr Hazare’s campaign has turned him from a noted social reformer into a national figure. He has demanded that, by the end of the month, parliament pass a bill his team has written setting up an anti-graft ombudsman, or Lokpal, to oversee every part of government from the serving prime minister and Supreme Court down, holding every government body accountable for corruption and potentially becoming a powerful new arm of the state.
On August 24th, after talks with Mr Hazare, the ruling Congress Party called an all-party meeting at the prime minister’s residence, which agreed to resist the activist. A day earlier the prime minister, Manmohan Singh, had been rebuffed after begging Mr Hazare to call off the fast for the sake of his health and a “shared” goal of wiping out corruption.

In the end the government may have little option but to give in to the street protesters, but as of August 25th it was playing for time. Although one ageing but spirited opposition leader, L.K. Advani, has urged the government to quit and call a fresh election, nobody else seemed keen. Even Mr Advani’s Bharatiya Janata Party quickly said it did not want early polls.

Quite how Mr Singh’s government justifies its keep, however, is growing harder to see. By turns it has been inept and indecisive over this affair, while failing to get anything else done either. Last week it briefly jailed and tried to muzzle Mr Hazare, which guaranteed him wide publicity and sympathy instead. That was followed by a daft claim by Congress that the Americans were egging on the protesters. Rahul Gandhi, who with three others is supposed to run Congress while his mother, Sonia, gets medical care abroad, has been deafeningly silent, absent from Delhi and offering no leadership.
Those dismayed by both graft and politicians’ hopelessness have felt increasingly inclined to fall in behind Mr Hazare. Protesters moved from public squares to camp outside the Delhi homes of government ministers and MPs, unsettling the occupants. One protester set fire to himself on August 23rd.
By mid-week Mr Hazare’s supporters claimed they were within sight of a great triumph. They brushed aside questions about parliamentary democracy being undermined by a minority of street protesters. A bunged-up system needed a jolt, they retorted. A newly assertive urban middle class looks ever readier to push elected leaders (and unelected ones, like Mr Singh) to act in their interest.

Cooler heads, however, are wary. To craft a campaign against corruption into a movement around a single figure is faintly troubling. The claim that “Anna is India, India is Anna” sounds close to cult-speak. As it happens, the Supreme Court, the auditor-general, a panoply of civil activists and a more assertive press have all helped to hold the corrupt to account this year. Several powerful figures have been jailed.

Other doubts exist about Mr Hazare. Some Muslim leaders are suspicious of the nationalist, and what they see as at times Hindu-dominated, tone and imagery of his campaign. Low-caste Dalits, who rallied separately in Delhi on August 24th, also question his stand. They fret that if street protesters can, in effect, make one constitutional change, an attack might follow on a treasured but controversial constitutional provision reserving jobs and more for the lowest castes.

Mostly sceptics bristle at Mr Hazare’s methods. The most revered Dalit leader, the late B.R. Ambedkar, chief draftsman of India’s constitution, has been much quoted this week for an early warning about the “grammar of anarchy”, by which he meant using Gandhi-style fasts to impose your will on a democratic government. Hunger strikes, a form of blackmail, might have been justified against the British, but not against elected leaders.

Such grumbles will not dent Mr Hazare’s progress. His camp hints at possible future campaigns on electoral changes and education reform. Rival fasters might also jump in since a hunger strike’s extended drama so clearly suits live television. Yet elected politicians can push back. They have an easy way to remind voters how they matter, by getting on and passing many long-promised bills, for example on further economic reform. Dull and undramatic: but for many voters it matters at least as much as corruption.

Anti-Corruption Protests In India : No Modern-Day Mahatma

FROM his fasting-bed in the heart of Delhi, a frail old man in homespun cotton has channelled Indian rage over a string of high-profile corruption cases, tying the entire government in knots. Anna (“Elder Brother”) Hazare says he will continue his hunger strike until a rotten government passes, word-for-word, a bill creating a Lokpal, a powerful new anti-corruption body—and he has set an August 30th deadline. The Congress-led government of Manmohan Singh has already offered a Lokpal of its own, but Mr Hazare says it is too weak. Thanks to this master of political theatre, a discredited Indian government faces one of the biggest stand-offs with the people since, well, Mahatma Gandhi.

After revelations of stupendous corruption when politicians granted telecoms licences and prepared Delhi for the 2010 Commonwealth games, Indians are right to be furious. Yet Mr Hazare and his followers could end up doing more harm than good. The man is no saint, and his movement displays a whiff of Hindu chauvinism (see article). The activists’ slogan—“Anna is India, India is Anna”—is absurd. Their campaign is tinged with nostalgia for a golden age before economic liberalisation when government was, in their view, clean and decent.

This is a dangerous misdiagnosis. Corruption was rife even before liberalisation: the Bofors scandal in the 1980s brought down the government. The economic liberalisation of the past 20 years—in particular, the dismantling of the “licence Raj”—has vastly reduced the scope for corruption, not increased it. Mr Hazare’s proposed cure is equally mistaken. India already has anti-corruption bureaucrats, who have failed to solve the problem. Creating another huge bureaucracy, which a Lokpal would be, is not the answer.

