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Saturday, September 10, 2011

Special Section: THE WORLD FOOD CRISIS : BANGLADESH - 1974

For nation shall rise against nation . . . and there shall be famines and troubles; these are the beginnings of sorrows. —Mark 13:8 

Nothing is older to man than his struggle for food. From the time the early hunters stalked the mammoths and the first sedentary "farmers" scratched the soil to coax scrawny grain to grow, man has battled hunger. History is replete with his failures. The Bible chronicles one famine after an other; food was in such short supply in ancient Athens that visiting ships had to share their stores with the city; Romans prayed at the threshold of Olympus for food. 

Every generation in medieval Europe suffered famine. The poor ate cats, dogs and the droppings of birds; some starving mothers ate their children. In the 20th century, periods of extreme hunger drove Soviet citizens to cannibalism, and as late as 1943, floods destroyed so much of Bengal's crops that deaths from starvation reached the millions. 

After World War II, however, it seemed that man at long last was winning the battle against hunger. Bumper harvests in many nations, notably the U.S., created food surpluses in the West, while the development of "miracle seeds" brought the hope that the densely populated poor countries would soon attain self-sufficiency. Then, in the past two years, this optimism turned to despair as hunger and famine began ravaging hundreds of millions of the poorest citizens in at least 40 nations. Much of the ground gained in the battle for food seemed lost as the world's harvest in 1972 was roughly 3% short of meeting demands. This year's harvest has also been disappointing, and experts now question whether man can prevent widespread starvation. 

The world's reserves* of grain have reached a 22-year low, equal to about 26 days' supply, compared with a 95-day supply in 1961, according to Lester Brown, a leading U.S. food expert. Low harvests and high prices have forced the traditional surplus-producing nations to curtail the amount of food that they normally give as aid to the hungry nations. For example, unless the U.S. adopts an expanded program, American aid this year will drop 50% in some categories. Sales of food are also shrinking. Argentina, Brazil, Thailand, Burma and the Common Market nations have restricted food exports. Several weeks ago, President Ford blocked the sale of some 10 million metric tons of grain to the Soviets and is permitting them to buy scarcely one-fifth of that amount. Ford feared that massive sales to the Soviet Union could inflate food prices in the U.S. 

Against this gloomy backdrop, about 1,000 delegates from some 100 nations and a dozen international organizations are gathering in Rome this week for the World Food Conference, sponsored by the United Nations. It will be the first concerted global effort in history to confront the problem of hunger. For twelve days, the delegates will discuss both a program to provide food for the starving and a drive to mobilize technological and financial aid from the wealthy industrial and oil-exporting states to help the 100 poorest nations increase their own food output. Also certain to be discussed is the critical problem of curtailing births. This is urgently needed to avoid fulfilling the nightmare of Parson Thomas Malthus, the English economist who predicted nearly two centuries ago that population would outrun man's capacity to produce food. 

At the opening of the conference, attention will focus on the keynote address of U.S. Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, but the delegates may likely be disappointed by what he says. He will probably make few substantive commitments. On the eve of the meeting, the U.S. still did not even have a coherent food policy. It was also uncertain whether two of the world's biggest food producers and consumers—the U.S.S.R. and China—would cooperate in any international food effort, even though the urgency of the problem is unmistakable. 

Nearly half a billion people are suffering from some form of hunger; 10,000 of them die of starvation each week in Africa, Asia and Latin America. There are all too familiar severe shortages of food in the sub-Saharan Sahelian countries of Chad, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Senegal, Upper Volta and Niger; also in Ethiopia, northeastern Brazil, India and Bangladesh. India alone needs 8 to 10 million tons of food this year from outside sources, or else as many as 30 million people might starve. 

Only slightly less serious are the situations in Honduras, Burma, Burundi, Rwanda, the Sudan and Yemen. Additionally, poor harvests threaten food supplies in Nepal, Somalia, Tanzania, Zambia and even the Philippines and Mexico. In Haiti, because of disregard for soil conservation, hundreds of thousands of subsistence farmers face starvation. Whole families are often so hungry that they do not wait for mangoes to ripen; they boil the green fruit and eat it. 

Some of the broader dangers were cited recently by Norman Borlaug, winner of the 1970 Nobel Peace Prize for his development of wheat strains essential for the famed Green Revolution. "You cannot have political stability based on empty stomachs and poverty," he warned. "When I see food lines in developing countries, I know that those governments are under pressure and are in danger of falling." Shortages or high prices of food have already contributed to the toppling of governments in Ethiopia, Niger and Thailand. 

Food riots have become commonplace in vast sections of Bangladesh and India. "In the worst-affected areas, gruel kitchens have been opened that provide a watery mess of broken wheat, fragments of pumpkin and lentils," reports TIME New Delhi Correspondent James Shepherd. "Queues of sev eral hundred emaciated people at each kitchen get what is often no more than a quarter-pound of the gruel, and sometimes that is shared among six people. In one village, a shame faced elder confessed that Hindus were violating the ban on eating cows and were consuming dead cattle and buffaloes. 'What else can we do?' he implored pathetically."
Even the beggars of Calcutta are better off than the estimated 15 million people now starving in West Bengal. "In the Kutch district of drought-stricken Gujarat," adds Shepherd, "peasants patiently wait for dogs and vultures to finish picking at the carcasses of dead cattle. The hungry gather up the bones and sell them to mills where they are made into bone dust, a kind of fertilizer." 

In Bangladesh, there are barely rations to provide even gruel for the starving in Dacca's crowded refugee camps. Children are so emaciated—their flesh clinging to their brittle bones—that they almost look like deformed infants. Shortages of vitamin A, iron and iodine in India and Bangladesh are increasing the incidence—especially among the young—of goiter, blindness and cretinism. 

In Africa's Sahel, the rains last June broke a six-year drought, but the area's 25 million inhabitants are not yet out of danger. Ten million people still suffer from malnutrition and will need outside aid for at least two years. "Of the estimated 4 million refugees in grim, barren camps," reports TIME Correspondent Lee Griggs, "many are young children, their bodies already so malnourished that they are easy prey to diseases ranging from measles to meningitis to pneumonia. Often they find it too difficult to eat or drink with out assistance." At least 3 million nomads—mostly Fulani and Tuareg tribesmen—have lost their entire herds of cattle, sheep, goats and even camels. Though many nomads have begun returning to their traditional grazing lands, it will take them at least five years to rebuild their stocks. 

If drought struck again, the Sahel could probably count on foreign help similar to this year's 34-nation relief operation, which delivered 560,000 tons of food—one-third of it from the U.S. What is doubtful, however, is whether an emergency aid effort could rescue the tens of millions of potential starvation victims in case of disastrous harvests in India, China or another heavily populated country. There is probably not enough elasticity in the world food production and distribution systems to do that now, despite the impressive gains that agriculture has made in the past quarter-century. 

