Friday, September 23, 2011

Indian Intervention Is The Major Cause Of Nepal's Crisis

The sovereign Nepal is in a crisis ridden plight. Indian conspiracy is responsible for this miserable plight of Nepal. India is working to upset the existing harmony between nationality and democracy. To gain this objective it is using the brokers here so that it can conspire to not allow nationality and democracy to walk hand-in-hand. Another cause for this crisis is, due to the traitor's in regime, the failure on part of Nepal's leadership in remaining alert. In spite of the emergence of democracy in 1950 nationality was made 'bowl of the beggars'- inferior. The 1950's lopsided treaty and Delhi agreement are some of direct examples. India has been using the Nepalese brokers in Nepal to intervene. India's internal wish is to bring Nepal under its umbrella for achieving which Indian south block and its intelligence wing 'RAW' are working. The leaders of Indian Congress-(I) think are democrat; however they cannot tolerate the prosperity of neighboring nations as Nepal, Bangladesh, Pakistan and Sri Lanka.

In the ensuing tussle during the drafting of the points of the lopsided Nepal-India treaty of 1950 and Delhi agreements Nepalese people were divided into various factions. Since 1950 India had thrown its dice to enfeeble Nepal. Among the many points of Delhi agreements Constituent Assembly (CA) was one. During the 1950 revolution India presented itself in a role of a supporter of this nation but its real intention was the entrapment of this very nation.

India sent an invitation to Rana Prime Minister Mohan Shumsher during the rare turbulent period of the Rana regime. In Delhi the Rana PM was reassured of India's backing to his regime which culminated into the drafting of lopsided secret treaty in July, 1950. After four months India plotted the escape of King Tribhuvan to Delhi which culminated into the drafting of Delhi agreement so as to bring Nepal under the Indian umbrella. Among the points of the Delhi agreement then 'Constituent Assembly' had been India's major agenda. The Indian policy was to put forth varying and contradicting proposals to Rana, King and Nepali Congress so as to create an environment of disagreement between these forces.

Nepal's patriotic forces were well in tune with India's long-term objective to manipulate Constituent Assembly against Nepal's interest and were in opposition to this. Nepali Congress leader B.P Koirala, who studied the nation's situation, in 1958 had said that it was not necessary to create Constituent Assembly to draft the constitution. The nationalist forces of this nation had awakened and the Chinese influence had increased, which created pressure on India to take a stance against formation of the Constituent Assembly, subsequently failing its objective of forming one. Nepal's patriotic forces were in readiness to counter and annihilate foreign intervention and conspiracy.

In 1958/59 (2015 B.S), King, political leaders and the patriotic forces declared constitution of the Kingdom of Nepal and held parliamentary election. In the election Nepali Congress gained two-thirds majority. The people gave their support to NC in belief that the party was supportive of the King. NC leader B.P Koirala became the Prime Minister following the general election. There had been no discord between the king and the ruling NC. On 11 December, 1959 King Mahendra and PM Koirala started national visits together. B.P has said that during the visits he and the king developed close friendship.

However, India took advantage of its closeness to B.P when the latter became the PM. India used the PM-B.P. Koirala to gain many influence including the continuity to its military camp in Nepal and retaining the grip over rivers like Gandak. Meanwhile, in the internal politics, Nepali Congress was struggling to run the nation with democratic practice. Corruption and discrimination crossed the limits and NC activists started practicing authoritarian manners in villages which instilled fear among the general public. Police and the administration remained a mute spectator to the injustices and brutalities unleashed by Congressmen on commoners.

Whenever a complaint was filed, a fake document was created so as to set the criminal free with impunity. People who dared speak against Congressmen were beaten. So Nepali Congress gradually lost its popularity and Nepalese people turned against this party. In 1961 (2017 B.S) King Mahendra brought a change against the incessant Indian intervention. In fact, this step was not anti Nepali Congress. Following the 1961 change many beneficiary programmers were brought to strengthen Nepal's nationality.

But India did not choose to remain silent. In 1962 Indian PM Nehru allowed the Nepali Congress second leaders Subarna Shumsher to declare armed struggle through the all Indian radio against King Mahendra's leadership and Nepalese nationality. After the Indian independence-1947, English businessmen had sold many immovable properties to Subarna Shumsher. The Subarna Shumsher had been struggling with the high amount of tax, almost 50 millions that came with the properties. Nehru gave tax rebate to Subarna Shumsher and Subarna ensured loyal. JL Nehru had arranged for weapons that started the bloody revolution in southern Nepal's border (1800 KM) in 1962. In this war against anti-nationalists the Nepalese people unanimously supported King Mahendra's leadership. The Chinese attack on India, then Nehru was forced to retreat his intervening foot. That is the notorious history of Indian conspiracy.

Due to the Congress and UML's corrupt and irresponsible leadership, The Maoist rebellious force stated from Feb.1996. Before 1999 Maoist had proposed for an alliance with the king. India was not satisfied with that alliance. Then, Indian began the evils game. At that time Indian intelligence -RAW became active to influence among the Maoist and the pro-Indian leaders of Nepali Congress, UML leaders to join their hands and concluded in the signing of the 12-point agreement-2005.

The Maoists went into the agitation with the support of India and by forwarding NC and UML in the frontline. The Maoists-although the critics of expansionism and imperialism-brokered for India to sign the 12-point agreement. The party accepted becoming a slave to India and now it has come to light as an Indian puppet.
King Mahendra's successor and his son King Birendra was also against Indian intervention which infuriated the Indian Congress regime. A secret notice which is not to be forgotten is that 'India Today' had published a false report that Nepal's queen Aishwarya had provided Rs. 50 millions to refuel the Tamil rebellion. Had not Rajeev Gandhi been assassinated India would have accused patriotic King Birendra of trying to fuel civil war in Sri Lanka by backing Tamils like the Maoist in Nepal. In this way India (Congress I) and RAW had planned to show its contempt to Nepal in international arena. But, we are feeling- BJP is not biased like Congress I on Nepal.

We can only understand Indian (Congress I) intention towards Nepal. RAW is freely tottering in the state of bankruptcy and witnessing an economic meltdown; are now witnessing rioting and people's uprisings on a regular basis. India is one of the most corrupt countries in the world. There is more than Four Trillion dollars deposited, hidden in foreign banks, safe havens and in off shore accounts by political leaders. After all, Indian leaders are nakedly disturbing Nepal's internal policy with the help its brokers in the name of Loktantra.

On 20 January 2011 UML Chairman Jhalanath Khanal- one of the traitors was slapped by a simple citizen in Sunsari. The world expressed joy when he received that slap. Not a single person grieved. Everyone congratulated Devi Prasad Regmi. This represents the dissatisfaction in people with leaders degraded talks. This is a whip to all the corrupt leaders of political arena after 2005 including that of Nepali Congress, UML and Maoist. But, the UML's Jhalanath Khanal had elected the Prime minister with the support by Maoist- 10th Feb. 2011 with majority. But, the PM Jalanath could not do any democratic consensus among the Communists and other parties. That result became useless. After his resignation, the most controversial Maoist leader Baburam Bhattarai became the PM of Nepal-29 Aug.2011, with the support of the traitors'- Madheses party who are guided by India.