The right and wrong channels for anger
Mr Singh should stand firm against the Hazarites, supporting the ends they espouse but decrying the means they propose. He deserves some credit for what he has tried to do. His economic policies, along with a 2005 freedom-of-information act, have tended to mitigate corruption. The government’s new Unique ID number scheme, in which 29m Indians are already enrolled, could have a revolutionary effect. Social benefits could be paid directly into recipients’ bank accounts rather than as subsidised fuel and food that is too easily stolen by crooked officials.

Yet Mr Singh has so far appeared listless. He should have moved faster to sack ministers in the wake of the telecoms scandal. And much could be done to make bribe-taking harder. One idea is to put public tenders online. A fairer and more open system is needed for acquiring development land from farmers. The government should do more to protect whistle-blowers. And to curb the appetite for illicit campaign funds, electoral reform should limit contributions and require that their source be revealed.

All this requires the commitment of a strong leader. As the loyal retainer to Congress’s family dynasty, Mr Singh lacks real power. But the dynasty’s matriarch, Sonia Gandhi, is unwell, while her son, Rahul, has run away from the Hazare controversy—hardly reassuring, since he is the presumed next prime minister. Given such a vacuum, it is no wonder the public does not trust political parties to clean up the system and prefers to join Mr Hazare’s crusade. The Gandhis’ hold over India is doing the country no good. If Indians want to clean up government, they need to get rid of dynastic politics.

Uncertainty Looms Large Over Transit Deal

As the arrival of the Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh is coming closer, conflicting signals are becoming thick in the air as to whether or not a framework agreement on transit will be inked on this occasion.

Latest news reports and comments by people at high places are only adding credence to this confusion indicating difference of opinion among the Prime Minister’s advisers and between some cabinet ministers on some basic points before inking the deal.

There is nothing clear as the government remained tight lipped keeping the nation in the dark on the latest situation. Prime Minister’s adviser Dr Moshiur Rahman told the press recently on return from Delhi that he was not aware of whether the transit deal would be signed during the forthcoming visit of Dr Manmohan Singh.

His disclosure took political observers here aback with total surprise. However, the next day foreign secretary Mijarul Quais made similar comments to reporters saying he did not know whether a deal on transit is in card when the Indian minister is scheduled to sign several agreements in Dhaka with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

Quais said he can only say about it seven to ten days from now, that is only few days before Dr Singh actually arrives. It is really confusing. To a question whether the ministry of foreign affairs is marginalized on this issue and sitting in a limbo, the foreign secretary however replied in the negative. 

Big delegation   
News reports meanwhile said, the Indian Prime Minister is coming with a big delegation comprising of several cabinet ministers, top advisers, members of the press and on top of it five chief ministers of the Indian states having common border with Bangladesh. They include Chief Minister of West Bengal Momta Benarji, Chief Minister of Tripura Manik Sarkar, Chief Minister of Assam Tarun Gogoi, Chief Minister of Meghalaya Mukul Sangma and Chief Minister of Mizoram Lalthanhawla.

It is going to be gala event to highlight a turning point in the regional politics with the two neighbours entering into strategic understanding of cooperation in almost all fronts. Monmohan is therefore taking the chief ministers of the neighbouring states to become part of the celebrations.

But the latest disclosure that the draft of the transit agreement may not be ready by that time and that the differences need to be sorted out among top policy makers and may be also with India on some issues may thus delay the signing of the agreement.

News reports said Bangladesh’s Prime Minister’s adviser Dr Rahman who is exclusively dealing with the transit issue favours a quick deal even by making short cut to the standard protocol of signing agreement. But some others want a comprehensive deal with the provisions to be settled with India be equally applicable on transit to and from Nepal and Bhutan. Some cabinet ministers moreover, remain sceptical of the opening of the road communications to transit.

They may have become concerned after the recent break down of the country’s roads and highways largely from lack of maintenance and especially from down pour of monsoon rains which is a regular phenomena in Bangladesh. Some cabinet ministers reportedly favour transit by railways and waterways in view of the deplorable road conditions and its capacity which is not enough to sustain loads of heavy Indian vehicles.  
There are also indications that basic disagreement on water sharing of Teesta River may also be working as a dissuading factor. Others say it may be a ploy to dump peoples’ interest on transit as it may be agitating their mind.  People wonder at this stage, why the government is moving blindly on transit issues ignoring protest from all quarters which also include Awami Lerague leaders and workers, besides protest from the major opposition BNP and other left and right wings political formations.

Only the Prime Minister and her inner policy makers appear firm to entertain the Indian desire and political analysts say and wonder why she stands to be so adamant. What is her compulsion?

Revolutionary Communist Party of Bangladesh echoed similar concerns when it wrote in its regular broadsheet publication The Peoples’ Democracy saying “the daily bitter experience of people reminds us how incapable and insufficient is the country’s present road communication system in carrying passengers and cargoes.”

It then raised the question about the likely scenario when hundreds of Indian vehicles would enter daily into Bangladesh to use the same poor infrastructure. Why the policy makers are not thinking and speaking out on it, it wondered. It said especially when big Indian container vehicles will take on the road local 
motor vehicles may be required to keep off the road to make room for them. How far the country is prepared to face such a situation, it wondered.

