Sunday, September 11, 2011

The World: Great Man or Rabble-Rouser?

THE history of the Indian subcontinent for the past half-century has been dominated by leaders who were as controversial as they were charismatic: Mahatma Gandhi, Mohammed AH Jinnah, Jawaharlal Nehru. Another name now seems likely to join that list: Sheik Mujibur ("Mujib") Rahman, the President of Bangladesh. To his critics, Mujib is a vituperative, untrustworthy rabble-rouser. To most of the people of his new nation, he is a patriot-hero whose imprisonment by West Pakistan has only enhanced his appeal. "He was a great man before," says one Bangladesh official, "but those bastards have made him even greater." 

Even his detractors concede that Mujib has the personal qualifications to become an extremely effective popular leader. He is gregarious, highly emotional and remarkably attuned to the needs and moods of his supporters. He has an uncanny ability to remember names and faces. Mujib is also a spellbinding orator with a simplistic message and a pungent, fervent style. 

It is not yet clear whether Mujib is more profound than his stirring rhetoric. His political success so far is due largely to his ability to marshal public opinion in East Bengal by blaming all of its troubles on its former rulers in West Pakistan. He has a tendency to make extravagant promises, and to oversimplify complex economic and agricultural problems. "My brothers," he once told a gathering of East Pakistani jute farmers, "do you know that the streets of Karachi are paved with gold, and that it is done with your money earned from exporting jute?" 

Mujib's supporters insist that he has shown a capacity for growth. He was born 51 years ago, one of six children of a middle-class family that lived on a farm in Tongipara, a village about 60 miles southwest of Dacca. At ten, Mujib displayed the first signs of a social conscience by distributing rice from the family supplies to tenant farmers who helped work the property. "They were hungry, and we have all these things," the boy explained to his irate father, an official of the local district court. 

As a youth, Mujib developed a strong antipathy to British rule. While a seventh-grader, he was jailed for six days for agitating in favor of India's independence. A long bout with beriberi left his eyes weakened, and Mujib belatedly finished high school when he was 22. 

After earning a B.A. in history and political science at Calcutta's Islamia College—where he developed a taste for the writings of Bernard Shaw and Indian Poet Rabindranath Tagore—Mujib enrolled as a law student at Dacca University. He supported a strike by the university's menial workers, and quickly found himself in jail once again. He indignantly rejected an offer to be set free on bail. "I did not come to the university to bow my head to injustice," he said grandly. When he got out of jail, Mujib discovered that he had been expelled from the university. He promptly set out on a turbulent political career and spent 10½ of the next 23 years behind bars. "Prison is my other home," he once shrugged.

Between jail terms, Mujib helped found the progressive Awami (People's) League of East Pakistan, and in 1954 briefly served as the provincial minister in charge of industry and fighting corruption. Mujib had long been disillusioned by the exploitation of poorer East Pakistan by the more dominant western half of the divided nation. He was further disenchanted by the 1965 war with India. Like many other Bengalis, he was appalled to discover that the West Pakistanis had left the country's eastern sector virtually undefended. The next year, Mujib propounded his now famous six points, which demanded domestic autonomy for East

Pakistan within a confederation with the West. Field Marshal Mohammed Ayub Khan rejected the demands as a secessionist conspiracy, and had Mujib and other Awami League officials arrested and taken to West Pakistan. When Mujib was released for lack of evidence in 1969, more than 1,000,000 people turned out to greet him at a homecoming rally at Dacca's Race Course. By then East and West Pakistan already were drifting toward the course that led to Mujib's imprisonment in West Pakistan—and to last month's war.

As was customary in East Bengali villages, Mujib was pledged to his wife in an arranged marriage when she was three and he 14. They have five children ranging from a 6-year-old son to a 25-year-old married daughter, who recently gave birth to a boy. Soon after his return to Bangladesh, Mujib will get his first look at the new grandchild, whose name, Joi, was taken from the new country's wartime rallying cry, Joi Bangla!—Victory to Bengal!

The Mandarin Syndrome

west Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s stubbornness over India’s talks with Bangladesh on the sharing of Teesta waters knocked more rating points out of UPA-II than even Dhaka could have, had it at all chosen to be intransigent during our prime minister’s visit there. In this column, I choose not to delve into the diplomatic repercussions of this episode or analyse Mamata’s temperamental politics. Instead, I want to look at something crucially wrong with Manmohan Singh’s government, of which the Mamata episode is the latest pointer.

All along, the Centre had been aware of Mamata’s opposition to its 52:48 water-sharing formula with Bangladesh. She feared it would mean a sharp fall in her state’s share—nearly 75 per cent—of Teesta waters. The river flows down from the Tso Lamo (a lake in Sikkim) and through the four north Bengal districts of Cooch Behar, New Jalpaiguri, North and South Dinajpur before passing into Bangladesh. Well fed by mountain streams, the fast-flowing river is regarded as the lifeline of agriculture in those districts and of Siliguri town. Mamata certainly wouldn’t want to be seen conceding what the previous Left Front government in her state adamantly did not in previous discussions on water-sharing.