Dr. Baburam Bhattarai is an aggressive communist guided by RAW. Due to his destructive anti-nationalist agendas, he is one of the suspicious leaders. To be the PM, Dr. Baburam Bhattarai had done a serious mistake to join the hands with the Medheshi leaders. A four-point deal between the Maoists and the Terai-based Madhesi front will be the cause of political downfall of the PM Dr. Bhattarai. Due to his wrong thought regarding Nepalese nationality, Dr. Babauram Bhattarai's position is very suspicious. Because, being the product of JNU-Delhi, he has forgotten the Nepalese nationality and the people's aspirations. 'In just November 2005, the parliamentary parties (the Seven Party Alliance, or the SPA) and Maoists signed a 12-point agreement, setting out on a common agenda for the democratic transformation of the Nepali state. That soon gave way to the people's movement in April 2006, which in turn led to the Constituent Assembly and eventually the abolition of the monarchy. A well known Indian professor SD Muni has tweeted- 'India has done a wise thing to let Bhattarai sail through in the PM election with the support of Madhesi groups. Nepal's stability depends on Maoists. Bhattarai's victory in Nepal is a turning point. His first priority should be to implement the Maoist promise on integration of the PLA cadre.–(United We Blog! for a Democratic Nepal August 30, 2011).

Due to the naked intervention of India, its future also is running at disintegration. A Book 'Breaking India', by Rajiv Malhotra and Aravindan Neelakandan exposed-' India's integrity is being undermined by three global networks that have well-established operating bases inside India: (i) Islamic radicalism linked with Pakistan, (ii) Maoists and Marxist radicals supported by China via intermediaries such as Nepal, and (iii) Dravidian and Dalit identity separatism being fostered by the West in the name of human rights. This book focuses on the third: the role of U.S. and European churches, academics, think-tanks, foundations, government and human rights groups in fostering separation of the identities of Dravidian and Dalit communities from the rest of India.'

The political analysis shows, between 1950 and 2011, that the irresponsibility of the corrupt and pro-Indian leaders is the major cause for the political crisis that invited Indian intervention. Constitution has been written in Nepal many times. But none of the constitution gained stability due to the misdeeds of the leadership. The uprising in 2005 was launched with full support of India for the new constitution to be drafted from the so-called Constituent Assembly. CA election was held. Secularism, republic and federalism are not the agendas of upsring-2005 as well as NC, UML and Maoist. Indian and American intelligence organizations 'RAW' and 'CIA' supplied money that gave incentives to the power hunger Nepalese leaders whom carried these agendas. The result is that our nation is about to drown. 'Who cannot dance accuses the yard.' What is our goal-democracy with a monarch, republic or People's Republic? None of the leaders are clear on this subject.

If we the Nepalese people and the democratic world want sovereign-Nepal and its democracy, they should activate to end the crisis. A nation cannot be governed forcibly. We have to reach the point of solution. If we want to find the solution and lasting peace, we ought to abolish Constituent Assembly and form an all party government with proportional representation from regions of Himal, Hill and Terai with the foundation of 1990 Constitution. This will pave way for declaration of an inclusive parliamentary election. We can draft a new constitution from the elected parliament. If we continue to perversely take a stance on drafting a new constitution, in such a scenario, we will be making the nation a prisoner of indecision.

The new constitution will not be drafted from such wrong elements nor will the nation be governed. It is our appeal that parties return to the agreement reached with the monarch in April, 2006 and on the foundation of the 1990 Constitution an all party cabinet be formed to declare general election. And the solution sought through the elected parliament. We must redress the balance and form alliance in between Nepal's nationality, royal institution and democracy. We must be able to remain alert to all forms of foreign conspiracies and give the nation a positive direction. It will be suicidal to seek recourse to further alternatives.

BY :  Dirgha Raj Prasai from Nepal.

A New Turn In Dhaka-Delhi Ties?

THE first visit of the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh, to Bangladesh evoked enthusiasm but its results turned out to be disappointing to the Bangladesh government because the Indian authorities backed out from signing a much-anticipated deal for equitable sharing of water of the Teesta and Feni rivers. As reported in the media, the Indian decision to back out was prompted by the opposition of the Paschim Banga chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, who seems to believe the clauses in the agreement will deprive her state of its due share of Teesta water.

In the hullabaloo over the Teesta deal debacle, the issue of the Feni water-sharing deal was simply crowded out. No explanation was given by either Dhaka or New Delhi as to why an agreement on the Feni did take place. Suffice it to say, the impression was created that Teesta and Feni water-sharing agreements were going to be signed during Manmohan’s visit. Even on September 4, two days before the Indian prime minister’s arrival, the Bangladesh foreign minister, Dipu Moni, told journalists that Dhaka and New Delhi would sign an interim agreement on the sharing of Teesta water on the basis of equity; she did not make any mention of the Feni. It appears that there was lack of close cooperation and understanding between the two governments on this vital issue.

New Delhi’s last-minute change of heart as regards the Teesta agreement seems to have further strained the relations between the two countries and is indeed a diplomatic debacle for the Bangladesh government. The international relations adviser to the prime and the foreign minister either lack the negotiating skills or unaware of the nitty-gritty of foreign policy, especially when it comes to dealing with India. It is a failure of shuttle diplomacy by the international affairs and economic affairs advisers to the prime minister of Bangladesh. It is regrettable to note that the parliamentary committee on foreign affairs was not consulted with about the signing of a treaty or memorandum of understanding at any stage of the negotiations.

Euphoria about a turning point in the relations between two neighbouring countries evaporated as a result of the failure to sign a memorandum of understanding on liberalisation of trade under the existing bilateral trade agreement or an agreement on joint investment in the power sector for the benefit of the people of both countries, apart from Teesta water-sharing treaty.

Sharing water of common rivers between the two countries is vital to the existence of the country and survival of its people. The Bangladesh government is, perhaps, not aware of the fact that India has begun constructing another dam on the river Saree which is nearing completion. That would cause serious ecological devastation in Sylhet in particular. Not to speak of the Tipaimukh dam, which India intends to go ahead with, although its government assured that no damage would be done to Bangladesh if it is constructed. Many dam specialists are of the opinion that there would be tremendous adverse effect on Bangladesh, the lower riparian country, if the dam is constructed. In a way much more harm would be inflicted on Bangladesh than was inflicted by the Farakka barrage. Since China is going ahead with a project to divert waters from the river Brahmaputra in Tibet to the arid Xinxiang region, apart from building hydroelectric power plant, India is taking an initiative to make a dam to preserve waters from the Brahmaputra, causing damage to Bangladesh. Brahmaputra is an international river and the interest of the lower riparian country should be looked into.

The Indian prime minister, accompanied by secretaries, ministers, including the chief ministers of Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram, paid a two-day visit to Bangladesh on September 6-7. Mamata Banerjee did not accompany him in protest. This is for the first time that chief ministers of the Indian states had accompanied their prime minister to Bangladesh.

This is not the first time India has backed out from signing water sharing treaties with Bangladesh. In 1972 India promised to start as ‘a test case’ the Farakka dam on the river Ganges near Murshidabad, but the dam became operational without taking cognisance of the difficulties that might be caused to Bangladesh. In 1996, a 30-year water sharing-treaty for the Ganges was signed, but without any guarantee clause. During lean period, Bangladesh has been deprived of the agreed amount of waters.

On another occasion India did not honour the treaty of land boundary signed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the then prime minister of Bangladesh and Indira Gandhi, the then prime minister of India, in 1974. The pretext was filing of a case in the Calcutta High court against the signing of a land boundary treaty. This is the behavioural pattern of the Indian authorities in dealing with neighbours. In 2009 former Indian foreign minister Pranab Mukherjee and the commerce minister assured that they would provide Bangladesh with 5 lakh tonnes of rice and 2 lakh tonnes of wheat at international price, but the promise has not materialised as of now. However, a news item which Hindustan Times carried on July 11 saying an empowered group of ministers headed by Pranab Mukherjee decided to export 3 lakh tonnes of non-basmati rice to Bangladesh at a price of Rs 20,000 rupees per tonne as part of the rice diplomacy after a diplomatic gaffe by the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh.