Since 1950 developing countries have expanded their farm lands by 35% and their yields per acre by roughly the same percentage. Their total grain production soared 78%, compared with 64% in the industrial nations. Much of the gain came in the late 1960s through the planting of new, high-yield strains of wheat and rice. The hybrids produced more grain per plant, and their short stalks made them far less vulnerable to wind damage. The development of these seeds was hailed as the Green Revolution. Within a few years, one-third of the wheat area and one-fifth of the rice area in non-Communist Asia were planted with the miracle seeds.
Then came 1972. Bad weather started to plague so much of the world's crop land that many experts conclude that the climate itself is changing (see story page 80). Harsh winters, droughts or typhoons cut output in the Soviet Union, Argentina, Australia, the Philippines and India. Off the coast of Peru, a change in ocean currents and overfishing decimated the anchovy catch, a major source of protein for animal feed. In Southeast Asia and parts of Africa, the peanut crop—providing mainly animal feed and cooking oil—fell far below normal. All told, the world's food output dropped for the first time in 20 years, down 33 million tons, from 1,200 million tons. Merely to meet the added demand of increased population and rising living standards it should have increased by at least 24 million tons. 

The weather improved in 1973, but a new set of problems threatened food output, especially in the underdeveloped countries. Fertilizer was in short supply, and its price started to climb. Then came the devastating impact of the quadrupling of the market price of petroleum by the cartel of oil-possessing nations. Higher oil prices meant added costs for the farmer: pesticides, herbicides and nitrogen-based fertilizers are derived from petroleum, while the manufacture of all fertilizer requires much energy. The world price of nitrogen fertilizer jumped from 11¢ per Ib. in 1972 to 25¢ now. 

These price increases critically undermined the Green Revolution. The hybrid seeds need great amounts of water, fertilizer and pesticide. If any of the three are missing, yields plunge, often below what traditional seeds would produce. After paying for their oil imports—up from $3.7 billion in 1972 to $15 billion this year—the developing countries had little left to buy the chemicals and nutrients that their high-yield, intensive farming requires. India, for example, can afford only half the fertilizers that it needs for maximum crop yields in 1974.
This year's harvests did not improve the situation. Instead of the bumper crops needed to rebuild stocks and bring down food prices, there were disappointing harvests in the U.S., Canada, the Soviet Union and much of Asia as a result of poor weather. Meanwhile, demand keeps going up. 

The main cause of the increase in food demand is, of course, the population explosion in the poorest countries. The world is growing at the phenomenal rate of at least 200,000 people a day, or 75 million a year. Unless the rate is checked, this planet's 3.9 billion inhabitants will double in number within 35 years. India's 2.2% annual growth rate will double the country's current population of 596 million by the year 2000. The apparent inability, or unwillingness, of most poor countries to restrain their profligacy has embittered many agricultural economists. Nobel Laureate Borlaug complains that the higher yields of the miracle seeds were meant to give the underdeveloped nations some time to reduce their population growth and begin upgrading their citizens' nutrition. Instead, he says, "Our efforts to buy time have been frittered away because political leaders in developing nations have refused to come to grips with the population monster."

This was painfully clear at the World Population Conference in Bucharest last August. Advocates of population control were sometimes heckled. Ridicule was heaped upon proposals from the developed countries—led by the U.S.—that called for setting up family-planning programs in underdeveloped nations and reducing the world's birth rate from 2% now to 1.7% by 1985. Latin American delegates claimed that overpopulation was a myth invented by the rich to exploit the poor. China's representative, Huang Shu-tse, declared: "The large population of the Third World is an important condition for the fight against imperialism." No wonder that one delegate from a sparsely populated nation muttered that the conference was "more demagoguery than demography."

Affluence, as well as population, eats into the world's food supply. As standards of living in the developed nations rise, their citizens not only waste food and feed millions of tons of it to pets, but they increasingly eat their food in forms that enormously burden the earth's agriculture. People in developing countries eat roughly 400 Ibs. of grain per capita annually (barely more than the pound daily they need for survival), mostly in the form of bread or gruel; but an American consumes five times that amount, mostly in the form of grain-fed beef, pork and chicken. The industrial world's way of eating is an extremely inefficient use of resources. For every pound of beef consumed, a steer has gobbled up 20 Ibs. of grain. Harvard Nutritionist Jean Mayer notes that "the same amount of food that is feeding 210 million Americans would feed 1.5 billion Chinese on an average Chinese diet."

While meat is an important source of protein, many in the industrial West eat much more meat than is nutritionally necessary. They probably do so because they like meat's taste; it is also a status symbol of a high living standard, even in Communist countries. When the Soviets suffered a crop shortfall two years ago, they did not slaughter cattle to conserve grain (as they had done in 1963), but instead they imported 28 million tons of corn, wheat and soybeans. So long as the industrial nations continue to favor meat over direct grain consumption, says Sylvan Wittwer, Michigan State University agricultural economist, "the sky is the limit for food demand."
Much of that growing demand in both industrial and developing countries has been satisfied for the past quarter-century by surpluses harvested in Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Argentina and the U.S. Indeed, America "is the principal and residual supplier of grain to the world," explains Willard Cochrane, a University of Minnesota agricultural economist. "It is the country to which all countries come when they are short." This year, despite the recent restrictions on sales abroad, the U.S. will probably export about 41% of its crop—at least 82 million tons of wheat, soybeans, corn and sorghum, valued at about $17 billion. This is enough to provide about one-quarter of the world's 3.9 billion people with at least one meal daily. 

Even the U.S. is no longer the bottomless cornucopia that it once seemed. By October this year, miserable weather had reduced the harvest of corn by 16% and soybeans by 19%, while demands from the developing countries continue to mount. Merely to feed one pound of grain per person daily to their added population by 1985, they may have to import at least 85 million tons of grains, compared with 25 million tons now. Their import bill, figured at current prices, would top $17 billion for food alone; they would still have big requirements for imported technology, oil and manufactured goods. 

No economist sees any way that the developing nations will have enough money even for the food. Nor can they rely on aid. Though the U.S. has given away $25 billion worth of food in the past two decades, the American people will probably not support large aid programs if prices at their neighborhood supermarkets remain high. It is also uncertain whether the world has enough ships, trains and trucks to move such quantities of grain. 

This grim prognosis has led to apocalyptic warnings from some of the world's top food experts. "We will see increasing troubles, not declining troubles," predicts Dr. John Knowles, president of the Rockefeller Foundation. "We will see increasing famine, pestilence, the extermination of large numbers of people. Malthus has already been proved correct." The most vulnerable to such disasters: India, Pakistan, Bangladesh, the Sahel nations, Ethiopia, northeast Brazil, the high regions of the Andes and the poor parts of Mexico and Central America. 

This deteriorating situation poses a dilemma for the wealthy, food-surfeited citizen of the developed world. He must decide whether he has a moral obligation to feed those who are starving even if the food shortage in the poorest countries could have been prevented by population control. Morals aside, out of sheer self-interest he must ponder whether the hungry half-billion will allow him to live peacefully, enjoying his wealth. He must realize that there is the chance that the impoverished might resort to war to take his wealth and food. Economist Robert Heilbroner notes that even hungry, poor states might soon get the nuclear arms with which to terrorize wealthy countries. Finally, Western man must decide whether his own sense of human dignity—which is the basis for democratic institutions—can survive as he witnesses so many people starving around the globe. 