The Centre may be right in giving primacy to the big diplomatic picture—of the need for harmonious international cooperation with a neighbour for the good of this whole part of Asia—as opposed to a local perspective, of the sort important to Mamata. But in seeming unilaterally dismissive of a coalition partner’s concerns—her Trinamool Congress is a UPA-II ally—and, in a federal structure, of a state’s concerns over as important a matter as water, the Centre erred. Much to its own diplomatic and political embarrassment.
If I may venture a diagnosis, the Centre’s reflexes are bureaucratic instead of being politically consultative. This was equally evident in the way it dealt with the agitation for the Jan Lokpal bill. Blind to the political build-up around the demand for an anti-corruption legislation and the spontaneous concentration of people’s anger against recent mega scams feeding the phenomenon, it responded in a typically bureaucratic manner. First, it ignored Anna’s team and presented an eyewash of a Lokpal bill. Next, it set up a committee, that most efficient of procrastinating machines. The government ensured that the committee included members of Anna’s team, hoping to mollify the agitators symbolically. But it ignored the fact that Anna and his colleagues had committed themselves politically to a popular constituency of anger; betraying this constituency could only have led to a complete loss of credibility. Next came another bureaucratic solution—of treating the protest as a mere law and order issue. This, too, backfired.

It is when a government’s political reflexes are impaired that its bureaucratic reflexes come to dominate its actions. Whenever this government tried to combat Anna’s agitation politically, it was in the realm of low politics—the smear campaign trying paint his team as dirty being the prime example. Without going into the merit of those charges, it can be said that the irregularities referred to were so petty that, by contrast, they only highlighted the humongous scale of recent mega scams dogging UPA-II. The charge of RSS involvement in the campaign may not have been wide of the mark, but the saffron organisation was certainly not its prime mover. Besides, the issue currently agitating the public was not communalism but corruption. Through its grossly ill-timed punitive action against Anna’s team members, the government is only broadcasting its utter lack of political understanding.

Governments lacking in political sense are usually humbled politically. If Anna humbled the government in August, its own coalition partner, the Trinamool, has humbled it in September. A politically more adept dispensation would have listened patiently to Mamata’s concerns on the Teesta water-sharing issue and, to mollify her, would have even worked towards an alternative blueprint. After all, Mamata’s concerns are chiefly political: north Bengal had voted for her less emphatically than other regions. She wouldn’t like to lose ground there any further; nor would she want her opponents to gain in strength elsewhere by charging her with sacrificing the interests of the state. In these politically trying times, UPA-II can’t afford to lose either Mamata’s support or her influence in West Bengal. Has the separation of politics and governance in the Congress under two heads so dulled its political reflexes as to make a government it runs purely bureaucratic? If the Congress does not do something about this soon, both the government and the party will inevitably have to pay a heavy price.

 Source : 

For A Few Cusecs More

Manmohan's Dhaka visit: Indo-Bangla Teesta water-sharing deal put off.

Dr Manmohan Singh, vegetarian by preference, went to Dhaka to eat some hilsa fish. He returned, alas, with a bit of ash in his mouth. But this failure to sign an accord over Teesta water is a story that makes no sense. 

Failure, of course, is an orphan. No one wants paternity rights to a bastard. The blame game over the Teesta fiasco is already being played at a fast and furious pace with each player tweaking the rules from his or her vantage point. When Mamata Banerjee points, she does not do so with a mere finger; she flashes a full hand. Her aides do not whisper when they brief media; they shout when the news is good, and scream when it is bad. The truth is, or should be, an official secret but its versions are being fed to a starving media. The message from Calcutta is unambiguous; it was betrayed by Delhi. Mamata had agreed to part with 25,000 cusecs of Teesta water, but Delhi upped this to 33,000 cusecs. When Trinamool minister Dinesh Trivedi raised an objection in the Cabinet, he was brushed aside by Pranab Mukherjee.

This makes even less sense.

Anyone familiar with international treaties knows that the torture lies in the detail. The print is always fine. Diplomats hire smiles from plastic surgeons, and then fight like pit bulls in very slow motion over every comma. A pattern is etched onto grey areas, dot by dot. There is give and take till deadline. The Teesta waters have been floating across the Indo-Bangladesh dialogue ever since Teesta, or at least ever since Bangladesh was born in 1971. It took a quarter century of negotiations to sign the Ganga River Treaty in 1996; but the generation of Jyoti Basu and Inder Gujral went to Dhaka with clean ink because there was continuous consultation between Delhi and Calcutta. What was so difficult about maintaining similar transparency between Dr Singh and Ms Banerjee?