We should not concentrate only on the negative aspects of the first visit of an Indian prime minister to our country in decades. There is some positive aspect to the visit. India has agreed to allow duty-free access of 46 Bangladesh-origin products into its markets. That is good news indeed. Signing a protocol to the land boundary agreement of 1974 will pave the way for settlements of land boundary disputes, including un-demarcated areas and adversely possessed enclaves and about the exchange of enclaves. This protocol, if implemented by both sides, grants rights to the people residing in enclaves as citizens of the country they belong to. Now the Bangladesh government should conduct a survey in cooperation with international organisations to demarcate and construct permanent pillars. Bangladesh should seek help of the United Nations in the demarcation of land boundary along with adversely possessed lands and enclaves. Bangladesh should also consult reports of International arbitral awards of 1950 between India and Pakistan.

The visit of the Indian prime minister and chief ministers of four Indian states to Bangladesh is itself a success story wherein leaders of both countries might have exchanged opinions on issues of vital interests to the people and the countries in general. From this visit, officials and leaders of Bangladesh might have gathered experiences on how to deal with the Indian authorities in the future.

BY : Mohammad Amjad Hossain.  

Political Bloodbath Looming In Bangladesh

Judging from the controversial actions being carried out by the government and the reactions of the opposition, most observers believe another period of political turmoil is looming in Bangladesh. The outcome of such turmoil would be anybody’s guess at this point.Anyone who follows events in Bangladesh knows all too well that the country is now pretty much captive to two dynastic families for its politics or governance. Since 1991, state governing power in the country has been alternating between these two families. In a country not known for equality between the sexes, both families are now headed by women who have for all practical purposes remained each other’s sworn enemy.

One of the women, Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the current Prime Minister, is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the supreme leader who led the country to the liberation war against Pakistan in 1971. The other, Begum Khaleda Zia, the present Opposition Leader, is the widow of Gen. Ziaur Rahman, the renowned freedom fighter in that same war. Both Mujib and Zia later ruled Bangladesh. Their periods of iron fisted rule were surrounded by many controversies and ended in their murder while in office. Yet, the power vacuums that followed their respective assassinations prompted their die-hard followers to help establish the present family dynastic rule by elevating the two women political novices, the leaders’ heirs apparent, to the leadership positions of their personal parties – Awami League and Bangladesh Nationalist Party. The two ladies in turn seized the opportunities to consolidate power and assume autocratic rule within their parties.

After the end of dictatorial rule in Bangladesh in 1990, the two ladies alternated state power for an almost equal number of terms. Both of their administrations were, however, marked by huge irregularities. They tolerated the massive corruption and the injustices inflicted by their party members and supporters. This has resulted in the creation of a widening wealth divide in the country with more people falling below the poverty line. Their human rights violations were equally appalling. According to Amnesty International, the special police force, Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), established in 2004 has been implicated in the killing of at least 700 people despite repeated pledges by both ladies to end extrajudicial killings.

The grass root support or popularity of both parties seems equal, and neither party was strong enough to grab state power all by itself. So they both enlisted the support of a junior partner, namely the Jamaate Islami Party, at one time or another. When Khaleda Zia was last in power with such alliance, she maneuvered things to put down the opposition and bolster her own re-election prospects. The opposition led by Sheikh Hasina resorted to agitation, leading to political turmoil in 2006. The army promptly took advantage of such turmoil by seizing power in early 2007 under the guise of a care-taker government system that the feuding parties had earlier established for conducting national elections, and ruled for two years.

Given the ferocity of the turmoil preceding the military takeover, the army backed care-taker government enjoyed rare popular support at the time. Hopes were also raised when it swiftly initiated vital democratic reforms in the organization and regulation of political parties, election rules, power decentralization and judicial independence. But sadly such valiant efforts all ended in utter failure. The army backed unelected government gave in to tremendous pressures from both inside and outside. After arranging an election, it handed over power to Sheikh Hasina, who had won the election.

The opposition rejected the election result claiming it was conveniently manipulated and influenced by neighboring India. This claim has since been backed by an article appeared in The Economist on July 30, 2011. The opposition’s argument that Sheikh Hasina has made secret deals with India is also gaining considerable traction after the article detailed the benefits that India would extract from its cozy relation with Bangladesh. In rebuffing the gain that Bangladesh could expect in exchange for the transit facilities for India, the opposition reminds people about the water sharing fiasco that India has indeed created for Bangladesh.

Additionally, Sheikh Hasina is seen to be more interested in using her current parliamentary mandate to find a way to extend her rule by suppressing or eliminating the present or perceived opposition than to properly address the many critical problems facing the nation. These problems are, run-away inflation especially for staple foods, acute gas and electricity shortages, crises with regard to infrastructure, unemployment, rising crime rates, police brutality, campus riots, rampant corruption, and an ongoing stock market scandal.

But to ensure her firm grip on power and to prevent any kind of dissent in her own party, Sheikh Hasina surrounded herself only with loyalists by eliminating the moderate and independent party stalwarts from decision making. All vital decisions in the country, including judicial judgments, must now meet with her approval.

In a clear effort to reduce the power of her nemesis, Khaleda Zia, corruption charges were recently filed against her. Her two sons, who live in exile, were also indicted earlier on similar grounds by the Hasina administration. The charges against them may well be true and the people have the right to know the truth, but they are not at all sitting well with the BNP supporters. Besides, an amendment to the constitution to do away with the earlier agreed upon system of care-taker administrations to oversee elections has been enacted unilaterally. This act was even taken contrary to the wishes of Hasina appointed Supreme Court, which though ruled against the care-taker government system, opined that it should be slowly phased out. In any event, no one expects the opposition to accept such a unilateral change to the constitution for fear of election manipulation.

Sheikh Hasina commissioned a controversial tribunal, which is to begin shortly the trial of the alleged war-crimes during the war of independence of some 40 years ago. The accused are being deprived of any legal help from outside the country. Oddly, her father with his enormous power didn’t envision such a disruptive and unsettling trial. Her apparent target is to wrestle the opposition forces of Jamaate Islami. Although she is trying to justify her action on ground of controlling fundamentalism, many countries including the U.S. have expressed reservations about this trial. She remains unfazed.

She stripped Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus from his position in the Grameen Bank, which he had founded to promote micro-credit among the rural poor, by using trumped-up charges and his age. She did this without even waiting for the investigation report that she had ordered, which later cleared him of any wrong doing. His obvious crime was that he was becoming too popular. Prof. Yunus’s popularity was casting a shadow over Sheikh Hasina’s plan to make her father “the greatest Bengali of the millennium”, and at the same time making him a potential rival in future elections.

These actions clearly epitomize Bangladeshi politics, where such personal vendetta has time and again overtaken national interests! As personal vengeance has now become more fierce and intense, the situation is getting even more precarious day by day.

Currently, there are four major players in Bangladesh politics, and each holds substantial power. They are: the two parties that the two ladies lead and control, the Islamist group of which Jamaate Islami Party is a part of, and finally the army. Given the intensity and scope of the present conflict, the ensuing power struggle is thus likely to turn ugly.

The actions of Hasina’s administration are clearly on collision course, and the response by the aggressive opposition, led by Khaleda Zia, is equally stern. The Islamist group itself is a very formidable force. It has demonstrated its strength in 2005 by successfully exploding over 400 bombs in 300 locations and claiming the lives of judges, lawyers and policemen with their suicide attackers. The group has also been implicated in the notorious grenade attack in 2004 on the rally of the then opposition leader Sheikh Hasina. Though she survived, the attack took the lives of 22 people including the wife of the country’s current President. As to the army, it has so far seized state power on three occasions, the latest one being in 2007.
Democracy was never given a chance to flourish in Bangladesh. Its system of governance, including the army rule, was centered and built on individual leadership cult. It has since given birth to the dual family dynastic rules. The existing system may at best be termed as democratic authoritarianism in which the country seems to be locked in for now.

If the country’s past violent history and the present realities of the Middle East are any guide, the family dynastic rules in Bangladesh will only bring more chaos and confusion where neither democracy nor economy would get a chance to prosper. Yet, with such a well perceived gloomy outlook, no one expects a change in the key players’ stance on any crucial issue. So the world must wait to see what the next political turmoil brings to Bangladesh!