-Reserves usually refer to grains — such as wheat, corn, sorghum, rice and soy beans — not needed to meet immediate demands. They can be in storage, in transit or in the lield ready to be harvested. Most food statistics use grain as the common measure because it is the major source of calories for man and provides the basic teed tor animals.
 
 

PM Annoyed With Mashiur, Gowher

Advantage India In Bangladesh Land Swap

The India-Bangladesh land border agreement, concluded recently by prime minister Manmohan Singh during Dhaka trip, has sparked protests and allegations of a sell off in the north-east.

However, India has got double of what Bangladesh got in Assam, from the land border agreement the two nations signed, sources said. Available details from the agreement show India got 714 acres (all in boundary demarcation), and Bangladesh about 357 acres.

“There are accusations that India gave away 665 acres in Assam. That’s not true. We got almost double of what has been given to Bangladesh. And most of the areas given to Bangladesh were the ones that had been in their possession since Independence, and were only pending a settlement,” sources said. Also, sources added, the deal will only be implemented after it is ratified by parliament.

Sources said the agreement has been balanced in terms of the areas exchanged.

“The agreement had been signed by all four north-eastern states with stakes in the agreement. And they are all happy with it,” sources said.

Sources explained, in Assam, the boundary issue had 3 adverse possessions and 1 case of demarcation of boundary. In the first case of adverse possession in Nayagaon area Bangladesh wanted “145 acres”. “We gave them none,” sources said.

In Palakhal area India gave “74.5 acres,” and in Boraibari “193 acres”.

“area had been in their possession since independence. In case of adverse possessions, they had asked for 793 acres, but we only gave them about 267 acres,” a source said. India got its share of the deal, 714 acres, in boundary demarcation.

SOUTH ASIA: Summitry And Solidarity

Six months after the Indo-Pakistani war that created the new nation of Bangladesh, the two principals—India's Indira Gandhi and Pakistan's Zulfikar Ali Bhutto—will hold a long-anticipated summit meeting this week in the Indian mountain retreat of Simla, north of New Delhi. At issue between them is the question of an international boundary line in the disputed state of Kashmir, which has been about equally divided between the two countries since 1949. Mrs. Gandhi will likely propose that the cease-fire line that existed in Kashmir before the December war continue as the boundary with some adjustments to permit India to retain strategic salients captured in the struggle. For his part, Bhutto is under considerable domestic pressure to bring home the 75,000 Pakistani P.O.W.s still held by India. The two leaders will also probably discuss restoration of diplomatic relations, which were severed in December. 

But affairs on the Indian subcontinent cannot be fully put in order without Bangladesh's Prime Minister, Sheik Mujibur Rahman, who has declined to attend the summit until Pakistan recognizes his country. Bhutto last week may have been preparing the way for recognition when he observed that Pakistan would become "odd man out" at the United Nations this fall if it still refuses recognition to Dacca. 

Indeed, Bangladesh has not only achieved independence but is also gradually recovering from the war and showing signs of success in winning the peace. So far, there has been no widespread famine, as was feared, thanks to large grain shipments from India and the U.S. and others purchased by the United Nations. The crowded Bihari ghettos are still hotbeds of tension, but there has been no massacre of the non-Bengalis, who frequently sided with the Pakistani military during the nine-month siege last year. 

Economic Stability. More than a million homes have been rebuilt, and all but a hundred or so of the 561 more important bridges in the riverine delta region have been repaired. Jute exports, the prime source of foreign exchange, have also begun to flow from the ports. 

Still, it will probably be another two or three years before the new nation achieves economic stability. Many of the returning refugees from India still have no materials with which to build houses or plant crops. Rice has doubled in price. "Mujib" has announced a broad program of governmental assistance. Low-paid civil servants and employees of nationalized businesses will receive monthly cost of living allowances of $2 to $3.30. Small farmers who till eight acres or less will be exempt from rent arrears, interest and taxes. Mujib also raised the minimum wage from 100 takas to 150 takas ($20) a month. 

"I inherited an empty godown [warehouse]," the Prime Minister told TIME Correspondent William Stewart recently. "I am very happy about the progress my people have made, but every problem is a crisis." A big problem is the lack of skilled management personnel to help get both governmental and industrial machinery rolling again. For most of the past two decades, the best-educated Bengali civil servants were routinely sent to West Pakistan to work. Bhutto has been unwilling to allow the 400,000 Bengalis caught in the West during the war to return home. 

For all the sheik's good intentions, his own party, the Awami League, has become plagued by corruption. Some officials have reportedly commandeered relief supplies, and then sold them at a profit. In one village near the Indian border, an Awami League official was beaten to death by villagers who charged that he had been smuggling rice into India. Mujib has taken a tough stance against hoarders and racketeers, even threatening them with execution. 

Perhaps inevitably in a country so deeply indebted to a powerful neighbor, there has been a marked rise in anti-Indian sentiment. Some Bengalis fear that they will fall into economic thralldom to Calcutta, and find in India a handy scapegoat for their own economic ills. Mujib lashed out at critics of India in a speech earlier this month: "India stood by us in our most difficult days. When my people were being killed and driven out of the country, these critics of India did not utter a single word against the oppressors." 

Two weeks ago, the two nations agreed on a $275 million program of Indian economic aid to develop, among other things, paper and fertilizer industries in Bangladesh to supply the Indian market. The agreement came on the heels of a military pact under which India will assist in training the Bengali armed forces. The accords were interpreted as a demonstration of solidarity between the two countries in preparation for this week's meeting—a solidarity that will shape the view both Mrs. Gandhi and Bhutto take of their Simla summit.



Teesta Water: Failed Talks Face Flak In B'desh

With the Teesta water-sharing deal not materialising during the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent vist to Bangladesh, Bangladeshis are now believing that India will put off the deal for long. 

Many foresaw PM's visit to Dhaka as the defining moment for a game-changer political relationship in the Indian subcontinent. Yet to most Bangladeshis, Manmohan Singh's maiden visit to Dhaka remains clouded by his inability to push through the Teesta water-sharing agreement. 

"Going by the expectations we had from the Indian Prime Minister, I would say we are more disappointed with the talks than we are satisfied," said Nahir Anjum Siddiqui, Dhaka University Student. 

Bangladesh feels that India has been unilaterally withdrawing Teesta water for some years now, leaving its eastern neighbour high and dry during the lean season. Government sources in Dhaka feel that the pact would not only have allowed the neighbours to store surplus water but would have also ensured that the shortfall was shouldered equitably by both. 

"If it was signed right now then all my aman crop would be protected and in the dry months India would not make unilateral withdrawal which generates bad feeling," said Ainun Nishat, River Water and Climate Expert.
Sensing the disappointment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh quickly stepped into damage-control mode.
"I have asked the officials concerned to intensify their efforts towards finding a viable formula which does not cause undue distress to all those in India or in Bangladesh who are dependent on the flows of the water," said Manmohan Singh. 

Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia asked Dr Singh to incorporate provisions for amending the deals that have been signed. 

The general feeling on the streets of Dhaka is one of so-close-yet-so far. The Teesta deal is on the agenda of the two countries for more than half a century now and experts in Bangladesh feel that the prevailing political uncertainty of both leaders in their respective countries may not allow them to ink the deal during their current tenures. 

 

Pranab Mukherjee Remains Aloof From Teesta Issue

Pranab Mukherjee, who was known as a "guardian-like friend" of ruling Bangladesh Awami League continues to maintain distance from the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty issue while West Bengal's chief minister Mamata Banerjee has announced her plan to visit Bangladesh in November this year to "clarify her stand on the proposed Teesta water treaty to the friendly Hasina government."

Mamata to visit Bangladesh:
"I will visit Bangladesh soon to explain the reason behind my decision of not accompanying Indian Prime Minister. Sheikh Hasina's government is friend of India and I need to let her know, why I stepped back. I have to care about my voters here."

Commenting on Mamata Banerjee, a senior minister in India government told some of Trinamool ministers that Banerjee should have gone keeping the larger Indo-Bangladesh ties in mind when the centre had decided to stall the Teesta agreement. Some other ministers however admit that she was not "handled with care".
"She is the easiest or the most difficult person depending on one's approach towards her", a minister remarked.

India-Bangladesh relations:
While Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said that India attached the topmost priority to its relations with Bangladesh. "There is a national consensus in India that India must develop the best possible relations with Bangladesh", Kolkata based The Telegraph in its editorial titled 'The Tunnel Vision' said, "said that India attached the topmost priority to its relations with Bangladesh. "There is a national consensus in India that India must develop the best possible relations with Bangladesh."

The newspaper advocated importance of a strong "Indo-Bangladesh alliance" stating would "give India leverage in its negotiations with Pakistan and China."

Khaleda Zia hostile towards India:
The Telegraph said, "Greater cooperation with Bangladesh will enable India to maintain better connectivity with the Northeast. Sheer self-interest, often seen as the cornerstone of foreign policy, should have forced India to accord greater priority to its eastern neighbour. Yet for 12 long years, no prime minister of India 
visited Bangladesh. The argument that such visits were not made because the regime of Khaleda Zia was perceived in India as a hostile one is somewhat specious since no effort was made to win her over. Mr. Singh may have left his visit too late for his intentions to appear genuine and sincere. He is also severely handicapped by the fact that on the Dhaka stage he is directing Hamlet without Ophelia."

The Times of India in an opinion editorial titled "No paradigm shift in India-Bangladesh ties" wrote "It was a summit that yielded much for both Bangladesh and India, but will forever be shadowed by the failure to get a pact on sharing river waters."

Commenting on Mamata Banerjee's last-minute back out from the Dr. Singh's entourage, which resulted in pausing the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty signing, The Times of India said "It should have been a real good news visit, and a signal to other neighbours that teaming up with India has real benefits. But India fell short at the last mile, because it could not rise about local politics when the bigger picture needed to be addressed.

Ruling party in Bangladesh in vulnerable situation:
"For Sheikh Hasina, who is the real architect of the turnaround in India-Bangladesh ties, the let-down on Teesta is greater, because this would have been sold to a hostile opposition and a hopeful nation that good relations with India make political and economic sense. The lack of a water pact could make her more vulnerable to opposition attacks. A Bangladesh journalist said, "We supported Mamata during her election. Is this how she treats us?" The sentiment was echoed at the top echelons of the Bangladesh foreign ministry, where officials could scarcely hide their disappointment.

"Addressing the formal banquet in the evening, Sheikh Hasina declared that an "understanding" had been reached with India on Teesta and Feni river waters. Analysts here said it could mean that she would find it difficult to climb down further on the amount of water Bangladesh could get from a future agreement. Since the Teesta agreement has been in the making for almost 20 months, Bangladeshis are finding it difficult to swallow Mamata's line that she was not consulted."

In another article, giving details on the water sharing issue, The Times of India wrote "The water resources ministry's over-emphasis on a natural occurrence seems to have led to the Teesta tangle that found little acceptance in either Kolkata or Dhaka … Bengal was ready to release 25% of the flow at Gazaldoba in Jalpaiguri district, and Bangladesh had said that it wanted 50% of the flow at Dahlia, which is 105km downstream. A senior official in the water resources ministry said, "The flow at Gazaldoba is about 100 cumecs. While that at Dahlia - for most of the seven lean months - is 125 cumecs. Our studies showed that this increase is because of regeneration flows and we tried to tell both the parties that they can have their way because nature will take care of the difference. But it seems their stances are dictated by political compulsions and that's what precipitated the crisis."

Largest English language daily newspaper in India, The Hindustan Times said, "Bangladeshi officials and leaders of the ruling Awami League say water sharing was a much-awaited item for them and India's inability to deliver on it has put the government on back foot."

Quoting a Bangladeshi minister The Hindustan Times further wrote "Talks on water sharing has been going for the last 20 months, starting from PM Hasina's visit to India in January 2010. Everything was finalised and it came as a bolt from the blue," a minister said. "This puts us in an awkward position," he said, expressing fear that the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] may try to mobilise anti-India sentiments."
Though Bangladesh Awami League has been publicizing that the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty was going to resolve the crisis "for good", a senior Indian official told The Hindustan Times that "arrangement for Teesta was worked out as an interim mechanism, in percentages rather than in absolute quantities."
The Indian official further said, India tried to salvage the situation by concessions in trade but Hasina will need more to sustain her pro-India policies.

Hours before Dr. Manmohan Singh left Delhi for Dhaka, prominent English language newspaper in India, The Hindu in its editorial titled 'Mamata plays spoiler' wrote: Sheikh Hasina's government is already targeted by political opponents for its perceived 'pro-India' tilt. Prime Minister Hasina might have hoped to use the Teesta pact to ward off some of this criticism — leveled against her for cooperating with India on denying safe haven to ULFA and cracking down on anti-India Islamist groups. It was also hoped that a similar treaty would follow for the Feni River that flows through Tripura into Bangladesh. For its part, New Delhi expected that the give on the Teesta would yield connectivity through Bangladesh to the North-East States and beyond, underlined by the inclusion of four Chief Ministers from the region in the delegation to Dhaka. All this is up in the air now. Prime Minister Singh's visit was billed as one that would "craft a new paradigm" in a complicated bilateral relationship. With the likely signing of a border agreement and an extradition pact, the visit is not a complete write off. But there was a palpable feeling of let-down even before the Prime Minister's delegation took off from Delhi.

 

Bangladesh: Death At Night

President Zia is assassinated

Ten years ago this spring, young Major Ziaur Rahman broadcast an electrifying message from a clandestine radio in the East Pakistan city of Chittagong, proclaiming a rebellion against West Pakistan that ultimately created the nation of Bangladesh. Late last week there was another voice on the radio from Chittagong, announcing that Major General Manjur, 40, had taken over the government and abrogated the country's 1972 friendship treaty with India. The hero of a decade ago, President Ziaur Rahman, only 45, lay dead with two aides and six bodyguards in a government rest house in Chittagong. All were reportedly shot by an assassination squad, led by Manjur, in the early morning hours Saturday.