This treaty was not drafted by the foreign ministry; the Prime Minister's Office took ownership of the process, with National Security Adviser Shiv Shankar Menon in charge of detail. He went to Calcutta twice in the last two months solely to brief Mamata on the sharing of Teesta water. And there lay the problem. It was not a conversation between equals. Menon was adequate when there was agreement; but when Dhaka wanted more, Calcutta was, inexplicably, kept out of the loop. Perhaps Menon thought that the pressure of a deadline in high-stakes diplomacy would persuade Mamata to be more flexible, always a risky manoeuvre. But negotiating with a mercurial CM were above Menon's pay grade. A bureaucrat can brief. Only an equal can persuade. 

There seems, however, more to this episode than meets the eye, or ear. The fuss began before the catastrophe, when Mamata said she would travel independently to Dhaka. You float such political confetti only when you are itching to put some distance between Calcutta and Delhi.

It is always difficult to know if Dr Singh is crestfallen. His crest never moves, so how do you know if it has fallen? His voice gives even less away, when he chooses to speak. But you do not have to be a mind-reader to gauge a gathering depression. Unanswered questions, some born in the morning, others which are ghosts of crises past, are strewn around, a noxious debris sucking life out of this administration, event by event. The bomb that went off in Delhi on September 7 was not the first terrorist attack in the era of Dr Singh; but this was the first time that Rahul Gandhi was heckled after a visit to see victims in hospital. Delhi's question is basic: A terrorist bomb failed to go off in the High Court in May; why did Home Minister P. Chidambaram do absolutely nothing done to improve security? Alibis are melting in the heat of popular anger.

The mathematics has gone awry: things don't add up. Ever since UPA survived the Lok Sabha vote on the nuclear deal three years ago, the Government has insisted, despite dramatic TV footage, that no MP was paid to switch sides. If that is true then why is Amar Singh in jail? The Delhi police, which reports to home minister P. Chidambaram, believes Amar Singh paid money to MPs. On whose behalf did he do so? Amar Singh is not a philanthropist. If Amar Singh is guilty, he cannot be guilty alone. Is he yet another scapegoat in a lengthening queue?

Silence can stem a stain, but not erase it.

 BY : M J Akbar.

Eddies In The Teesta

Why Mamata Ditched
  • She was willing to give Bangladesh 25,000 cusecs from the Teesta, but the agreement provided 33000 cusecs
  • New Delhi said 8,000 cusecs over her limit was to come from Sikkim, Teesta’s place of origin
  • Fear that Sikkim could deprive Bengal of 8,000 cusecs, in the absence of a formal agreement
  • Feared the opposition could exploit the water issue
In the end, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s carefully choreographed and much-anticipated visit to Dhaka didn’t deliver the expected all-round success. No doubt, India put on the table a lavish set of agreements to bolster Bangladesh’s economy and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s domestic position, but what soured the mood during Manmohan’s visit last week was New Delhi’s failure to offer a conclusive deal over the sharing of the Teesta waters. Apprehensive of the Opposition exploiting the contentious water issue, Hasina thought it prudent to withhold the decision granting India access to the Chittagong and Mongla ports, which would have helped easy movement of goods to the Northeastern states from mainland India.

Former Bangladesh foreign secretary Mohiuddin Ahmed says, “All the goodwill suffered a serious setback following India’s inability and unwillingness to sign the Teesta water-sharing agreement. It will take time for trust and confidence to return.” Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah of Dhaka University was even harsher: “India gave too little, too late.”

West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee has been blamed for scuppering the Teesta agreement by pulling out from the prime minister’s delegation to Dhaka at the last minute. Mamata is said to have told the Centre that she was opposed to the quantum of Teesta water being assigned to Bangladesh, as it would be at West Bengal’s expense. New Delhi, however, claims the agreement adhered strictly to the redline Mamata had drawn. This was at least the line most people in Dhaka bought, obvious from what Kalimullah told Outlook, “Bangladesh was denied an agreement on the Teesta because of Mamata’s arrogance.”

Given the multiplicity of versions about talks between the Centre and Mamata, it’s impossible to tell who’s at fault. But they point to the confusion prevailing before Manmohan’s departure. BJP leader Yashwant Sinha cautions, “We should sort out our internal differences beforehand. When we negotiate with another country, India should speak as one.”

So was Mamata being cussed? No, argues West Bengal public health engineering minister Subrata Mukherjee, who told Outlook, “We are all for good relations with Bangladesh and don’t mind sharing Teesta waters with it. But you cannot expect us to do it by turning the northern part of our state (through which the Teesta flows) into a desert.”

South Block, however, maintains that the proposed agreement took into account West Bengal’s position that it couldn’t give Bangladesh more than 25,000 cusecs of water from Teesta. The Mamata camp points to a crucial complication, saying she turned recalcitrant as soon as National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon told her that Bangladesh was to get 33,000 cusecs, that the additional 8,000 cusecs from her imposed limit of 25,000 cusecs were to come from Sikkim, from where the Teesta originates. Mamata wasn’t willing to accept the Centre’s assurance, saying she couldn’t agree to the proposed formula of sharing the Teesta waters in the absence of an agreement between Bengal and Sikkim.