BY : Mahfuz R. Chowdhury.

The Conundrum Of Sharing Water Of Common Rivers

IT WAS ‘all froth and no beer’. We can probably use this old English adage to describe the outcome of the much-vaunted official visit to Bangladesh early this month by the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh. It yielded next to nothing, neither for India nor for Bangladesh, the two countries euphemistically referred to as the two closest neighbours.

It is a historical fact that India lent unflinching support to Bangladesh’s war of independence in 1971 against Pakistan and gave shelter to millions of our people who had fled their homes during the nine-month war to escape the atrocities of the Pakistan army—but ties between the two countries evolved into a ‘love-hate relationship’.

Such a relationship derives from the day-to-day conflict of interest between them that can be likened in microcosm to two neighbouring households quarrelling over trifles of everyday life. Or we can compare it to a relationship between two brothers living on their ancestral homestead with their paternal property divided between them, but nurturing some kind of perpetual animosity rooted in the apprehension of Bangladesh becoming a permanent market for India’s burgeoning industrial growth and a virtual sphere of influence in New Delhi’s emergence as a rising global power.

Dhaka’s relations with New Delhi are thus characterised by intermittent political and diplomatic hiccups resulting from a series of continuing irritants that soured bilateral ties which proved difficult for the governments of the two countries to grapple with. Sharing of waters of the common rivers straddling through the two countries—Bangladesh being at the receiving end as the lower riparian country—has been the most nagging irritant hindering a healthy growth of relations, let alone other issues that historically spawned animosity between them.

Bangladesh is losing out while upstream India has been pursuing its water schemes unilaterally. It started with Farakka—the dam that India built in the early 1970s at close proximity to its border with Bangladesh to store and divert the Ganges water for irrigation and to flush water to make the Kolkata port navigable. They did it unilaterally without caring for consulting its lower riparian neighbour.

The result was that the two countries spent years deadlocked in a dispute over the dry-season flow of the Ganges (called the Padma in Bangladesh). The Ganges originates in the Himalayas in Nepal and meanders more than 2,000 kilometres through India before entering Bangladesh to end up into the Bay of Bengal.

Farakka brought untold miseries for the newly-independent Bangladesh. It eroded much of the goodwill and friendship forged through India’s unqualified support for Bangladesh’s independence earned through a bloody war against Pakistan.

Farakka deprived Bangladesh of its rightful share of the natural flow of the Ganges water, especially during the dry season. The resultant effects were agriculture production in Bangladesh suffered, the Padma and its tributaries were drying up giving rise to shoals and chars (sand islands in mid-river), affecting navigability of the rivers and massive salinity of land in southern coastal districts of Bangladesh. Other adverse effects like deforestation and depletion of fisheries followed.

The early 1970s saw the diplomatic wrangles between Dhaka and New Delhi in course of the Ganges water talks that continued for years, yielding only some piecemeal short-term accords until they signed the Ganges water sharing treaty in 1996. Though the treaty is for 30 years, and envisages a minimum guaranteed flow of water into Bangladesh, there are qualms on the part of the later that the minimum flow is not monitored and ensured. The dry-season flow of the Ganges appears to be still below the minimum level, given the fact that salinity continues to rise in the coastal districts and keeps advancing northwards, damaging agricultural land, fisheries and the ecosystem, particularly the mangrove forests of Sundarban.

Farakka is an old story; and perhaps we have learnt to live with the woes it has wrought on millions of people over a vast swathe of south-western Bangladesh. Let alone the Ganges, there are other river issues—the latest being the issue of sharing the waters of the Teesta in northern Bangladesh; and of course that of the Feni to the east.

What rendered Manmohan’s visit to Bangladesh a lacklustre affair was the failure to strike a deal on sharing the waters of Teesta. Press reports both in India and Bangladesh had given the impression that a deal on Teesta water sharing was very much on the cards with all the necessary groundwork already done to ink it. It was given to understand that both sides had worked out their respective shares of the Teesta flows. As envisioned in a draft deal, according to press reports and feelers put across the political and diplomatic circles, after allowing the natural flow of the river— i.e. some 20 per cent—the two countries would divide between them the rest: India would keep 52 per cent leaving the remaining 48 per cent for lower riparian Bangladesh.

That sounded to be a win-win proposition and our foreign office mandarins and the foreign minister herself appeared pretty complacent and sanguine that the long-awaited deal on Teesta water sharing would come through. It was ludicrous that till the last minute our foreign minister was so simply gullible to believe that the Teesta deal would be inked.

That the deal would not be signed became obvious when Mamata Banerjee—the gung-ho new chief minister of Paschim Banga—opted out of the official delegation of the Indian prime minister. There were reports that the Indian union government had a series of meetings with Mamata on the proposed Teesta deal which apparently failed to yield any outcome. For Mamata, the firebrand leader of Paschim Banga, it was probably a question of protecting the interest of her constituency which she was not ready to compromise for the sake of fostering ties with a neighbouring country that shares historic affinity, culture and language. That is politics!
By giving her veto to the Teesta deal, Mamata ‘Didi’ certainly disappointed Bangladesh; and maybe she has embarrassed the Indian government as well. Her ‘no’ to the Teesta deal has touched off a diplomatic glitch that will certainly affect India’s bilateral engagement with Bangladesh. It will delay the realisation of India’s geopolitical objectives of securing a transport ‘corridor’ or what they euphemistically call ‘transit’ through Bangladesh and, probably also, disrupt the move for ‘transhipment’ of goods and commodities through Bangladesh’s ports of Chittagong and Mongla. They need them to meet the exigencies of not only their geo-political interests but also to ensure economic development and business of their landlocked ‘seven sisters’.

Sharing of river waters will continue to be the crux of diplomatic irritants between Bangladesh and India with 54 common rivers flowing through the two countries. India has some grandiose projects for harnessing river waters for irrigation and massive river-linking projects to divert waters for resurrecting their dying rivers. They also have scores of projects for constructing dams for water conservation and producing hydel-power that pose great threats to the lower riparian Bangladesh and its ecology.

If New Delhi goes ahead with all those projects unilaterally without consulting the lower riparian country, it would be really difficult for Bangladesh to survive as a sovereign nation. International law is scantily helpful in guiding nations on the development and use of shared rivers. Over the last century, nations have signed scores of treaties dealing with non-navigational uses of water, but most of them lacked any enforcement mechanism or perfect monitoring provisions (like in case of Farakka).

In 1997 the United Nations General Assembly approved a convention on non-navigational uses of international watercourses. It is based on draft articles developed over 20 years by the UN International Law Commission. Although the convention is a positive step, experts say it is too vague to be of much practical help in resolving water sharing issues. The convention established two key principles to guide the conduct of nations over shared rivers—a) equitable and reasonable use of water and, b) the obligation not to cause ‘significant harm’ to neighbours.

The convention lists a number of criteria for nations to consider in deciding what is equitable and reasonable, taking into account issues like climate, geography, hydrology, population, existing and potential uses of the river, and the available alternatives. But it offered no formula for weighing them.

Nonetheless, international acceptance of ‘equitable and reasonable use’ of water as a guiding principle in shared river basins made it difficult for dominant upstream countries to completely ignore the needs of small downstream countries. That gives smaller nations like Bangladesh the strength and right to negotiate or raise voice against any inequitable arrangements for sharing waters of common rivers.

There are, of course, instances where big and powerful countries that cared a fig for the needs or woes of smaller neighbours. One recent example is Turkey which refused to meet the demands of its neighbour Syria. 