Moreover who will pay for the big roads and other communication facilities and port infrastructures for which Bangladesh will have to take loans. How the fuel supply will be ensured to the Indian vehicles which local motor vehicles use at subsidised rate provided by the state. When gas supply is running short, should Bangladesh open gas supply to Indian vehicles at the same low rates is yet another question, it said.

Transit or corridor, it questioned and made various speculations on the country’s security risks involved. The protection of environment and how to save human habitation from adverse impacts of pollution will also be a big challenge, it said pointing to 10 to 12 transit routes India is going to secure under the deal.

Another issue relates to health hazards especially from the spread of AIDS for which Indian truckers remain the worst carriers. It said the Indian states of Nagaland, Monipur and Mizoran, sitting on Bangladesh border are highly AIDs infected regions and the risk for Bangladesh will only become endemic.

The Party raised the question what Bangladesh is going to get back by making it so much vulnerable to challenges and dangers. It said when Bangladesh is opening up almost everything, India is closing it from all sides raising barbed walls; this is only compares to Israeli wall to block out Palestine.

How come it happen from a perceived friend, the party mouth piece said and urged the government to try and secure satisfactory settlement of all outstanding disputes with India like maritime boundary, a peaceful border free from killing, water sharing and resolution of Farakka and Tipaimukh dam.

SOUTH ASIA: End Of A Bad Dream

After five days of intense negotiations in New Delhi last week, India, Pakistan and Bangladesh signed an agreement resolving the last two major issues left over from the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. The accord clears the way for normalization of diplomatic and economic relations among the three countries and for Bangladesh's membership in the United Nations, which until now has been vetoed by China at Pakistan's behest.

Under the terms of the agreement worked out by Foreign Ministers Kamal Hossein of Bangladesh, Swaran Singh of India and Aziz Ahmed of Pakistan, Bangladesh agreed "as an act of clemency" to drop its plans to try 195 Pakistani prisoners for war crimes. The prisoners will now be returned to Pakistan, along with the remaining 6,500 of the 90,000 P.O.W.s captured during the war and held since then in camps in India. That repatriation, begun last August, is expected to be completed by the end of the month.

Bangladesh's decision to abandon the war-crimes trials was a major concession. But it had been more or less expected after Prime Minister Zulfikar
Ali Bhutto announced that Pakistan would recognize its breakaway eastern wing at the Lahore summit meeting of Moslem leaders in February. More surprising was Pakistan's formal acknowledgment in the agreement that the prisoners had, in Bangladesh's words, committed "war crimes, crimes against humanity and genocide." The Pakistan government "condemned and deeply regretted any crimes that may have been committed."

Best Forgotten. The New Delhi accord was less precise in dealing with the fate of the 500,000 Biharis (non-Bengali Moslems) in Bangladesh. Many of the Biharis—so called because they emigrated from the Indian state of Bihar at the time of the 1947 partition—sided with the Pakistani military during the war, and for that reason face a painful future if they stay in Bangladesh. Most of them live in fear and squalor in huge refugee camps outside Dacca and other cities.

So far, Pakistan has returned about 110,000 Bengalis who were trapped in the western half of the country at the start of the war and has accepted or given entry clearance to 140,000 Biharis. Under the agreement, it pledged to accept all those who formerly lived in West Pakistan, ex-employees of the Pakistan government and members of divided families. Pakistan also pledged to review applications previously denied. That probably means that the number of Biharis accepted by Pakistan will not substantially exceed 140,000. Pakistan is reluctant to accept more for fear that they will aggravate unemployment.

In a magnanimous gesture, Pakistan's Foreign Minister Ahmed gave chief credit for bringing an end to a "painful chapter" in South Asia's history to Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheik Mujibur Rahman. Later in the week, Mujib flew into New Delhi for a brief visit after two weeks of medical treatment in Moscow. Added Swaran Singh: "The trials, tribulations and conflicts of our subcontinent will become a thing of the past—something of a bad dream that is best forgotten."

TIME Magazine :Monday, Apr. 22, 1974 

People Has Rght To Know The Truth

In 2005, when I first wrote in Asian Tribune about Bangladesh, stating the big fishes of the then Hawa Bhawan were destined to go into extinct, as they were engaged in numerous forms of commercial and otherwise crimes, a section of the media turned annoyed. But, the government of Mrs. Khaleda Zia never turned vindictive on me, nor they ever tried to suffocate my opinion.

When the army controlled caretaker government came in power, most of the Bangladeshi writers were afraid of exposing the truth, especially the limitless financial crimes committed by a section of corrupt army officers and their family members. But, whenever I got an opportunity, I never hesitated in exposing the truth.

In 2009, in less than two month's of Mrs. Sheikh Hasina Wazed's forming the government, terrible murder of army 73 officers and humiliation of those female members of the officers took place right at the center of Dhaka city, at the headquarters of Bangladesh Riffles. Bangladeshi media this time, though tried their best to investigate the untold stories of this heinous crime, most of them missed the fact for various reasons. I am sure, the people of Bangladesh and many of the members of the armed forces, precisely know, the masterminds behind the Pilkhana massacre, as they also know the masterminds of the tragic 21st August grenade attack on Mrs. Sheikh Hasina's public meeting. It won't be difficult for anyone to understand, the grenade attack of 21st August was surely blueprinted by influential players of Bangladesh Nationalist Party's led Islamic coalition government.