Mamata’s cautious approach was influenced by West Bengal’s experience in the years following the signing of the 1996 Ganga Water Treaty between India and Bangladesh. Though then CM Jyoti Basu had given his assent, he soon realised that the sharing of water had adversely affected the flow of the Ganga at Farraka. This was because West Bengal as a lower riparian state couldn’t, in the absence of a formal agreement, prevent Uttar Pradesh and Bihar from ‘overdrawing’ water from the Ganga. In other words, Bangladesh’s guaranteed share was ultimately at West Bengal’s expense.

Mamata was also wary of the Left, the BJP and even the Congress exploiting the sensitive water issue to push her on the backfoot. Though CPI leader Pallab Sengupta wants India to be generous to Bangladesh because of its “geostrategic importance”, neither he nor other Left leaders were willing to commit themselves to a ratio for water-sharing acceptable to them. The reason is simple—no party would want to be seen supporting a deal militating against Bengal’s interest. There was also talk in the state of Congress leaders initiating a movement against Mamata once she gave her consent to the proposed Teesta agreement. Perhaps this was mere speculation, but a keen sense of survival meant Mamata wasn’t willing to provide room, even hypothetical, to her opponents.

Perhaps Mamata’s prickly relationship with the Congress also prompted her to adopt a recalcitrant attitude. For instance, when pleading for a special financial package for West Bengal from Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, Mamata was asked to draw up a budget that could enable her to raise revenues internally too, leaving the Centre to keep its aid to ‘reasonable’ limits. The subsequent package also fell below her expectations. The Mamata camp also thought the Congress was being less than honourable in its negotiations. This was because of the attempts of the Congress, which she felt was at Pranab’s behest, to include Congress leader and Bengal irrigation minister Manas Bhuiyan in Union water resource minister Pawan Bansal’s delegation, which was supposed to sign the Teesta treaty a day before Manmohan was to arrive in Dhaka. Fearing that the treaty was being offered to her as a fait accompli, Mamata firmly told Manas not to join the delegation.

So is the Teesta treaty (and that for the sharing for the Feni river waters) dead? “It is better to eat a meal that is fully cooked than rushing to have one that is half done,” Mamata reportedly told her associates. This provides hope of Delhi and Bengal renewing negotiations over the contours of the Teesta agreement. Once the new deal is stitched, Mamata could travel to Bangladesh and assure its people of her desire to forge closer ties between the two “Bengals”. But Bangladesh’s Kalimullah isn’t hopeful of a prompt solution: “The Indira-Mujib agreement was signed in 1974 but took 30 years to implement. It may take another 30 years before the Teesta river water agreement is implemented.”

But for the Teesta agreement, India and Bangladesh made great headway in settling the legacy from the past. They demarcated their land boundary, pending since 1972, identified all the “territory in adverse possession”, agreed to exchange the 162 enclaves, and removed over 60 tariff barriers to give Bangladeshi goods greater, freer access to the Indian market and laying down the groundwork for movement of goods and people between the countries and in the Eastern region.

Yet these multiple gains didn’t register emphatically in the popular consciousness, unaccompanied as it was by the Teesta’s murmur.

By :  Pranay Sharma in New Delhi and Saleem Samad in Dhaka.

Bangladesh: Revolving Door

The military moves in

For months the question in Bangladesh was not if, but when, the military would seize power again. Ever since he was elected last November, President Abdus Sattar, 76, a former justice of the supreme court, had resisted demands by the military for power in his government. Last week, in a predawn coup, Lieut. General Hossain Mohammed Ershad, 52, army chief of staff, ousted Sattar and in stalled himself as strongman. "I have no political ambition," the general asserted in a radio and television broadcast announcing the takeover. "My whole and sole aim is to re-establish democracy."

Perhaps, but in the meantime he made clear that Bangladesh will first come under military rule. He proclaimed martial law, suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament. All political activity was banned, and special martial-law courts were set up, empowered to hand down stiff sentences for a wide range of offenses from corruption to criticism of the new regime. By week's end more than 200 government officials and opposition politicians had been arrested. They face possible death sentences if convicted on charges of corruption or other "antistate crimes."

The sequence of events has become sadly familiar. Heavily populated (92 million) and desperately poor (per capita in come: $90 a year), the country has en joyed little political stability in the decade since it broke away from Pakistan after a savage civil war. Its first and longest period of democratic rule ended abruptly when Sheik Mujibur Rahman, who led the independence movement and subsequently became the country's first elected Prime Minister, was assassinated in 1975. In a trio of coups, Lieut. General Mohammed Ziaur Rahman emerged as strongman, only to be assassinated by junior officers last May. Sattar, who was then Vice President, became acting President and led the country into elections.