Way back in 1992, Turkey turned down Syrian request for more water of the river Euphrates. In response to Syrian demand for Euphrates water, the then Turkish prime minister Suleyman Demiral reportedly remarked: ‘We do not say we should share their oil resources. They cannot say they should share our water resources.’
That was, of course, a crude utterance on the part of a politician, devoid of diplomatic niceties. Or, at best, Turkey simply invoked a now maligned principle called the Harmon Doctrine. Named after former US attorney general Judson Harmon for an opinion he had rendered in a US-Mexico dispute over the Rio Grand in 1895—when the age of imperialism still persisted—the doctrine espoused that nations have absolute sovereignty over water within their borders and no obligation to share it with downstream neighbours.

Luckily though, India is not probably pursuing the Harmon Doctrine. But water sharing issues will continue to dominate the ‘love-hate relations’ between our two countries in the days ahead. Of late, we are apprehensive over the hydroelectric projects and dams that India is planning at Tipaimukh and Myndu-Leska. For now, we are at least buying New Delhi’s repeated assurance that they would not take up any river engineering project that would harm their little neighbour.

Postscript: India is worried over a Chinese move to build a dam across the Brahmaputra in Tibet, apparently to divert its water, which India apprehends would adversely affect its interests. ‘China is always opaque on hydro-engineering plans. It also has a habit of beginning work quietly on large dams,’ The India Today quoted Brahma Chellaney, an Indian strategic affairs analyst, as saying.

BY : Roushan Zaman.  

North-East Buyers Welcome Bangladeshi Products

Millions of fashion-conscious residents of North-Eastern states in India are excited to learn about recent duty-free access facilities accorded to Bangladeshi products, including textile items, which will not be flooding in the North-Eastern markets, as Bangladeshi products are cheaper in price and much superior in quality, comparing to those manufactured in India. Bangladeshi textile products already remain much ahead of the products manufactured in India, because of superior craftsmanship in Bangladeshi factories. Moreover, Bangladesh updates the latest trend and design almost on a daily basis, keeping eyes on the international market. That has possibly placed Bangladesh in the leading position as textile product exporters in the world.
The traders in North-Easter states in India believe that once Bangladeshi goods enter the Indian market, the retail prices of garments there will fall by 20-30 per cent because of the cheap labour and low production cost of goods in Bangladesh. Moreover, transportation cost of Indian textile products to the North-East is much higher than the transportation cost of Bangladeshi products to those markets. In addition to denim items and fashion textiles, Bangladesh will also have a huge market of cotton lungi and Bangladeshi Jamdani saree to this market. Leaders of Bangladeshi textile products are seeing a new scope of exporting textile products worth US$ 2-3 billion in the North-Eastern part of India as well as Nepal and other neighboring countries, under the current trade benefit accorded by the Indian government. Importers and traders in the North-Eastern states in India will also find interest in buying various types of stock lots of textile items from Bangladesh.
In addition to the textile items, Bangladesh will also be able to export its world-class ceramic items to the North-Eastern states in India. Bangladeshi ceramic items are currently exported in a number of Western countries as well as America and the Middle East.

Monno Ceramic Industries began producing porcelain tableware for the Bangladesh home market in 1985, and secured its first export order the following year. Monno soon earned an enviable reputation for both quality and value. The subsequent introduction of bone china to its range of quality dinnerware has only served to strengthen that reputation. As the original exporter of porcelain dinnerware 'Made in Bangladesh' Monno is proud to contribute to the growth of the Bangladesh economy. In a developing country the kudos accorded to exports and the valuable foreign exchange derived is significant. Today in Bangladesh Monno is a household name and regarded as one of the country's premier companies.

Monno offers products in Porcelain, New Bone China, Ivory China, and real Bone China. In fact they source the materials in their bone china body and glaze from Stoke on Trent, to which is added pure water filtered from their own wells. So Monno likes to think of it as 'English' Bone China. Customers include many well known prestigious department stores, speciality and chain stores around the world for whom they manufacture own label products. Some customers have been with Monno for as long as 20 consecutive years and Monno is proud to enjoy a close relationship with them. They work with customers to develop their own shapes or decorations, or can offer designs from their extensive stable. Their talented teams of artists and designers work closely with the experienced technicians of an own in-house decal print unit. That combination of man and machine helps achieve striking results.
Monno's Porcelain & Bone China factories are perhaps unique in being able to offer under one roof the flexibility and versatility of many manufacturing methods as best suit the size or nature of the product. Monno has invested in modern machinery and can boast high pressure casting, ISO Static Pressing, auto cup lines, auto dip glazing, spray drying, and an open firing system. That technology helps them in their never ending pursuit of excellence. Manufacturing capacity is in the order of 2 Million pieces per month.

Monno Products are safe! Tests carried out by CERAM show their products fall well below the thresholds for lead and cadmium release in tableware or cookware coming into contact with foodstuffs as specified under current European regulations. They also meet Australasian and US Federal requirements as well as those specified by California's very tough 'Proposition 65'.
RAK Ceramics is one of the leading ceramic factories in Bangladesh. RAK Ceramics [Bangladesh] Limited, a UAE-Bangladesh joint venture company, was incorporated in Bangladesh on 26 November, 1998 as a private company limited by shares under the Companies Act 1994. The name of the Company was thereafter changed to its name from RAK Ceramics [Bangladesh] Private Limited to RAK Ceramics [Bangladesh] Limited as a public limited company. The company is engaged in manufacturing and marketing of ceramics tiles, bathroom sets and all types of sanitary ware. It started commercial production in November, 2000. The commercial production of new sanitary ware plant started in January, 2004.

The company has over 1,000 different models and shapes of its products and regularly adds newer designs to the product portfolio. RAK's production capacity is 22,000 square meter floor/wall tiles and 3,400 pieces of sanitary ware per day. Products of the company are regularly exported to the Middle Eastern markets. RAK Ceramics [Bangladesh] Limited is an ISO 9001:2008 certified organization.

Shinepukur Ceramics Limited is a member of the Largest Private Sector Conglomerate, BEXIMCO, in Bangladesh with about 30,000 people in the permanent payroll, handling a diversified range of merchandise to and from Bangladesh. The Group's in-house manufacturing interests encompass Seafood, Jute Yarn, Pharmaceuticals, Textiles, Knit, Denim, Garments, Real Estate and Engineering. BEXIMCO is also involved in Media, Computers and the IT Arena's. As part of a meticulously planned expansion program of the Group, BEXIMCO has setup this state-of-the-art Ceramic Tableware Plant, SHINEPUKUR CERAMICS LTD. 
(SCL) on the outskirts of Dhaka in 1999. SCL is a 100% export oriented unit, equipped with the latest and modern Machinery's and Kiln's from TAKASAGO MINO, and SKK Japan and comprises of two independent units producing high quality Porcelain and Bone China Tableware. The Porcelain unit has a capacity of 60,000 pieces, whilst the capacity of the Bone China unit being 10,000 pieces a day. The Bone China unit has in fact been setup on the basis of the latest technology from NIKKO Japan, coupled with extensive training facilities to our Production team, both locally and internationally.

In addition, SCL is equipped with the top-of-the-testing and Quality Control Laboratory facilities, Decal Plant, Carton-Packaging Plant, Modeling Unit, and has at its disposal its captive gas-based Power Generation capability, and the best effluent discharge mechanisms in place. The Company is also an ISO 9001/2000 certified Company.
Since commencement of the commercial production at the end of 1999, Shinepukur has successfully developed a substantial export market for the top-of-the-line Bone China and Porcelain Tableware and the customer portfolio now includes world-renowned Tableware companies in the UK, USA, Spain, Italy, Australia, New Zealand, Norway, Sweden, Russia, UAE, Denmark, Germany, France, Mexico, Turkey, and India.