National Security Intelligence (NSI) in Bangladesh intercepted telephone conversations of Tarique Zia, Ashiqul Islam (Hawa Bhawan official at PMO), HarrisChowdhury, Opu Siraj (son of Shahjahan Siraj), Giasuddin al-Mamun and a number of leaders of Jamat E Islami. Everyone was conspiring to create an uni-polar political system (similar as Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rehman's BKSAL) in Bangladesh, where secularist forces like Bangladesh Awami League would be totally eliminated. IfSheikh Hasina was murdered on that day, by now, Bangladesh would have slipped into the grips of Jihadist forces.

Because of limitless corruption of BNP and its extreme inclination towards Jihadist, members of Bangladesh Armed Forces were unwilling seeing this party back to power. That is why, possibly, election result in 2008 December, went fabulously in favor ofMrs. Sheikh Hasina.

But, instead of being grateful, she played different game. Main reason to pick up Bangladesh Riffles as the first scapegoat was to make Delhi delighted, as it was uncomfortable with BDR for what it did at Padua, by killing members of Border Security Forces (BSF) of India. The murder of BSF personnel at Padua, actually madeDelhi determined to take a proper retaliation from BDR. Now, definitely Delhi feels comfortable seeing 73 against 6 (73 Bangladeshi army officers killed against 6 Indian BSF jawans). They also are delighted seeing total elimination of BDR from existence. Possibly, this was the best gift from Dhaka to Delhi, as symbol of gratitude.

People never questioned why General Moeen U Ahmed never went for direct army offensives on BDR headquarters to tackle the mutiny and save lives of army officers. Let me remind, General Moeen has relatives in Florida and they have connection with "important" Bangladeshi figures living in the same state. Moeen was one of the master-planners of BDR conspiracy and he was simply giving time to the killers, for completing their "mission".

Some of the army officers, who came out of BDR headquarters alive, were later caught to have been having connection with the renegade BDR troops. Few of them, even communicated from inside the Pilkhana headquarters with a number of Awami League leaders as well as think-tanks. One such letter, sent over fax from BDRPilkhana headquarters was intercepted by army intelligence. That letter was sent to one of the pro-Awami League journalists, whose name starts with `M'. Surprisingly enough, neither that army officer, nor that journalist had ever been questioned by Criminal Investigation Department.

Anyway, I believe, this Pilkhana conspiracy will once again come into investigation and fresher trial, similarly as 21st August grenade attack, and I believe, many of the "George Miah"s will be cleared while real culprits will be booked.

Now let me focus another issue. When Mrs. Hasina formed government in 1996, the stock market witnessed serious scam, where thousands of small investors lost their capitals. This time again, same thing repeated. But, interestingly enough, none of the big fishes of this scam were ever touched by the government. Rather, Bangladeshi Finance Minister, Mr. Muhit termed the small investors, as touts and gamblers. One of the main accused of stock market scam, Lutfor Rahman Badal, who happened to be a business partner of Mr. Musaddek Ali Falu (who subsequently became business partner of Mr. Salman F Rahman) was though stopped from leaving Bangladesh, his name now is visibly cleared from the charge, when his wife, met Mr. Farid Khan (elder brother of Commerce Minister Mr. Faruk Khan) at Summit Group office and reached into a settlement. Mr. Farid Khan's wife resides in Florida and has connection with some extremely powerful Bangladeshis there.

Communication minister Mr. Syed Abul Hosain is known to be a very powerful man in the cabinet, for multiple reasons, which no one would ever dare to write. Mr.Hosain has been extremely busy in misappropriating millions of dollars for him and for his "masters" behind the screen. His daughter, Ms. Rubaiyyat Hosain, who came into controversy after making a Bangla film named Meherjaan gave US$ 25 thousand toMrs. Jaya Bachchan for her role in the movie. Now, Ms. Hosain has also put US$ 10 million investment in Bollywood through a famous company in the Mumbai film industry. Wherefrom such money came? Yes, it is true that, Mr. Syed Hosain turned into a multi-millionaire by doing business with a Chinese company during the tenure of Husain Muhammed Ershad. Definitely his daughter has valid ground to invest from her father's wealth. But, only point here is, the entire transaction never had any endorsement from Bangladesh Bank. People may also question as to why a young and talented director like Ms. Rubaiyyat picked up a topic of controversy. People need to know the political background of Mr. Syed Hosain's father during the war of independence. No?

Mr. Syed Hosain purchased a luxury villa at Bermuda in June 2011 with US$ 4 million. No doubt, he is a man of fabulous luxury and taste. No?

Social Welfare Minister Mr. Enamul Huq's eldest son Rana, who did not have a valid source of income before 2009, has purchased 2 acre land at Savar, invested large amount of money in restaurant business with his friend and now planning to buy a property in London in the name of his younger brother? People has right to know this. No?

Two multi-level marketing companies in Bangladesh were accorded new life by the present government in exchange of a compensation TK 280 million "donation". One of the companies collected at least one billion Taka from the local people in the name of "Tree Plantation Program" at Chittagong Hill Tract. Obviously, this will be another massive scam as stock market within the span of 3-4 years, as this multi-level marketing company sold 60 times more the land they own to people, simply by alluring them with big profit "carrot". It is rumored that, this multi-level marketing company will require to pay TK 280 each year as "donation" to the influential people in power, in exchange of no legal action. People has right to know this. No?