Sattar had been the generals' hand-picked candidate. But after the election, Sattar resisted the military's attempts to have an active role in government. In February he was forced by the generals to dissolve his Cabinet and name ministers more acceptable to the army. On the day before the takeover, Sattar again angered Ershad by swearing in a civilian as Vice President—a defiant move that led Ershad to seize power himself. "Sattar is an honorable man," the general said, "but he couldn't supply the leadership."

West Bengal-Bangladesh divide: Mamata may have had reasons for opposing Teesta treaty

West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's recent cold shoulder to Bangladesh regarding sharing of the Teesta waters is in keeping with a long tradition of each Bengal looking after its own interests. Hardnosed politics, rather than the nebulous concept of Bengali brotherhood, has governed ties between the two regions.

The signs have always been there: hilsa vs prawns, East Bengal vs Mohun Bagan, basha vs bari (both mean 'home')... Small semiotic markers that for decades said what many Bengali romantics refused to acknowledge. Partition in 1947 only put a political seal on an everwidening cultural and economic divide.

The two Bengals - West Bengal and Bangladesh - are different. And have been different for many years. All talk about an overarching Bengali unity is just that - talk. 

Banerjee knows that sharing Teesta waters would sweep away her voters in north Bengal. Not to mention CPI(M) cadres taking to the streets. The other side of the barbed wire has been home to sundry anti-India militants, notably jihadis. Governments in Dhaka have chosen to turn a blind eye, fearing drying up of Arab aid and going against the growing pan-Islamic fervour among a section of the Bangladeshi population. But more than governments in Kolkata and Dhaka, it is the people of the two regions who have erased any memories of a common bond. Language, yes.

But culturally Kolkatans think their city to be the epicentre of Bengali culture. There is certain degree of condescension when discussing Bangladesh or Bangals (as people from Bangladesh are called in Bengali). Other than thinking of them as poor, distant country cousins, the space for Bangladesh in the common West Bengali's mind has more or less evaporated.

Economics, religion, culture - the differences are legion.

Too Many Cooks

Both Bengals' economies have developed in two distinct paths. Partition saw Bangladesh with acres of jute with few or no mills; in fact, most industries in Bengal were situated in West Bengal. Fledgling steel plants, small cement factories, foundries all had taken roots in the western half of undivided Bengal. The eastern half was and remains a primarily agrarian economy. Even now Bangladesh's only major industry is garments.

Bangladeshi wags say that every family in Sylhet (a district in Bangladesh) has a member living abroad. Most of the "Indian" restaurants dotting Europe are actually owned by Sylhetis. But migration is not a new phenomenon. Post-1947, huge numbers of Hindu professionals migrated west; a similar white-collar migration to Bangladesh did not happen. While Bangladeshi migrants tend to be overwhelmingly blue-collar workers, those leaving West Bengal are usually white-collar professionals.

Ballot vs Bullet

Nothing can be starker than the political difference between the two Bengals. While West Bengal has embraced a secular democracy, Bangladesh has lurched between military dictatorship and the ballot box. As part of India, West Bengal has had civilians wielding political power. Ruthlessly strong arm tactics did show up in Bengal politics (as during SS Ray's time and in the latter half of Left rule) but they have never been able to grab the political space completely. Bangladesh, on the contrary, has had a bloody history.

A violent independence struggle followed by the army forcing the democratically elected Awami League out of power. Bangladesh has seen many years of rule by the bayonet followed by fundamentalist-appeasing governments. The secular space has shrunk. 

Manmohan Visit To Bangladesh And Story Of A Nightmare

The  real story behind why Indo- Bangla Extradition Treaty was not signed (and so ULFA General Secretary Anup Chetia not deported to India), why the Indian Prime Minister’s visit will no longer be called “historical”

It was the night of 5th September. It was only about ten hours left for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reach Bangladesh for an official visit. That visit was a high- hope and long expected visit. Every concerned people of India and Bangladesh were thinking that it will be a historical visit and two countries will start a new era of their relation.

At the last moment it was proven that, everything in the world cannot be happened routinely and something happened which was painful.  It was at noon of 5th September when Bangladesh came to know that the chief Minister of Indian sate Paschim Banga (West Bengal) Ms Mamata Banerjee was not coming to Bangladesh as a delegate member of Manmohan Singh’s visit. Even the water resource minister of India was not coming.
Having got this news, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina called an emergency meeting with her senior cabinet colleagues and advisors. Two of her advisers, Mr. Mashiur Rahaman and Mr. Gahor Rizvee were involved in that negotiation process with India. Besides, foreign Ministry was also involved. All of them were worried to hear this news that, chief minister of west Bengal and water resource minister of central government are not coming with the delegations.  Absence from this visit of those two Ministers made it clear that Teesta (a common river of India and Bangladesh) river water sharing treaty was uncertain. It is true that, if Bangladesh and India wants to start a new relationship, they have to reach a solution in Teesta river water sharing and so the absence of these two ministers in the delegation puts the fate of this long awaited treaty uncertain.  Chief Minister of West Bengal is highly connected to this treaty, because according to Indian constitution the central government cannot sign to any treaty with other country without the concerned state. Since Teesta river water is a concerned matter of West Bengal as well, the absence of Mamata made it clear that water of Teesta river sharing treaty will not be signed.