Decal Plant and Design Studio: Decal production started in August 2001. Total Printing Capacity is about 120,000 Sheets per Month, starting from single color upto 8 Colors with Gold/Platinum, both Onglaze [840 degrees Celsius] and Inglaze [1220 degrees Celsius], and completely Lead and Cadmium Free. The Company has set up Designing Studio in the Plant in 2005 and in Italy with Rody Time s.r.l. in 2006.
Packaging Plant: Production in the Packaging Plant started in June 2003. Assorted about 300,000 Pieces White and/or Brown Cartons per month are presently being produced in this facility. In addition, the Company also supplies 4-6 Color Printed Cartons.

Exports from Shinepukur Ceramics comprise about 60% of the National Tableware Export turnover of Bangladesh. As recognition of this contribution, SCL has been awarded National Export Trophy [Gold] in December 2003 for the Financial Year 2000-2001and 2002-2003.
Fu Wang Ceramic Industry Limited is a Taiwan-Bangladesh joint venture company established in 1995 which manufactures various types of floor and wall tiles. In 1998, the company went into Stock market as a Public Limited company. Fu Wang products are already exported to India, Taiwan and Bhutan.

FARR Ceramics Limited manufactures world class ultra white hard Porcelain Tableware with its state-of-the- art production facilities. The entire plant was set up with machinery from Germany, Italy and Japan. The main production process entails transformation of plastic clay into finished product within twelve hours production cycle.
Since FARR Ceramics desires to become the leader in the market of quality tableware producers, the company utilizes only the best quality raw materials, e.g., New Zealand Kaolin [CCP] from New Zealand, Ball Clay from Japan, China Clay from China, Alumina from Japan, Feldspar and Quartz [the top graded only] from India, Zero Leaded Gold and Colors from Germany.

China-Bangla Ceramic Industries Limited [CBC] production lines are equipped with world's most modern machineries from Italy. Under the dynamic leadership of its Chinese promoters and experts CBC is producing a wide range of Wall and Floor, Homogeneous, Decor and Border tiles with innovative designs in different sizes to cater the market demand with affordable and competitive price.

Buyers in the North-Eastern states, especially the traders prefer buying Bangladeshi products because of quicker shipment facilities. It takes only 24 hours for Bangladeshi goods to reach any of the destinations in the North-Eastern states, while transportation cost is also comparatively lower than those imported from other parts of India.

Other Bangladeshi items, which would have demand in the North-Eastern states are: cement, cosmetics, medicines, electrical items, electronic items, paints, biscuits, footware, toiletries, edible oil, vegetable ghee, fruit juice, potato chips, pickles, ketchup, laundry soap, detergent powder, mosquito repellant etc.

BY : Zahid Al Amin.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Trade-Off Between Bengal, North-east Not Viable

The agricultural economy of north Bengal cannot be undermined for the sake of a ‘transit’ treaty whose benefits are in the abstract given the woeful condition of infrastructure in the north-eastern region. It is time the diplomacy of Manmohan got real.

Bangladesh cannot be faulted for putting on hold the Feni River agreement and the much awaited transit treaty. The transit treaty not only held out huge revenue potential for Bangladesh but would have also yielded to north-eastern India its dream of access to a port. The importance of this link for the region’s economic turnaround cannot be overstated. But Singh threw that opportunity away by imagining that a pack of IFS officers would “manage” Mamata.

A problem between Delhi and Kolkata could leave Dhaka sneezing politically. Now the anti-Hasina BNP would take advantage of the failed treaty to whip up anti-India sentiments. An advantage for the Bangaldesh Nationalist Party (BNP), with its known links with radical Islam, is a clear headache for India.

The Awami League is known to be an old ally of India. Bangladesh’s birth was midwifed by India. The BNP is known to whip up old suspicions harboured by remnants of the pro-Pakistan section of Bangladesh society. When in the Opposition in Bangladesh’s never-ending revolving door politics, the BNP tends to follow Delhi-Dhaka diplomacy with a telescope and never loses an opportunity to cry ‘traitor’ in the direction of the Awami League government for perceived “sellout” to India.

In the 1990s, the Awami League appeared to pulled off a masterstroke by clinching the Ganga water agreement with India, whose diplomacy was then punctuated by the “Gujral doctrine”. The “Gujral doctrine” held that India, being the big brother of the region and immensely advantaged by natural and economic resources, should  not think twice before making “small” sacrifices to its neighbours, particularly Bangladesh, Nepal and Sri Lanka, because through them India stands to gain greater long-term dividends. However, things don’t work like that in South Asia. For a time it did appear that Hasina, who was Prime Minister in the 1996-2001 period, was serious about helping India smash north-eastern insurgency by forcing the Assam,  Nagaland, Tripura and Manipur  militants to close down their shelters in the Chittagong region. But this cooperation was soon sabotaged by pro-BNP elements in the Bangladeshi military establishment. And there was nothing that either India or the Awami-controlled Bangladesh government could do about it.

So, disregarding the interests of millions of people in northern West Bengal in the hope of securing a greater reward in the form of a “transit agreement” is not workable. There is no guaranteeing that the several follow up agreements needed to make a transit agreement work, would automatically fall in place. Moreover, given the present state of north-eastern industry, trade and services, it would take many years, if not decades, for the transit agreement to bring in the expected dividends. The north-east’s biggest problem is not lack of access to a nearby port, but woeful infrastructure. The government of India is vainly expecting a foreign treaty to resolve a home-grown problem whereas it has no substantial plan to improve the state of the north-east’s deficits in power, roadways and communications. But by that time, the entire agricultural sector of northern West Bengal could go for a toss. So the tradeoff may not necessarily have been reasonable.

Shiv Shankar Menon may have great understanding of foreign affairs but he cannot be expected to appreciate the political compulsions of a Chief Minister. The Prime Minister’s claim that Mamata had been “fully briefed” before the final go-ahead was given to draft the treaty has to be taken with a pinch of salt because the West Bengal Chief Minister would never have given her consent at a juncture when she was consolidating her own position.

When it comes to the criticism, Mamata had to face from certain quarters for “spiking” the treaty to exercise her State’s legitimate rights over the waters of the Teesta river, one can’t but appreciate the fact that in international river water treaties the rights of lower riparian states are upheld by preserving the rights of upper riparian states. Hence it is the UPA Government led by Manmohan Singh that should take the blame rather than anyone else. One wonders how Singh went to taste the flavor of Hilsa but ended up with egg on his face.

Duty-Free Textile From Bangladesh To Hurt Indian Units : Indan Media

Days after Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced duty-free access to 46 textile items from Bangladesh, the apprehensions are being raised that the move will prove detrimental to the Indian textile industry’s growth plans.

As per a deal signed by India and Bangladesh, a total of 305 products, mostly textile items, can be imported into the country by paying zero per cent duty. The same 305 products can also be imported duty free from Bhutan, Maldives and Nepal.

Ajit Lakra, president of Ludhiana Knitters Association said the duty waiver will work against the industry in India. “Centre has waived off 26% customs duty applicable on these products. All that the Bangladeshi industrialists would be paying is 10.3% counter veiling duty (CVD). The Indian garment industry is already paying 10.3% excise duty,” Lakra said, adding that labour is cheap in the neighbouring country and “we cannot compete with the prices, which will be offered by Bangladesh”. 

The Knitwear Club president Vinod Thaper and general secretary Narinder Miglani have already given a memorandum to state congress president Capt Amarinder to be handed over to the PM.

“Once the products (from neighbouring countries) start coming in the Indian market, many Indian units will shift focus from manufacturing to trading. This will lead to cut in the jobs houses and hence manufacturing will reduce. This will lead to job cuts. The Centre should have thought of the adverse impacts before signing the deal,” added Lakra. 

Bangladesh had been pressing for the last two years to get duty waiver on 61 products. Of the products, 47 were apparel items including pants, shirts, blouses, skirts, kids wear, cotton nightwear, jeans, swimwear and tracksuits.