Manjur's confident proclamation of a coup seemed premature. The official Bangladesh radio in the capital of Dacca assured the country's 90 million people that the government was safely in the hands of Vice President Abdus Sattar. The government declared a state of emergency and called upon the rebels to surrender. Moreover, stressed the state radio, all international agreements remained in force.

Bangladesh's long-troubled relations with India, the country that had helped it win independence, seemed to be at the heart of the assassination. The two nations are divided by bitter issues primarily concerning the lower Ganges River, which meanders through both countries as it flows out into a vast delta. Tensions have built up over rights to the Ganges water, various solutions to the water question and territorial claims to islands formed by silt at the mouth of a boundary river. The sovereignty question is particularly volatile: there are hopes of finding oil under nearby waters. While Zia had pressed India strenuously on the diplomatic front—even sending gunboats to one of the 'disputed islands last month—he was apparently not aggressive enough for a fiercely anti-Indian element with a strong base in Chittagong. The assassins were apparently linked to these militants.

The slain Zia had been one of South Asia's most promising leaders, a man who lived modestly while others chose corruption, who searched tirelessly for solutions to his country's awesome poverty. He was also a fatalist. Once, reflecting on his service for Pakistan in the 1965 war with India over Kashmir, he observed: "There is no scientific explanation for a man to die or live. In front of me many people died, but I got a bonus of life." He used that bonus well, but last week it ran out.
 

The Diplomatic Debacle And Lessons For Govt To Learn

The two-day visit of the Indian Prime Minister, Manmohan Singh, in all practical purposes, proved to be an anti-climax, anything but a diplomatic jackpot or a watershed in Bangladesh-India relations that the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, herself and her government have sought to hype it up to be in the past 20 months or so.

It was, in the end, the same old exercise of New Delhi providing Dhaka with precious little, coated in generally inconsequential promises and assurances.

Not only was there any agreement on the sharing of the Teesta water- although the Awami League-Jatiya Party government sought to make the people believe in recent times that it was a done deal- but also the longstanding bilateral irritants- e.g. killing on the border by the Border Security Force of India, huge imbalance in bilateral trade, tariff and non-tariff barrier to Bangladeshi products- were not even effectively addressed.

Indeed, the government may point to, for example, the protocols on land boundary demarcation, overland transit to and from Bangladesh and Nepal through  India as achievements, as well as India's decision to give duty-free access to 46 textile items from Bangladesh.

However, while the protocols are at their nascent stage, 400-plus Bangladeshi products still remain on India's negative list. Overall, what had been touted to be the crowning glory for the AL-JP government turned out to be what may be called a pie in the face.

The obvious question is: what now? The answer is: a serious soul-searching by the incumbents. First of all, they need to realise that, despite the clear evidence of the long-suspected reluctance, if not outright antipathy, on New Delhi's part to address Dhaka's legitimate concerns, Bangladesh's interest is irrevocably intertwined with India's for reasons both geographical and geopolitical.

Second, the government needs to realise that it needs to wrestle out its legitimate dues from India through effective diplomacy and substantive political negotiations. New Delhi's decision to pull out of the Teesta water-sharing agreement virtually at last moment, apparently in the face of stiff resistance from the Paschim Banga chief minister, Mamata Banerjee, was perhaps not quite unpredictable.

The last thing that the Manmohan Singh government would want is to cross the Trinamul Congress-led alliance in Pashchim Banga, of which the Congress Party is a partner. However, the episode did expose the inherent inadequacy of Bangladesh's diplomacy.

Even before the Hasina-Manmohan summit began in Dhaka, the Indian external affairs secretary declared in New Delhi that there would be no agreement on Teesta water sharing. The least that Bangladesh deserved from India was a prior notification about its decision to pull out of the agreement.

Third, the government, and perhaps the Prime Minister in particular, needs to realise that personal relations hardly matter in state-to-state dealings. Here, it is pertinent to recall that Sheikh Hasina went out of her way and bypassed all diplomatic norms and protocols, to congratulate Mamata Banerjee over telephone on her party's victory in the state assembly elections.

That said, it needs to be pointed out though that the postponement of the Teesta agreement provides a much-needed breathing space for the government and the people. In the government-generated frenzy over the agreement, the people have had hardly any way of knowing what was actually there in the agreement and thus difficult for them to arrive at any conclusion as to whether its postponement has been good or bad. It also gives the government the scope to take a pause and look back at what it has done wrong and what it needs to do right.

The Hasina government, it also needs to be pointed out, does deserve praise for not entertaining New Delhi's request for transit facilities over land. Transit, as many experts have pointed out, is a trump card for Bangladesh and the government should use it to the country's maximum benefit. In other words, Dhaka should only agree to provide India with transit facilities after the latter has effectively addressed all of its concerns.

In fact, the government should reconsider its decision to allow India the use of its Ashuganj-Akhaura rail route, which, notably, it has made unilaterally, without any public consultation or even a debate in parliament.

Be that as it may, the government needs to utilise the breathing space judiciously. It is time for the incumbents to reconsider and reformulate its India policy. In this regard, they need to take a leaf out of New Delhi's manual and strive for a national consensus through comprehensive consultation with experts, intelligentsia and, most importantly, the opposition political camps. It would not only make the incumbents stronger at the negotiation table but also help them secure national interest.

BY : Nurul Kabir.

Bangladesh Government In Search Of New Allies In Asia

While ruling Bangladesh Awami League in general and the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in particular is greatly unhappy over India's last-minute back out from striking the Teesta and Feni river water sharing treaties, according to The Telegraph, published from Kolkata [India], in an opinion editorial titled 'Large-hearted message from visit' quoted an official of Indian Foreign Ministry, who said, "The Bangladeshis are obviously disappointed. But the delay in the treaty's signing has its positive side. The common Bangladeshi will understand how difficult it has been for India to deliver whatever we did. And the treaty, when it comes about, will taste so much sweeter."

Delhi based commentator N. Chandra Mohan wrote in India's largest English-language daily newspaper The Hindustan Times in an opinion editorial titled 'A river called Teesta': "A river named Teesta scuppered what would have been truly a historic visit by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh. The intransigence of Paschimbanga [West Bengal] chief minister Mamata Banerjee in supporting a more equitable sharing of the waters of this river meant that India failed to deliver on a key takeaway for Bangladesh. India, in turn, failed to secure a takeaway in terms of connectivity to its Northeast. India's trade concessions may have salvaged the visit but, overall, both countries have mixed feelings about it."

Hinting India's ambition of emerging as global power, Chandra Mohan wrote, "What is the big picture? Singh's trip was intended to be a game-changer for two related but distinct ideas: the formation of a larger Bay of Bengal grouping, and South Asian integration with a neighbour that would acquire a greater stake in the rise of India as a global power.