From the meeting of Sheikh Hasina, foreign Minister of Bangladesh contacted her counter part of India and she confirmed that India will sign Teesta river water sharing treaty at the time of Manmohan visit.  Getting this confirmation, Prime Minister of Bangladesh ended her meeting and went to take rest. It was then 10 PM of 5th September.

After the meeting was over, most of the ministers left the residence of Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Prime Minister went to her prayer.  However, two concerned advisers did not leave the residence of the Prime Minister and some senior ministers were also at that residence. In the meantime,   those two advisers came to know that, ultimately Teesta river water sharing treaty will not be signed in this visit time of Manmohan. So they fell in confusion as to what they would do.

Considering both sides and since it was an important matter, the two advisors of the Bangladesh Prime Minister felt it necessary to inform the Prime Minister immediately.  On the other hand they were thinking that as night was growing old and it is more than 11.30 pm, this news would hamper the sleep of the Prime Minister; so it is better to inform it in the morning. At that time the senior most minister of the cabinet Mr. Abul Mal Abdul Muhith, finance minister of Bangladesh came there. Then two advisers rushed to him and informed him the latest situation.

Hearing this news, finance minister said ‘you have to inform it immediately to the Prime minister.’  According to the advice of the finance minister, adviser of the Prime Minister Mashiur Rahaman rang to the Prime Minister but she did not receive his call; then another adviser called her but she did not receive it again. Then the two advisers requested to the finance minister that as he is the senior most, so his call will be received by Prime Minister. Finance minister did try but Prime Minister did not receive his call as well and all of them.

Just as they were felling totally hopeless, Prime Minister herself came to this area for a walk and seeing them she was astonished. She asked why they were waiting and also told them that she was in the prayer while they were calling. After finishing prayer, she has seen the missed call but she thought that, they were calling from their home and would ring back tomorrow, because it was already midnight.   Then two advisers asked to the finance minister, ‘you tell her why we are waiting here.’ Finance minister told her the matter in detail.  Hearing this, Prime Minister became tensed as well and called up her foreign minister to rush to her immediately. It was midnight, road was traffic free.  Foreign minister came within a few minutes.  Prime Minister told her, “India will not sign Teesta River sharing treaty so we will not sign the transit agreement. You stop the process of that agreement”.

The night was over and Prime Minister of India visited Bangladesh but that visit will not be called in future a historical visit. It was expected to be a historical visit but ultimately it became a common visit. It left the remark that, what was done by Bangladesh was not returned by India.  As an example, Indian Government has now been able to make a treaty with the United Liberation front of Asom (ULFA) and initiate the much awaited peace process in the North Eastern Region.   But is it not true that, it has been possible only for Bangladesh and the leadership of Sheikh Hasina? After all, Bangladesh handed over the entire insurgents (who are the leader of ULFA) to India and only so India is able to do it.

BY : Swadesh Roy.

The World: Not A Person To Be Pressured

The determined woman whose nation now dominates the subcontinent of South Asia approaches peace as she approached war with Pakistan: coldly, but optimistically. During an interview in her airy, unassuming New Delhi office, TIME Correspondent William Stewart found Prime Minister Indira Gandhi "relaxed and smiling shyly, though looking slightly wan. She was spontaneous but totally free of wartime rhetoric." Some of her comments: 

ON RELATIONS WITH PAKISTAN. A Stable Pakistan is in India's interests, and we want normal, friendly and enduring relations with the new government. We do not insist that Islamabad recognize the new regime in Dacca. After all, Bangladesh is a reality; anything else is between Bangladesh and Pakistan. But Pakistan must overcome her negative attitude toward India. Whether Mr. Bhutto's new government is politically secure enough to negotiate a satisfactory settlement is not for me to say. You heard the speech he made [in which Bhutto promised peace only if New Delhi recognized the East as still a part of Pakistan]. I hope that is not all he has to say. 

ON MOSCOW'S INFLUENCE. We are friends; we have always been friends. The Soviet Union recognized certain attitudes in Asia, such as racialism and colonialism. But Russia will not affect our decision making. We will not be party to any bloc. 

ON U.S. POLICY. There must be more realism in America regarding the realities of modern Asia. The turmoil that has engulfed South Asia is essentially a legacy of the big-power politics from the days of John Foster Dulles. We have never believed in balance-of-power politics; it is quite out of date. But it was that sort of politics that forced us into war, even though war was not in our national interest. We are not going to allow other countries to use Pakistan as they have before. 