Salim Osman, president of Bangladesh Knitwear Manufacturers and Exporters Association (BKMEA), had recently said that Bangladeshi apparel makers will do well in Indian market. 

Indian Leadership Lacks Vision

The fallouts of the Delhi blast and Teesta water sharing flop is ominous for the Singh government.

India has been caught on the wrong foot again. It has evoked anger over the bomb blast at Delhi High Court on the one hand and a bit of unhappiness on the accord between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Prime Minister Shaikh Hasina on the other. Both show the helplessness which has become the badge of the Union government. In the case of the terrorist attack, it is a failure of all those engaged in protecting the nation. At Dhaka, India could not deliver on the sharing of Teesta river water because West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee was not willing to release a certain quantum of water after having given her word to New Delhi.

The fallout of the two is ominous for the broken and battered Singh government. The terrorists have again dared the government which has no clue about its perpetrators, although the responsibility has been owned by the Harkat-ul Ansar, a breakaway group of the HuJI (Harkat Ul Jihad Al Islami).

In fact, as soon as the blast took place, the government sources said unofficially that the needle of suspicion was directed towards the HuJI which operated from the soils of Pakistan and Bangladesh. There was little mention of the efforts that Bangladesh had made to curb terrorism, although Singh acknowledged the cooperation of Shaikh Hasina. In the terrific noise that the blast made, the hurrah over the demarcation of the border between India and Bangladesh was lost. New Delhi did not make any specific mention of the exchange of enclaves between the two countries, pending since the freedom of Bangladesh in December 1971.

People in Bangladesh are disappointed because they had put all their eggs in Teesta water basket. Yet the territorial exchange is not a mean achievement. As for Teesta waters, the older generation in Bangladesh would recall how long it took to bring around West Bengal to give more water from the Farrakha barrage. Being lower riparian, Bangladesh has every right to get water from the Teesta. The point at issue is: how much? At the time of Farrakha barrage accord, then chief minister Jyoti Basu headed West Bengal. The centre took time to bring him around. It could not go ahead without West Bengal's sanction because water is a state subject.

Therefore, Mamata, mercurial and cautious, would need a lot of persuasion and a lot of support from within West Bengal. According to Singh, she was on board till the last minute but then she changed her mind. A leader of substance became prey to rumours and self-created doubts. She fears that the communists are only waiting for an opportunity to pounce upon her after she had decimated them in the last assembly election.
True, West Bengal has the last word on giving Teesta water and that too in lean months. But the compromise figure worked out was fair and left most of Teesta water to the state. Emotional Bangladesh has made things more difficult because it has taken the issue to a feverish pitch where the lessening of water is considered India's betrayal of Bangladesh which was breathlessly waiting for signatures on the accord.

Finding faults

In democracies, public opinion matters. It is as much potent in Bangladesh as in India. It takes time and needs a lot of patience and courage to narrow down the differences. Agreements come to be evolved. The Teesta treaty will come through as the Farrakha barrage treaty did. But by damning India no purpose will be served. In contrast, India behaved maturely and there was no angry reaction on the stalling of transit treaty, which was a win-win situation for both.

Dhaka should be more circumspect while finding faults. The bomb blast has changed India's priorities. Its attention is focused on how to create a mechanism which could cope with terrorism which has taken roots in India. Inputs by Bangladesh would help. This was the psychological moment that Dhaka should have used to hand over the ULFA leader in detention.

No doubt, the main responsibility for security lies with New Delhi. Every time a blast takes place the government says that some heads will roll. I have not seen any so far. There does not seem to be any accountability of authorities or those who had the security system under them. Six major blasts remain unsolved. The police or intelligence agencies are nowhere near finding the people behind them. Something which baffles me is the attitude of political parties. The BJP enjoys seeing Congress-led government in trouble. This is the time when all ranks should be closed. Instead, every incident is politicised. And there is no consensus on any point.

The tragedy is that India has no leader with a vision. The challenge is to the polity. For political parties, things are either black or white. There is a grey area which they should widen. This requires a sense of accommodation and spirit of tolerance. I feel that the glue which unites the country is drying up.

BY :   Kuldip Nayar.

WHY SO MUCH TRUMPET BLAST? : Manmohan’s Visit: Outcome Negligible For Bangladesh

The national press created high expectation about the outcome of the summit between the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The Government agencies in Bangladesh, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, helped in dissemination of news and views about the summit directly and indirectly. The tempo was building up during the last 9 months though the actual visit took place between September 6- 7 2011. The outcome of the summit has not come up to the high expectation because of the fact that the Teesta water treaty was not signed.

The Bangladesh side was projecting the summit in a way that the achievement to be had out of the summit would surpass all past achievements and would thus give the Government of Sheikh Hasina Wazed a great political boost. It now appears that there were lackings and various experts on the subject of foreign affairs or diplomacy are saying that the drill for the visit in the home front was inadequate. 

The raw hands
The Acting Secretary General of BNP has alleged that the preparation for the summit were mostly done by Advisers in the office of the Prime Ministers and these Advisers were raw hands because they did not have any background of diplomatic encounters with other countries.

Blames have been put on Mamata Banarjee, the Chief Minister of Paschim Bangla as due to her absence the water treaty could not be signed. Mamata Banarjee is a self made politician who has been in and out of power on various occasions. Her party, Trinamul Congress, is a faction of the Indian Congress. She is through-bred in politics and, therefore, fully aware of her primary responsibility to serve the cause of the people. There are some by-elections which will be held in Paschim Bangla. This is one of the important factors which must have been high on her mind at this juncture, and therefore she did not want to take a risk by participating in the Teesta water treaty which is essential for Paschim Bangla too. Her absence, therefore, was a calculated step which did upset both the Prime Ministers who had high hopes of concluding the Teesta agreement. However, the Indian Prime Minister before leaving Bangladesh on the conclusion his visit said that Teesta Water Treaty would be concluded in 3 months time. But who knows about the slips between the cup and the lips.
No press briefing by Hasina
The Prime Ministers of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has not briefed the local press regarding the summit although she led the Bangladesh Team. Syed Ashraful Islam, General Secretary of the Awami League (AL) has, however, in a press conference claimed that though Teesta water agreement was not signed, the summit was a success and that Teesta was one of the items not the only item of agreement. He recounted the achievements of the summit which were favourable to Bangladesh. 

It is worthwhile to note that the Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, a member of the Indian entourage, said in Delhi that due to the border agreement signed between Bangladesh and India, India has got 1240 acres of land, whereas, Bangladesh got only 357.5 acres of land. 

The Chief Minister of Tripura, Manik Sarker, and other members of the Indian entourage admitted in an interview with a leading English daily published from Dhaka that “Indian Prime Ministers’ recent visit to Dhaka may have had more misses than hits but the achievement should not be over shadowed by disappointment”. The statements made by the two Indian Chief Ministers were more pragmatic than what Syed Ashraful Islam, a junior in national politics, holding high party position and the portfolio as the Minister for LGRD and cooperatives, said in a press briefing, as stated above. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed came to learn that the Teesta water sharing treaty would not be signed on the 5th instant at night but there are press reports that Baby Moudud, reportedly a personal friend of the Prime Minister, was sent to Kolkata to plead with Mamata Banarjee to attend the summit. Baby Moudud is not a diplomat and, therefore, she was not suited to the job. 
Inept handling
Another gentleman by the name of Gauhar Rizvi also became very conspicuous in connection with the summit as he attended talk shows and also fed the press on some occasions. The Foreign Minister Dipu Moni also spoke to the press to explain the progress of the preparation for the summit and pre-summit talks which were attended by high Indian officials.

There has been inept handling of the preparation for the summit and the end result has angered many people in the country because apparently the Government has failed to obtain a solution to the Teesta water problem as Mamata Banarjee did not come in the entourage, as alleged; but the real story will not be available very soon unless we come to learn what actually happened. In this connection leaks from Wikileaks may provide some lead. Recently, heavy releases of Wikileaks about Bangladesh politics and diplomacy are appearing in our national dailies and are raising many curtains which are of interest.