"Unless the member countries of the Bay are connected through road, rail, air and shipping services, the former idea fails to take off. The latter requires accepting asymmetrical responsibilities like unilateral trade liberalisation.
"Thanks to the standoff over Teesta, the formation of a Bay of Bengal grouping is blowing in the wind. India won't have better access to the Northeast and to Mongla and Chittagong in Bangladesh.

"Out of 38.9 tonnes of cargo movement, 18 million tonnes could have been diverted if transit through Bangladesh were allowed. This formation cannot come into being unless Bangladesh provides seamless connectivity between India and the Northeast and extends it to Myanmar and the others rimming the Bay of Bengal."

With the huge dismay at visible uncertainty in getting the water treaty signed, Bangladesh government is now getting set to concentrate its attention towards strengthening the bilateral relations with China. With this goal, a Singapore based shipping company is already set to start direct shipping link between Bangladesh and China. The link will cut freight for Bangladeshi traders who import US$7 billion merchandise from the world's second largest economy and help boost export opportunities for local manufacturers seeking new avenues for shipment. China has recent years emerged as the country largest import partner. It accounted for some 21 per cent of the Bangladesh's US$33 billion import trade in the year to June 2011.

Bangladesh's major imports from China include electronics, fabrics, non-cotton yarn and accessories, machinery, chemicals, intermediary raw-material, fertilizers, food grains and fruits. China last year overtook India as the biggest buyer of Bangladeshi raw jute and jute yarn. China also imports leather, dehydrated sea fish and apparel from Bangladesh.

Meanwhile, Chinese government has welcomed the recent initiatives of Dr. Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina in improving bilateral relations. Spokeswoman of Chinese foreign ministry Jiang Wu said, India and Bangladesh are important countries in South Asia and China would like to see countries in South Asia improve their bilateral ties as well as build mutual trust and make joint efforts to maintain peace, stability and development in the region.

China, which is constructing a network of oil pipelines and roads through Myanmar, evinced an interest in extending it to Chittagong to gain access to the platform in the Indian Ocean for energy supplies. Many Indian analysts described China's attempts to develop Chittagong port as well as those situated in Myanmar and Sri Lanka as a long-term strategy to "encircle" India with a "string of pearls," a claim denounced by their Chinese counterparts as "Indian paranoia."

Beijing's welcoming the latest development in bilateral relations between Dhaka and New Delhi is certainly aiming at ultimately getting the much-expected extension of oil pipeline to Chittagong to gain access to the platform in the Indian Ocean for energy supplies. It should be mentioned here that, China has already extended numerous cooperation to Bangladesh in infrastructural development. But, for past few years, such assistances visibly dried-up, as government led by Bangladesh Nationalist Party through initially tried to strengthen Sino-Bangla relations, it ultimately went into cold storage, possibly because of some 'reservations' from the Western nations. There are now indications of re-beginning of such assistances in near future.

China also is a major defense partner of Bangladesh. There is regular exchange of defense delegations between Dhaka and Beijing. Recently, leading Chinese news site CHINADAILY has prominently published an article by one of the officers of Bangladesh Army, which also clearly exhibits the cordiality already existing between Bangladeshi and Chinese armies.

It would be natural to raise question as to why Bangladesh is shifting its attention to China, when it already has best ever relations with India. The answer may be complex enough, but is reasonable as well. Following the recent bitter experience centering Teesta and Feni river water sharing issue, Dhaka is re-assessing and re-shuffling its diplomacy once again by strengthening relations with China and other Asian nations, to play as a 'Strong Tool' while negotiating any issue with India in future. Bangladeshi diplomats are fully aware that, India won't let any of the South Asian nations in particular slip into the Chinese quarters, as Delhi has already become aspirant of emerging as a global power. On the other hand, for policymakers in Dhaka, it would be much easier expanding any degree of relations with Beijing, as there is no anti-Chinese sentiment in Bangladesh, while the anti-Indian sentiment is strong enough.

In addition to boosting relations with China, Bangladesh also is set to further strengthen relations with Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, South Korea, DPR Korea, Philippines, Myanmar, Maldives, Nepal, Bhutan, Afghanistan, Cuba, Venezuela, Taiwan, Singapore, CIS countries, Poland, Romania, Bulgaria, Czech and Slovak Republic, Morocco, Egypt, Turkey and African nations. There is also indication of Dhaka's active consideration of establishing economic relations with Israel by lifting the existing travel ban. Diplomatic analysts believe that, Dhaka's relations with Jerusalem will not only bring tremendous benefit for the country in multiple ways, Israel can also be one of the best allies of Bangladesh in especially bargaining with New Delhi.

BY : Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. 

PAKISTAN: Bhutto: Embattled But Unbowed

For the fourth anniversary of his government, Prime Minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto deliberately kept last week's celebration low-keyed. For one thing, he was well aware that former President Muhammad Ayub Khan had staged a lavish anniversary celebration in 1969, only to be forced from power three months later. For another, he recognized that he was under the strongest attack yet from his political opposition, which declared last Friday a nationwide "Black Day." The opposition's aim: to force Bhutto's resignation.

Bhutto did not resign, but the rising tide of bitterness signaled the end of an era of good will that had accompanied his takeover of power after Pakistan's defeat in the 1971 Indo-Pakistani war. Bhutto tried to repair the damage wrought by his predecessor, General Agha Mohammed Yahya Khan, whose brutal excesses in East Pakistan forced the province to break away and form the nation of Bangladesh. He pushed through a land reform program, gave the country a constitution that changed the government from a presidential to a parliamentary system, and reaped a windfall in aid (almost $1 billion over the past three years) by improving Pakistan's relations with the Arab world.

But Pakistan's ancient quarrels with India and Afghanistan continue. Moreover, Bhutto's hope of a return to close relations with Bangladesh following the August assassination of President Sheik Mujibur Rahman was shattered by a series of coups and countercoups (TIME, Aug. 25), even though Islamabad and
Dacca early this month announced a forthcoming exchange of ambassadors. Pakistan has also been beset by recession, soaring inflation (25% a year) and devastating floods.

All these have provided ammunition for the political opposition, as has Bhutto's own highhanded tactics in putting them down. When his provincial cabinet minister for the Northwest Frontier province was murdered last February, Bhutto banned the National Awami Party—the principal party in the province—and arrested 300 of its leaders, including Khan Abdul Wali Khan, the leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. Most are still in jail. The battle grew more heated when security forces last month threw the opposition members out of the National Assembly, following a quarrel over passage of a constitutional amendment.
Last week Bhutto, 47, talked at his home in Larkana with TIME'S New Delhi bureau chief William Smith about Pakistan's problems; he had flown there to celebrate the Moslem holiday of 'Id al-Adha before making a four-day state visit to Sri Lanka. Sipping tea on the veranda of the rambling country house, he reminisced about his days at the University of Southern California during the late 1940s. Smith, who was then a student at California Occidental College and vividly recalls Bhutto's championship debating style, reported that "the Prime Minister's powers of persuasion are undiminished. He is also a very emotional man and clearly troubled by the mood of the citizenry, the sporadic agitation against him and charges that he is becoming increasingly undemocratic." Excerpts from the interview:

ON HIS DOMESTIC OPPOSITION: Their politics are negative. They say, "Ah, we have aroused the students and labor, and we are having economic problems. Let's go, we have just to give the last heave, and he'll be on his knees." My unfortunate experience in the past four years has been that they come to agreements, and then they break them. Their attitude, I'm afraid, is a kind of legacy of the colonial era. Most of them knew that kind of politics in the days of the British raj. A trick here, a trick there. If the opposition plays a negative role, it's not possible for the government to play a positive role. Democracy demands reciprocity.