ON THE REFUGEES. I don't see any reason why the refugees who have come to India from East Pakistan should be reluctant to go home now. They might have been inclined to stay a while ago, when the liberation of Bangladesh still seemed impossible to them. But I'm sure that the bulk of the refugees will be returned before the end of February. 

ON INDIA'S STABILITY. Not a single voice has been raised for a union of the Bengalis [meaning the Bengalis of East Pakistan and their restive neighbors in India's State of West Bengal, some of whom are rumored to favor secession from India in order to join Bangladesh]. The people of Bangladesh went through hell to establish their separate identity. Why should they give it up? 

ON THE CEASEFIRE. There have been suggestions [among others, from President Nixon; see page 14] that we were pressured into the cease-fire by the Russians, who in turn were being pressured by the Americans. Hah! The decision was made right here, at the moment of the surrender in Dacca. We were able to inform the Soviet Union right away only because Mr. Kuznetsov [the Soviet First Deputy Foreign Minister] happened to be here. I am not a person to be pressured—by anybody or any nation.

Govt’s Transit Statements Contradictory : Observers

The Awami League-led government’s ministers and advisers are making contradictory statements on the question of Bangladesh providing transit to India, diplomatic and political observers said on Saturday.
‘Their statements on transit are contradictory and confusing, ‘professor Delwar Hossain, chairman of the department of international relations at Dhaka University, told New Age.

He said the contradictory statements reflect conflicts within the government.
Professor Delwar said the government owed it to the
nation to dispel the confusion it created to ensure clarity and transparency about the issues.

‘Otherwise it would be harmful for both the country in the long run as well as for the government,’ he said.
He said on the one hand the prime minister’s international affairs adviser Gowher Rizvi said on June 27 it’s not true that India would not pay any fees for availing transit through Bangladesh.

But the prime minister’s economic affairs adviser Mashiur Rahman said in March that Bangladesh could not ask for tariff or fee for providing transit.

Mashiur Rahman even said that demanding tariff for the use of transit was against World Trade Organisation rules.

Rizvi said, ‘We’ll get the legal and legitimate fee from India for using transit.
 Mashiur Rahman said, ‘We could demand transit fess only if we were “uncivilized” and “uneducated.”’ .
Mashiur Rahman also wrote to the National Board of Revenue and the ministries of commerce and shipping not to charge India fees for the movement of its goods through Bangladesh.

The Centre for Policy Dialogue said its studies done in November last year showed that Bangladesh could earn $2.3 billion in 30 years by providing transit facilities to India, Nepal and Bhutan.

CPD said that its study showed that Bangladesh could earn 10 per cent of the potential revenue in first five years as transit fees would be low in the initial years when the infrastructure would have to be built.
An Asian Development Bank study estimated that Bangladesh could earn annual revenue of $1 billion on completion of the needed infrastructure in five years.

 ADB said, initially, Bangladesh could earn annual revenue of $50 million.

Projected returns on transit are based on imposition and collection of transit fees and charges.
But finance minister AMA Muhith said in November last year that the existing transit rules of the National Board of Revenue would be amended and to re-fix the transit fees.

Rizvi said on August 28 that there was no need for Bangladesh and India to sign ‘any new agreement’ on transit as they had signed two bilateral trade agreements in 1972 and 1980 envisaging road, rail and waterway transit facilities.

He also said that there should be no further delay in providing transit to India.
‘We’ve waited for 40 years to offer transit to India. We can’t wait anymore,’ Rizvi said.

Foreign minister Dipu Moni said on September 4 that the two countries would exchange letters allowing India to use of Chittagong and Mongla seaports for its trade with third countries.

Senior government officials said that Bangladesh and India would need to sign a formal agreement for providing any such transit facilities.

 Dhaka stepped back from signing and exchanging the letters on transit at the last minute after India suddenly declined to sign Teesta sharing agreement during Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s recent visit to Dhaka.

Muhith said in December the government would not allow ‘corridor’ to any country, and that it would only provide transit facility to India.

‘Ideas on regional connectivity need to be clarified. The government is not going to give a corridor. It is a political idea, but transit is a different concept. Under transit, goods come in and go out,’ he said.

According to the World Trade Organisations, transit is a passage for transferring goods and passengers from one country to another country through or across a third country or more countries.

Corridor is usually provided through road, rail, air, river and sea for passage of goods and people between two points of a country through or across another country.

BY : Shahidul Islam Chowdhury. 

Dhaka Should Be More Cautious Of Delhi’s Diplomacy

Just before the Second World War, then Prime Minister of Britain Neville Chamberlain flew to Munich to sign a peace treaty with Adolf Hitler of Nazi Germany. At that time, Hitler had already occupied Austria and was preparing a full onslaught on the other European countries. By finalising a peace treaty with Hitler (known as the Munich Agreement), Mr Chamberlain was confident that this would prevent a new World War. When he came back to the London airport he unfurled his famous umbrella and declared that “I can assure Europe that there will be no war at least for the next 20 years.” His assessment of the treaty and his appeasement policy was wrong. It did not succeed and within a very short time the Second World War began. 