At the end of the summit a 65-point joint statement was issued on September 7, 2011 and this joint statement serialised the accords. Knowledgeable circles say that these accords could have been signed in a usual manner at the level of Joint Secretaries without so much trumpet blast and Dr. Manmohan Singh could have been invited by the Prime Minister for a goodwill visit to Bangladesh.

BY :  Shahabuddin Ahmad. 

Bangladesh ‘To Become Solar Energy Nation In 10 Years’

Bangladesh has given a significant thrust to tapping of solar energy and is set to become a ‘solar energy nation’ within the next 10 years.

 A huge number of ‘green jobs’ will also be created,  a leading expert said in Dhaka yesterday.  

Former Grameen Shakti managing director Dipal Chandra Barua said, “We’re moving ahead to lay out a mission, Bangladesh Solar Mission’. We’ll analyse the global perspective, engage experts from home and abroad and take support internationally to make Bangladesh a solar energy nation,” Barua said.

Barua is now president of Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association and founder and chairman of Bright Green Energy Foundation.

He said his group wants to ensure solar energy in every corner of the country, and to engage unemployed boys and girls in the business expansion process, and also help the country get rid of the nagging power crisis by ensuring the use of solar energy up to 51%.

Dipal said they have formed a trade body, ‘Bangladesh Solar and Renewable Energy Association’, to help expand solar energy in the country.

“If the solar energy business grows, it’ll create jobs and help reduce the cost of having solar energy,” Dipal, also the president of the association, said.

Replying to a query, he said there are many developments in this green area. “The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is planning to provide funds for generating 500 megawatt of solar energy in Bangladesh. The government is in negotiations with ADB in this area.”

“It’s a big breakthrough. It’ll help increase the generation further. We’ve the God’s best gifted sunbeam,” he said.
Dipal said an international conference on solar energy development will be held in Dhaka on September 20 which will help Bangladesh work out its own plan to move forward.

Replying to another question, Dipal said the foundation, ‘Bright Green Energy Foundation’, will help expand and popularise solar energy.

He sought government support and united efforts to help ensure the expansion of solar energy system in the country.

Dipal further said solar energy is important as it is environment-friendly unlike nuclear power generation. “So, all should work together in this regard.”

Asked about credit facilities, he said flexible credit support is needed to make solar system popular in Bangladesh.

Sharing his plan on increased solar energy generation, Dipal said, “We’re taking various steps. We just want to spread solar energy across the country. We want the expansion of this business and more job creation.”
He also said they will train girls in each village to ensure proper maintenance of the solar energy system and to make the business viable.

Currently, some 60,000 people work in the solar energy sector across Bangladesh, he informed. Dipal, who has decades of experience in the field, believes a solar power system could be the best option to mitigate the worsening power problem. He said over 1mn solar home systems (SHSs) have been installed in the country. There is a plan to set up 7.5mn more solar panels across Bangladesh by 2015.

Referring to the environment, the expert said the free source of solar energy is an excellent solution.

BY :  Mizan Rahman.

Should Not India Pay Transit Fees?

Should India pay the transit fees? It is a big question now at a time when a hide and seek is further adding confusion as to whether or not the Awami League government has already given the facility to the neighbour to go to its north-eastern states from the mainland in the west.
Another question is, whether it is a transit facility which is used to go to a third country as against a corridor which India is trying to obtain by all intent, to carry its goods and passengers from one end to the other. 

Irrespective of this debate a growing confusion is widespread as to whether India should pay transit fees. President of India-Bangladesh chamber of commerce and Industry (IBCCI) Matlub Ahmed at a seminar in the city last week said India should pay the transit fees. 

Contrarily, the Prime Minister’s two advisers, Dr. Moshiur Rahman and 
Dr. Gowhar Rizvi, have always maintained that Bangladesh should not demand transit fees from its neighbours. Then the question arises, critics say, who will pay for the cost of infrastructure development in building new roads, railways, ports and dredging the waterways which are supportive to operate the system.
India should share
So Matlub Ahmed said India should agree to share the ‘cost saving’ from which it will benefit by making the transportation path shortcut. It is quite logical, he said adding it represents a win-win situation on both sides. 
But Gowhar Rizvi again insisted last week in the wake of IBCCI president’s 
remark that Bangladesh should not demand share from the Indian cost saving. His argument reads as such: if Bangladesh demands transit fees, India will not be interested to using transit at a large scale and only a system which is free from payment of fees can lure India to using it at full capacity.

This is an outlandish argument on the part of an adviser to the Prime Minister provoking critics to question as to whose interest the adviser is looking after holding a crucial post of the Bangladesh government. The apprehension may be exaggerated, but the question remains how he can justify it. 

And he is not alone. Another adviser, Dr Moshiur Rahman who is also working closely on the issue, even had earlier written to the NBR and the ministry of shipping and commerce asking them not to impose any transit fees. He was instrumental in scrapping an NBR circular last year which had levied transit fees of Taka 10,000 for a container loaded with transit bound cargo and Taka 1000 for per tonne loose merchandise. 
The circular led to a crisis as India refused to pay the fees while two cargo vessels  remained stranded over a week at entry point of Bangladesh waters coming from Kolkata port and moving towards Ashugonj river port.

Now India is willing to pay transit fees but its opposition is coming from no other positions but from top advisers of the government handling the transit issue. Dr Moshiur Rahman even went to the extent of saying that demanding transit fees will be tantamount to an ‘uncivilised’ act from an ‘uneducated’ nation.
When this sort of debate is on the rise, senior elected leaders should clearly speak out the government’s political position on the issue at a time when critics wonder whether the advisers are fighting through a situation marred by conflict of interest. 
Infrastructure cost
Speaking on the issue Dr Akbar Ali Khan recently said, if India does not pay for  the cost of infrastructure investment then where the money will come from to repay the loan that Delhi has given to Bangladesh to build necessary infrastructures. 

He said the construction of the Ahugonj river port alone will require Taka 300 crore  to be paid back over the next 20 years. It means Bangladesh will be required to pay Taka 15 crore per year on principal amount against the loan for the port.  Who will pay it, he wondered and then how the money for the payment of the  billion dollar loan could be mobilized. Should Bangladeshi tax payers take the load from which India will benefit, he wondered adding the repayment issue may create a critical situation in future. 

The Indian billion dollar loan is not the only major investment; Bangladesh may be required to put a total of at least seven billion dollars investment in the next few years to build the transit infrastructures including the Padma mega bridge. 

If India is not paying and sharing its cost saving, how will Bangladesh pay for it  for which the advisers are not having a direct answer? 

Chairman of the Bangladesh Tariff Commission Dr Mujibur Rahman recently  focused on the issue saying the cost recovery of the infrastructure development should not be directly linked to transit fees. 
He said there is no direct relation with it and hoped the government will be  able to master enhanced revenue in future as the economy will grow as a direct boost from transit. Here more service sectors will grow like hotels and restaurants, more clearing forwarding agencies will operate, more buses and trucks will ply to lead to greater revenue collection. Moreover, India is likely to pay charges against services at different levels in Bangladesh to contribute to revenue collection.

This is how the transit fees may be serviced from additional income to come  from expansion of domestic economic activities, he argued. But the question is, where the impediments lie to demand the fees, there is no answer from the establishment on this question at this moment. 

A question to finance minister on the billion dollar Indian loan at a seminar  in June this year as to why all supply should come from India against the loan was instantly turned down as ‘nonsense’. The nation is more confused now as contradictions are only growing related to transit infrastructure financing and such other cost recovery issues when India is already using Bangladesh facilities without formal transit accords.

BY :  Faruque Ahmed.