ON RELATIONS WITH INDIA: We have moved forward in a number of ways. If this progress seems insubstantial, it is because the rest of the world does not really understand the pace and the movement and the music of South Asia. Our quarrel, whether you call it an Indo-Pakistani dispute or a Hindu-Moslem one, is by far the oldest in the world. It goes back for centuries, and was further fanned by 150 years of British imperialism and its policy of divide and rule. Ancient feelings don't disappear all at once. But the Simla conference in June 1972 [at which Bhutto and Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi agreed to work toward better relations] was a good one. It is pure conjecture [that India might start a war]. But a man of prudence would not rule it out, and you have to be a man of prudence if you are running a country.


ON TIES WITH BANGLADESH: If the people of the two countries want good relations, neither India nor any other country can prevent those good relations from taking shape. Bangladesh was once part of Pakistan, so there will be considerable warmth in that relationship; no nation should misunderstand that. However, to what extent the relationship is to develop is really for the people of Bangladesh to determine. It was they who wanted the separation. It is now up to them to tell us how close they want to come to us. We don't want to kill Bangladesh with kindness.

ON HIS POLITICAL FUTURE: I am a fish out of water in any other profession. I used to come to my lands near here. I would play around a little, I would kick someone in the pants and say, "What the hell are you doing, you lazy fellow?" But I didn't really get involved. I couldn't. As long as politics remains in this country, I will be in politics, either in the government or in opposition. If there's no democracy, I might not live to tell the tale. But if I do live to tell the tale, I'd still be interested in politics. I have no other profession.

The Real Reasons Why Mamata Banerjee Missed Dhaka Trip

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee has drawn a lot of flak for the Teesta water sharing deal between India and Bangladesh falling through.

Her refusal to accompany Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka came as a huge blow and didn't go down well within the Congress. While her action has been dismissed as egocentric, there seems to be more than what meets the eye.

Mamata, it seems, had her own political consideration behind her decision to drive a spanner in the Teesta project. Sources said one of the major factors was that Mamata wanted to win over the traditional vote bank of the Congress, spread over the north Bengal region.

Malda, Jalpaiguri and North Dinajpur are the three Congress stronghold districts in north Bengal. The party (Congress) also had a sizable support base in parts of Darjeeling district, which has now switched allegiance to Trinamool Congress.

Political observers feel that despite the absolute majority in the state assembly, Trinamool Congress is basically seen as a "south Bengal-based political party'. So, this was a golden opportunity for Mamata to capitalise on the sentiment of a large number of people living in north Bengal over the Teesta water-sharing deal.

"It was a political ploy to displace the Congress from large parts of north Bengal over the sensitive Teesta water-sharing issue and also to secure the Opposition votes (mainly CPMs) into the Trinamool fold," a source said.

When the Congress stayed silent over the Teesta deal, Mamata stepped into the scene and declined to share the river water with neighbouring Bangladesh saying it would be "detrimental" to the state.
The CM also reportedly believed that she might face stiff protest from the CPM if she was an ally to the Teesta treaty.

"It was a planned move and had sensible political reason," political analyst Sabyasachi Basu Roychowdhury said.

Another reason behind Mamata's decision to dump the PM's invitation could be that she wanted her "exclusivity". She refused to be a part of the entourage with the chief ministers of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya owing to the fact that she did not get enough importance from the Centre.

"It is true that Mamata has a cordial relationship with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. But the spotlight would have shifted from her to Manmohan and a group of chief ministers if she had accompanied the PM on the Dhaka trip," Roychowdhury observed.

The Trinamool chief was also not happy with the Centre's bailout package that was dished out last month for the development of West Bengal. It was "too little" to satisfy her.

Many feel it was a "pressure tactice' on the Centre.

Naked Exposition Of Bankrupt Diplomacy Of Bangladesh

Just within less than 24 hours of Dr. Manmohan Singh's strange and dramatic U-turn from signing the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty with Bangladesh, Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami [HUJI]'s name has come prominently in the Indian and international media as the "main culprit" behind tragic bomb blast of September 7, 2011, which killed a number of lives in New Delhi High Court premises. Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina immediately after the blast expressed her "profound shock and outrage" over the bomb blast in Delhi that claimed at least 11 lives, saying that any act of terrorism is "unacceptable" and "unjustifiable".

Top security experts say that Wednesday's blast outside the Delhi High Court has "exposed the loopholes in our security system" which "has an inadequate and incapable intelligence gathering system and a weak counter-terrorism mechanism".

Ved Marwah, former governor of Manipur who was also chief of the Delhi Police, told Indian news agency IANS: "The blast points towards the loopholes in the security system itself."

"While we look out for the terrorists responsible for the blast, we should have a look inside, into our own systems. More than the success of the terrorists, it is the weakness of our systems which cause terrorist incidents one after another."

Ajai Sahni, director of the New Delhi-based Institute of Conflict Management, warned that more terror strikes are likely. "Because our intelligence gathering capabilities are highly inadequate," Sahni told Indian media.

Marwah said though it was too premature to verify the claim of the Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami [HUJI] owning responsibility for the blast, it certainly "looked the handiwork of the jihadists, maybe with the help from extremists outside the country".

About the HUJI claim, Marwah said: "It is too premature to verify. In terrorism, nothing can be taken on face value and nothing can be ruled out."

Tharakan said the initial needle of suspicion pointed to Indian Mujahideen [IM]. "The IM has a network in and around Delhi. It has been charge-sheeted for the 2008 serial blasts, the major terror strike in the capital before this," he said. But the HUJI claim has to be trailed, he added.

Meanwhile, on his return to India, Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh told local media that, the West Bengal government assented to a strategic water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh before backing out of it over the weekend — and thus forcing India to resile on its international commitments.

Dr. Singh said he had consulted with Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee for over a month on the details of the treaty, asking National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon "to seek guidance from her." "I was told that all technical details were sorted out," Dr. Singh told journalists on-board his flight home from Dhaka.

Last week, the Trinamool Congress raised objections to the draft treaty at a meeting of the Cabinet's Political Affairs Committee. "I again sent Shankar Menon to visit Kolkata," Dr. Singh said. "He had a meeting, and what the Chief Minister said, and what Mr. Menon understood, he took to Dhaka, and the arrangement was made."