People in Bangladesh will possibly be deprived of knowing most of the facts and truth. Because, when anyone will pick up pen to write against such corruption and irregularities, the people in power and their agents will jump on the beck of those revealers of truth and try to suffocate the voice. It did happen to most, if not all.

By Sunita Paul.

Indo-Bangla Border A New Berlin Wall

In an unscheduled debate on August 18 in the National Assembly sitting without the presence of the Opposition, the Treasury Bench members themselves raised a big hue and cry about the failures of the government, particularly of four senior ministers and a state minister. The finance minister was targeted for share market scam, banking liquidity crisis, for frequent faux pas, and for interfering in road repair contracts. The communications minister was targeted for dismal conditions of highways leading to disruption of road communication with the capital from western and northern parts for weeks together, and for tragic road accidents claiming many precious lives. 

The commerce minister was targeted for his failure to rein in spiralling food and commodity prices in Ramzan and his own share of habitual faux pas embarrassing other ruling party leaders in the eyes of the suffering citizenry. The state minister for power was likewise targeted, in the absence of the Prime Minister and the powerful Adviser for Power, was targeted for frequent power failures. In addition, the shipping minister was criticised, not for his ministerial duties, but his exertion of undue influence as a transport union leader for liberal issuance of driving licenses to ill-trained helpers of drivers. He has been blatantly advocating that as long as illiterate drivers could read road signs, identify a cow or a goat and follow traffic directions, they should be issued licenses as there was a shortage of licensed drivers of motor vehicles in this country. Such liberal (illegal?) issuance of licenses to trainee drivers has been cited by the media and civil society activists as a major factor causing fatal road accidents.

In his defence in parliament, the Communications Minister spoke at length under Rule 300 of parliamentary procedure. He said that in 1996, total length of roads maintained in the country was 15,600 kilometres. In 2010, the roads and highways increased to 21040 km. For repair and maintenance, a world standard of budgetary requirement has been worked out and approved by the World Bank. By that standard, the requirement in 2008-09 budget was Taka 4205 crore. But the finance ministry allocated only Taka 651 crore. Likewise, the demand for 2009 - 10 fiscal year was Taka 4,404 crore, but the allocation was Taka 610 crore only. In 2010 - 11 fiscal year, the demand for repair and maintenance of roads and highways was  Taka 4,745 crore. The allocation was only Taka 668 crore. In the current fiscal the demand is Taka 5,100 crore. The allocation is only Taka 690 crore, and that also has been released only the previous day (August 17) with sub-divided work allocations and other conditions attached.

In other words, the Communications Minister squarely blamed the Finance Minister for the collapse of the roads and highways network under heavy rains (highest in the last 15 years) on account of gross under-financing of the road repair budget for years together. Suranjit Sengupta lent qualified support to the Communications Minister’s demand that the conditions attached to this year’s release letter of funds for road repairs be withdrawn. He said the Finance Minister has no jurisdiction over work allocations.

The debate had its repercussions in the media orchestration and in the civil society. As such, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on August 24 scolded his party leaders and parliamentarians on the floor of the House that they should not lend ammunition to “enemy” hands (the Opposition) by harping on a few failures of her government. Side by side, there are instances of immense successes too.

Some India-friendly members of the “civil society”, mostly teachers, students, newspaper columnists and cultural activists, including, strangely, the government-appointed Chairman of the National Human Rights Commission and the Secretary of the Communist Party of Bangladesh, gathered at the Shaheed Minar on the same day (August 24) as the Prime Minister was answering questions in the parliament, to single out the Communications Minister and demand his dismissal from the cabinet by August 31. Otherwise they resolved that they would undertake a sit-down strike at the Shaheed Minar on the Eid-day.

Some say the real reason for their singling out the Communications Minister, who is also known to be China-friendly, not the finance minister or any other minister, is not the traffic road accidents they talked about, but because his revelations about the “standard” costs of road maintenance, not to speak of extra costs from soft soil and active delta conditions in our country, has demolished the myth being spun by the India-friendly lobby in the government and the civil society about the huge benefits the country could gain from road connectivity with India under Indian transit plan. At least a memorandum of understanding was expected to be signed during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s return official visit in Dhaka scheduled September 6.

Now the Finance Minister, an old advocate of the Indian transit plan, has admitted in a meeting with the FBCCI on August 24 that it is not possible for Bangladesh to grant transit facility to India under the present conditions of infrastructural handicap. The government’s own inter-ministerial core committee on transit has in the meantime recommended that under no circumstance road transit can be given to India at our current stage of infrastructure.  