The Munich Agreement was a treaty between a democratic and a fascist country. Some people argued that this is the reason why the treaty did not last. Recently, several friendship and development treaties were signed in Dhaka between Bangladesh and India. It is a treaty between two democratic countries and people expect that this will bring peace and harmony to the sub-continent and also prevent further aggravation between neighbouring countries.

But there is already suspicion in people’s minds whether the hope surrounding this treaty will be materialised. The failure of the Munich Agreement in the middle of the last century brought war and devastation to the whole world. If the recent treaties between Bangladesh and India are not implement properly then it will not bring war but it will definitely create more problems and conflicts in the sub-continent.

The quarrel between Pakistan and India is still a stumbling block to stabilise the volatile situation in South Asia. There was hope when a democratic government under the Awami League took power in Bangladesh the traditional hostility towards India would gradually disappear in Bangladesh and mutual trust and cooperation would replace it.

There were signs that Indo-Bangla friendship would be stronger after Sheikh Hasina’s last Delhi visit. This year Dhaka and Delhi jointly observed the 150th birthday of Tagore. Then Sonia Ghandi the Congress leader visited Dhaka and Dr. Manmohan Singh’s Dhaka visit was also arranged immediately.

There was heavy media publicity that this time all the major disputes between Bangladesh and India regarding water, electricity, border clash, enclaves and trade and commerce will be fully or partially settled. A new era of strong friendship will soon commence.

There was an indication from the Indian side that Bangladesh’s legitimate claim over the water of the Teesta will be accepted and steps will be taken to settle all other disputes to mutual satisfaction. So everyone in Bangladesh was welcoming the Indian Prime Minister’s Dhaka visit wholeheartedly.

The Indian PM came to visit Dhaka earlier this month along with four chief ministers from four Indian states (i.e. Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram). The new chief minister of West Bengal, Mamata Banerjee, was supposed to be a member of the visiting team. But at the last moment she declined to come to Dhaka on the plea that she did not want to participate in the settlement of the Teesta water. Perhaps in her opinion, Bangladesh should not share almost an equal amount of water with West Bengal.

Immediately Delhi declared that they will not sign any treaty on the Teesta water along with some other major issues. The high hope about the Dhaka summit started to fade away.

Hence the Indian Prime Minister came to Dhaka along with his four chief ministers but there was no Teesta agreement and the other major issues remained unattended. A 65-point joint Dhaka declaration was announced after the Indian PM’s visit which included cooperation on several issues, most of which were promises and people were sceptical whether these promises will be fulfilled in time.

Regarding the agreements some experts say that this could be formalised at ministerial or secretary level conferences, it did not require the Indian Prime Minister’s visit and the presence of four state ministers.
It is not true that Dhaka did not achieve anything from the Indian PM’s visit. There are discussions and agreements about different development projects and a foundation was laid for future settlement of major disputes. However, this visit could not strengthen the mutual trust and confidence because of the last moment U-turn by India.

The high hopes India created in the minds of the Bangladeshi people before the summit, those they themselves diminished unexpectedly and undiplomatically. The high level of propaganda to create high hopes in the people’s minds was not needed before this summit when Delhi could not pursue Mamata Banerjee to join the Dhaka conference.  This water dispute has been unresolved for the last 40 years. It remained a stumbling block against the friendship and cooperation between two countries.

It was a real mystery as to why Mamata Banerjee took a U-turn about her Dhaka visit and allegedly sabotaged a historic attempt to establish a real bond between the two countries. This bond is absolutely needed to combat communalism and terrorism and to ensure that democracy will have a strong root in the sub-continent.

Many people suspect that Mamata Banerjee was made a scapegoat by Delhi. It was Delhi that did not want to settle the major disputes and help the democratic government in Bangladesh to get strength and popularity from this treaty.

On the other hand, this was now treated as an unsuccessful visit and India was blamed for helping (knowingly or unknowingly) the undemocratic forces in Bangladesh in their anti-government propaganda. This will not help India in the long run.

In my opinion, India now lacks a strong political central government. The present Manmohan government is not politically strong and when confronting charges of corruption or the movement of Anna Hazare, they display indecisiveness. This weakness and indecisiveness was also proved in the Prime Minister’s Dhaka visit.
The bureaucracy now has the upper hand in the Indian administration and the big businesses are now controlling them. India’s foreign policies are not guided by the idealism of the Nehru-Indira era, but are now guided by solely trade and commercial interests with an ambition to become a regional superpower. Bangladesh should be aware of this change in Indian policy.

Dhaka’s foreign policy is now lacking skill, far sightedness and experience. It was proved in their handling of the Dhaka summit. There is still time to take lessons from the present situation. Dhaka should be more cautious in dealing with India and they should not be over-dependent on India’s goodwill.