But, Dr. Singh continued, "some other factors came up and therefore Ms. Banerjee said that she will not accompany me to Dhaka. "It was only subsequently," he insisted, "that I learned her disagreement was on account on what we were attempting to do on the Teesta."

Indian negotiators, a highly placed government source told Indian newspaper The Hindu, have still received no explanation for West Bengal's eleventh-hour decision to reject the draft water-sharing treaty — making it impossible for them to explain the country's stand to their Bangladesh counterparts or to lay the foundations for an alternative agreement.

Meanwhile, Times of India, criticizing Dhaka's denial of signing the transit treaty as India did not keep its commitment of signing the Teesta and feni Water Sharing Treaty, wrote: "A wave of disappointment and frustration swept across Tripura as the Delhi-Dhaka talks failed to ensure transit facilities for the northeast in general and the state in particular through Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh failed to arrive at an amicable settlement of water sharing not just of Teesta but also of the Feni River that course through Tripura. But what hit the people of Tripura more was Dhaka's denial to give transit facilities to India through its territory."

In the same news, Times of India disclosed that, Bangladesh has already accorded transit facility to India quoting a clause of the already signed protocol which states "Movement of goods between the two countries is covered by the existing 'Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade [IWTT]' for use of waterways, 'Fundamental and Subsidiary Rules' guiding movement of railways, 'Standard Operating Procedures for movement of Trucks' between LCSs and 'Air Services Agreement'," the MoU pointed out, adding that to restore the traditional economic and cultural links between people in adjoining states of India and Bangladesh, 'border haats' had been established, starting with inauguration of a one such haat [temporary market] in Meghalaya.

It is strange enough to observe that, in less than 24 hours of India's failed attempt of getting the transit treaty signed by the pro-Indian government in Bangladesh, quite dramatically HUJI's name came as the main culprit behind the Delhi blast. Of course involvement of a notorious terror outfit like HUJI in such bombing can never be ruled out. But, the only question, which may peep into the minds of many, thinking, if Indian government has purposefully tried to bring the name of HUJI onto this incident, both with the motive of ultimately blackmailing Dhaka and getting the transit treaty signed as well as saving Sheikh Hasina government from harsh criticism from their political opponents for the recent exposition of bankrupt diplomacy. It should be recalled here that, Bangladeshi foreign minister, who was visibly jumping like an ape prior to visit of Indian Prime Minister expressing her "confident hope" of getting Bangladesh's right share of water from India", has finally been exposed to the entire nation of her bankrupt diplomacy. On the other hand, the latest diplomatic failure of the Bangladesh Awami League government is the newest feather in its cap of failures, which also includes power crisis, worst-ever law and order situation, exorbitant rise in the price of essentials, share market scam etc.

 BY : Salah Uddin Shoaib Choudhury. 

PAKISTAN: Time For Forgiveness

Since the end of the Indo-Pakistani war a year and a half ago, the countries of the subcontinent have been locked in a frosty stalemate of mutual recriminations. Caught in the diplomatic freeze are hundreds of thousands of refugees and prisoners of war. Pakistani President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto last week moved decisively to thaw relations. 

In an emotional post-midnight session of the National Assembly, Bhutto argued that it was time for "mutual forgiveness and understanding" to govern relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh, formerly Pakistan's eastern wing. "We want to meet one another; we want to embrace one another; we want to shed tears over one another, over what has happened in the past," he declared. The Assembly overwhelmingly passed a resolution authorizing recognition of Bangladesh as an independent country. 

Bhutto said that he would not use the authority immediately, but it obviously paves the way for a compromise by the subcontinent's three antagonists. Bangladesh wants recognition in order to obtain United Nations membership this fall. Pakistan is anxious for the repatriation of its 90,000 prisoners of war still in India—and India is almost as anxious to get rid of them. 

It was agreed last week that the repatriation of prisoners will be discussed by Pakistan and India in high-level talks next week. At the same time, the fate of some 200,000 Bengalis who have been held hostage in Pakistan since the war and want to return to Bangladesh will be negotiated along with the disposition of about 250,000 Biharis in Bangladesh who want to go to Pakistan. Bhutto told TIME that Dacca's intention to try 195 P.O.W.s was still "the main hurdle" to successful negotiations. 

He backed down, however, on his earlier refusal to allow the Biharis to be repatriated to Pakistan. "There's no problem of repatriation of Bengalis from here," he said. "And there's no problem to negotiate the future of the unfortunate [Biharis] who are now known by the generic name of non-Bengalis. But we cannot open the floodgates and say send as many as you want." Matching Bhutto's softening positions, India released 438 P.O.W.s on medical grounds and Pakistan freed 479 Bengalis. 

On the eve of what was to have been a six-day state visit to the U.S. this week (now postponed until September because of President Nixon's illness), the American-educated Pakistani President, 45, discussed the troubled subcontinent with TIME Correspondent William Stewart at the presidential mountaintop retreat at Murree in the hills above Rawalpindi. "As Bhutto walked in, smiling, confident and modishly dressed in a blue striped suit with a figured tie, his personal gunman quietly withdrew," cabled Stewart. "During the next hour and a half, he displayed all the animation, emotion and sly intelligence that has baffled India's leaders since he became President of Pakistan. Later we were joined by his wife and three of his four children, including a son who is home for the summer from Harvard and a daughter who just graduated cum laude from Radcliffe. Both majored in government." 

On Pakistan since the war: "We have all the problems that plague an underdeveloped country. We've been broken in half, but by the end of the decade we hope with hard work and effort we can again show that this is really the most prosperous part of the subcontinent. Labor and education reforms have been far-reaching, land reforms have been good, but I would have taken the knife much deeper had I inherited normal or relatively normal conditions." 

On the Bengalis held in Pakistan: "They get newspapers, they get the radio, they get books, and they get allowances. But I am sorry to say that they have been segregated. I use the word sorry sincerely. I didn't like to do it, but [Bangladesh Prime Minister] Mujibur Rahman's chauvinistic policies drove me to this painful decision." 

On relations with India: "I'm not obsessed with some kind of hatred for them. On the contrary, as I said to Mrs. Gandhi at the Simla conference last summer, ours is a thousand-year-old conflict between the Hindus and the Moslems, now personified in the state of India and the state of Pakistan. And I told her it would be such a great achievement, greater than all of the d├ętentes that are being arrived at in the West, if we could now find a modus vivendi." 

On the U.S.-China rapprochement: "I have had umpteen discussions with Mao Tse-tung and Chou En-lai and have always told them about the necessity of relations with the U.S. 'Look,' I said, 'the waters wash both your shores and you must enter into a dialogue.' " 

On relations with the U.S.: "We've had a long, traditional, historical friendship with the U.S. There was a bad period. You had some obsession about China. Now so many fundamental things have taken place between the great powers. [When I visit Washington] I am not going to beg for food. I'm going to discuss our relationship in its totality. I want to hear America's views on our mutual obligations, on the subcontinent and the Indian Ocean, the Persian Gulf and the Middle East. We are not one of those countries that are ashamed of their relations with you. We are proud of ours and would like to further consolidate them."