‘India’s new Berlin Wall’
A framework agreement on the transit issue, projected to be the main purpose of the Indian Prime Minister’s visit, appears to have been relegated essentially to a statement of intent and mutual interest in the Indian transit plan. Another issue, that of “fortress India’s fatal stranglehold around Bangladesh borders” has come into focus, not because Bangladesh government pressed for it, but as result of the international media’s attention to child-bride Felani’s killing in Indian BSF fire on the barbed wire fences at the border. The prestigious Foreign Policy journal of the USA is the latest addition of outcry over Felani’s death in the global media under a general coverage of the “World’s Most Dangerous Borders”, the journal has separately covered “an account of India’s new Berlin Wall with Bangladesh. After Felani’s that account entitled Fortress India it goes on to comment:

“In India, the 25-year-old border fence — finally expected to be completed next year at a cost of $1.2 billion — is celebrated as a panacea for a whole range of national neuroses: Islamist terrorism, illegal immigrants stealing Indian jobs, the refugee crisis that could ensue should a climate catastrophe ravage South Asia. But for Bangladeshis, the fence has come to embody the irrational fears of a neighbour that is jealously guarding its newfound wealth even as their own country remains mired in poverty. The barrier is a physical reminder of just how much has come between two once-friendly countries with a common history and culture — and how much blood one side is willing to shed to keep them apart.

“Situated on a delta and crisscrossed by 54 rivers, Bangladesh factors prominently in nearly every worst-case climate-change scenario. The 1-meter sea-level rise predicted by some widely used scientific models would submerge almost 20 per cent of the country. The slow creep of seawater into Bangladesh’s rivers caused by global-warming-induced flooding, upriver dams in India, and reduced glacial melt from the Himalayas is already turning much of the country’s fertile land into saline desert, upending its precarious agricultural economy. Studies commissioned by the U.S. Defence Department and almost a dozen other security agencies warn that if Bangladesh is hit by the kind of Hurricane Katrina-grade storm that climate change is likely to make more frequent, it would be a “threat multiplier,” sending ripples of instability across the globe: new opportunities for terrorist networks, conflicts over basic human essentials like access to food and water, and of course millions of refugees. And it’s no secret where the uprooted Bangladeshis would go first. Bangladesh shares a border with only two countries: the democratic republic of India and the military dictatorship of Burma. Which would you choose?

“India began erecting a fence, complete with well-armed guards, in 1986. After the Hindu-nationalist Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) won national elections in 1998, the programme was ramped up to placate anti-Muslim sentiment among the party faithful. The fence grew longer and the killings more frequent. After years of complaints from Bangladeshi politicians, India made promises on several occasions to switch to non-lethal weaponry, but has rarely followed through on them.

By next year, every available crossing point between India and Bangladesh will have been blocked off by the fence. But while tightened security has made the border more dangerous, it hasn’t actually made it much more secure. More than 100 border villages operate as illicit transit points through which thousands of migrants pass daily. Each of these villages has a “lineman” — what would be called a coyote on the U.S.-Mexican border — who facilitates the smuggling, paying border guards from both notoriously corrupt countries to look the other way when people pass through.

“The rise of global Islamist militancy in recent years has worsened the xenophobic streak in India’s already dicey relations with its Muslim neighbours, and Indian politicians have been quick to capitalize on it. By 2009, Indian Home Minister P. Chidambaram was declaring that Bangladeshis have “no business to come to India.” The opposition BJP isn’t rolling out the welcome mat either: Tathagata Roy, the party’s leader in the Bangladesh-bordering state of West Bengal, has called for lining the border with anti-personnel mines.

Felani’s death
“Felani’s death, however, galvanised Bangladesh. Graphic photos of her dead body made the front pages of newspapers across the country, and political parties posted her picture with the caption “Stop Border Killing!”

“The shooting seemed to have given India pause as well. In March, New Delhi once again agreed to strip its border guards of live ammunition, and for once actually did it. For the first month in almost a decade, Indian troops didn’t kill anyone on the border. But by April the Indian soldiers had reloaded, shooting a Bangladeshi cattle trader and three others in separate incidents. It was a bleak reminder that while the fence itself may be a flimsy thing, the tensions that make it into a killing zone are remarkably durable.”

Can Bangladesh hope that this time around the Hasina-Manmohan summit in Dhaka will do something at least to put on end to killing at the border by bullets or by beatings? 

Thursday, August 25, 2011

The World: India: Easy Victory, Uneasy Peace

MY dear Abdullah, I am here," read the message to the general in beleaguered Dacca. "The game is up. I suggest you give yourself up to me and I'll look after you." The author of that soothing appeal was India's Major General Gandharv Nagra. The recipient was Lieut. General A.A.K. ("Tiger") Niazi, commander of Pakistan's 60,000 troops in East Bengal and a onetime college classmate of Nagra's. Minutes before the expiration of India's cease-fire demand, Niazi last week bowed to the inevitable. By United Nations radio, he informed the Indian command that he was prepared to surrender his army unconditionally. 

Less than an hour later, Indian troops rode triumphantly into Dacca as Bengalis went delirious with joy. "It was liberation day," cabled TIME Correspondent Dan Coggin. "Dacca exploded in an ecstasy of hard-won happiness. There was wild gunfire in the air, impromptu parades, hilarity and horn honking, and processions of jammed trucks and cars, all mounted with the green, red and gold flag of Bangladesh. Bengalis hugged and kissed Indian jawans, stuck marigolds in their gun barrels and showered them with garlands of jasmine. If 'Jai Bangla!' (Victory to Bengal!) was screamed once, it was screamed a million times. Even Indian generals got involved. Nagra climbed on the hood of his Jeep and led the shouting of slogans for Bangladesh and its imprisoned leader, Sheik Mujibur Rahman. Brigadier General H.S. Kler lost his patches and almost his turban when the grateful crowd engulfed him." 

Late that afternoon as dusk was beginning to fall, General Niazi and Lieut. General Jagjit Singh Aurora, commander of India's forces in the East, signed the formal surrender of the Pakistani army on the grassy lawn of Dacca's Race Course. Niazi handed over his revolver to Aurora, and the two men shook hands. Then, as the Pakistani commander was driven away in a Jeep, Aurora was lifted onto the shoulders of the cheering crowd. 

Thus, 13 days after it began, the briefest but bitterest of the wars between India and Pakistan* came to an end. The surrender also marked the end of the nine-month-old civil war between East and West Pakistan. Next day Pakistan's President Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan reluctantly accepted India's cease-fire on the western border. It was a complete and humiliating defeat. The war stripped Pakistan of more than half of its population and, with nearly one-third of its army in captivity, clearly established India's military dominance of the subcontinent.

Considering the magnitude of the victory, New Delhi was surprisingly restrained in its reaction. Mostly, Indian leaders seemed pleased by the relative ease with which they had accomplished their goals—the establishment of Bangladesh and the prospect of an early return to their homeland of the 10 million Bengali refugees who were the cause of the war. In announcing the surrender to the Indian Parliament, Prime Minister Indira Gandhi declared: "Dacca is now the free capital of a free country. We hail the people of Bangladesh in their hour of triumph. All nations who value the human spirit will recognize it as a significant milestone in man's quest for liberty."

Although both sides claimed at week's end that the cease-fire was being violated, serious fighting did appear to be over for the present. Initial fears that India might make a push to capture Pakistani Kashmir proved to be unfounded. India undoubtedly wanted to risk neither a hostile Moslem uprising in the region nor Chinese intervention. But several major issues between India and Pakistan remain—and it may well take months to resolve them: 1) repatriation of Pakistan's 60,000 regular troops in the East, 2) release of Sheik Mujibur Rahman, whom the Bangladesh government has proclaimed President but who is still imprisoned in West Pakistan on charges of treason, 3) disposition of various chunks of territory that the two countries have seized from each other along the western border.

Mrs. Gandhi may well try to ransom Mujib in exchange for release of the Pakistani soldiers. India is also expected to press for a redrawing of the cease-fire line that has divided the disputed region of Kashmir since 1949. The Indians have captured 50 strategic Pakistani outposts in the high Kashmiri mountains. These are the same outposts that India captured in 1965, and then gave up as part of the 1966 Tashkent Agreement; India is not likely to be as accommodating this time.

In the chill, arid air of Islamabad, West Pakistan's military regime was finding it difficult to come to grips with the extent of the country's ruin. Throughout the conflict there had been a bizarre air of unreality in the West, as Pakistani army officials consistently claimed they were winning when quite the reverse was true. Late last week the Pakistani government still seemed unable to accept its defeat; simultaneously with the announcement of the ceasefire, officials handed newsmen an outline of Yahya's plans for a new constitution. Among other things, it provides "that the republic shall have two capitals, at Islamabad and at Dacca." It adds: "The principal seat of Parliament will be located in Dacca." That will, of course, be news to Bangladesh.

President Yahya Khan had declared the conflict a jihad (holy war) and, even while surrender was being signed in the East, he was boasting that his nation would "engage the aggressor on all fronts." He became the first political victim of the conflict. At week's end, Yahya announced that he would step down in favor of Deputy Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, head of the Pakistan People's Party. A rabid anti-India, pro-China politician who served as Foreign Minister in the government of former President Ayub Khan, Bhutto was the chief architect of Pakistan's alliance with China. In the nation's first free election last December, his party ran second to Mujib's Awami League. Regarding that as a threat to his own ambitions, Bhutto was instrumental in persuading Yahya to set aside the election results.

Ali Bhutto, who had a brief interview with President Nixon last Saturday concerning "restoration of stability in South Asia," will return to Islamabad this week to head what Yahya said would be "a representative government." A dramatic, emotional orator who tearfully stalked out of the U.N. Security Council last week to protest its inaction on the war, Bhutto has recently made little secret of his displeasure with the military regime. "The people of Pakistan are angry," he fumed last week. "The generals have messed up the land."

Yahya's overconfidence had undoubtedly been fed by the outcome of the two nations' previous tangles, all of them inconclusive territorial disputes that altered little and allowed both sides to claim victory. This time, though, the Indians felt they were fighting for a moral cause. Pakistan's army in the East, moreover, was cut off by Indian air and naval superiority from the West, and had to contend with a hostile local population as well as the combined forces of the tough Mukti Bahini guerrillas and a numerically superior and better-equipped Indian army. Despite the brief duration of the war, the fighting was fierce. The Indians alone reported 10,633 casualties—2,307 killed, 6,163 wounded, 2,163 missing in action. Pakistan's casualties, not yet announced, are believed to be much higher, and there are no figures at all for guerrilla losses.

Battle of the Tanks. India also claims to have destroyed 244 Pakistani tanks, against a loss of 73 of its own. No fewer than 60 tanks—45 of Pakistan's, 15 of India's—were knocked out in the last day of the war in a fierce struggle that raged for more than 24 hours. The incident took place on the Punjabi plains, where the Indians tried to draw the Pakistanis out of the town of Shakargarh (meaning "the place of sugar"), in order to attack the important Pakistani military garrison of Sialkot.

In the East, Indian troops skirted cities and villages whenever possible in order to avoid civilian casualties, a strategy that also scattered the demoralized Pakistani forces and led to their defeat. After the signing of the surrender, a military spokesman in New Delhi announced triumphantly: "Not a single individual was killed in Dacca after the surrender." Unhappily, that turned out not to be true. One report said that Bengali guerrillas had executed more than 400 razakars, members of the West Pakistani army's much-hated local militia.

Although General Aurora was firm in his insistence that the Mukti Bahini disarm, it was unlikely that the bloodshed could be totally halted for some time. The new government of Bangladesh, if only to satisfy public opinion, will almost certainly hold a number of war-crimes trials of captured members of the former East Pakistan government. Potentially the most explosive situation is the Bengali desire for vengeance against the 1,500,000 Biharis—non-Bengali Moslems living in East Pakistan, many of whom are suspected of collaborating with the Pakistani army. In some villages, the Biharis have been locked in jails for their own protection. In an unusual conciliatory gesture, Aurora permitted Pakistani soldiers to keep their weapons until they had reached prison camps. He explained: "You have to see the bitterness in Dacca to believe it."

The Losers. Islamabad, of course, was the principal loser in the outcome of the war. But there were two others as well. One was the United Nations. The Security Council last week groped desperately toward trying to achieve an international consensus on what to do about the struggle, and ended up with seven cease-fire resolutions that were never acted upon at all. The other loser was Washington, which had tried to bring about a political settlement, but from the New Delhi viewpoint—and to other observers as well —appeared wholeheartedly committed to the support of Pakistan's military dictatorship.

Indian anger at U.S. backing of Pakistan was compounded last week when the nuclear-powered aircraft carrier Enterprise and a task force of destroyers and amphibious ships from the Seventh Fleet sailed into the Bay of Bengal. Although Soviet vessels were reported to be moving toward the area, word of the U.S. move touched off a storm of anti-American demonstrations. In Calcutta, angry protesters burned effigies of Richard Nixon and Yahya Khan. The Seventh Fleet action was justified by the Navy on the grounds that it might have to evacuate American civilians from Dacca. (As it turned out, most of the foreigners who wanted to leave were flown out the same day the carrier left Vietnamese waters by three British transports.) All across India, though, there were rumors that the Navy had been sent to rescue Pakistani troops and that the U.S. was about to intervene in the war.

Lip Service. Mrs. Gandhi made several gestures to try to dampen the anti-American feeling, and refused to allow debate in the Indian Parliament on the U.S. moves. But she also sent a long, accusatory and somewhat self-serving letter to President Nixon, in which she argued that the war could have been avoided "if the great leaders of the world had paid some attention to the fact of revolt, tried to see the reality of the situation and searched for a genuine basis for reconciliation." Instead, Mrs. Gandhi said, only "lip service was paid to the need for a political solution, but not a single worthwhile step was taken to bring this about."

India's triumph is in large measure a stunning personal one for Mrs. Gandhi. Throughout the crisis Indians have been united behind her as never before, and she is even being compared with the Hindu goddess Durga, who rid the world of the demon Mahasura. Quite apart from the war, India seems to be feeling a new self-assurance. The land that for centuries was synonymous with famine now enjoys a wheat surplus and will soon become self-sufficient in rice, thanks to the Green Revolution. Mrs. Gandhi, backed by an overwhelming mandate in last March's elections, has been able to bring about a large measure of political stability for the first time since Nehru's death. India is still poverty-ridden and in need of foreign aid, but its industries are developing rapidly in size and sophistication. All these factors, reinforced by military victory, may bring profound psychological change in India and a lessening of corrosive self-doubt.

For that reason, there is no feeling in New Delhi that the Soviet Union, whose aid was primarily diplomatic rather than military, in any way won this war for India—any more than China or the U.S. lost it for Pakistan. Despite the current popularity of the Soviet Union and the unpopularity of the U.S., Indians are probably as horrified by Russian totalitarianism and Chinese Maoism as by what they consider "American materialism." In the long run, India's new-found strength could conceivably lessen rather than enlarge Soviet influence.

Essential Reconstruction. Meanwhile the huge task of reconstruction in Bangladesh begins. India has already set a target date of Jan. 31 as the goal for the return of all 10 million refugees. Free bus service is being provided, and vehicles loaded down with belongings and passengers have begun rolling back across the borders to Bangladesh. The Indian Planning Commission, which charts India's overall development program, estimates that it will take nearly $900 million for essential reconstruction work in Bangladesh and for the refugees' rehabilitation. Bridges, buildings, roads and almost the entire communications network must be restored.

The State Department has made it plain that Washington stands ready to supply Bangladesh with humanitarian aid. At week's end Bangladesh's Acting President Syed Nazrul Islam and his government were already settled in Dacca, and Washington was said to be considering recognition of the new nation.

* The first, from October 1947 to Jan. 1, 1949, took place in Kashmir and resulted in the almost equal division of the disputed state. The second was the Rann of Kutch affair on India's southwestern border from April to June 1965. The third, in the fall of 1965, occurred in Kashmir and lasted 22 days.