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Tag: trade

করোনাকালের করুণা খান

এই গল্পের সাথে কেউ কোন চরিত্র মিলাইবেন না। যে মিলাইবেন দায় তার… কয়া দিলাম কিন্তু…. করোনার প্রকোপে আর কিছু না হোক আমি যে পাগল হইতেছি…

The Price of Social Distancing

Rahnuma forwarded me Laily’s wrenching FaceBook post. Her father is dying, far away in a UK hospital. Heart breaking, holding back tears, she and her family watch from afar. Unable to touch, to hold, to caress the person who is dearest to them. This is what Corona means in real terms. It was through her research on one of my heroes, the peasant leader Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani, and later through them staying at the Pathshala Guest House, that we got to know her. Bhashani’s principle of putting nation before self and his simple lifestyle is a very distant reality from the ruling politicians of today. Despite its pain, Laily’s post reminded me of my own dad and my childhood. I remembered dad resting in his easy chair. His belly just the right slope for us kids to use as a living slide. We used to call him bhalluk (bear), and every day as he rested after lunch, my cousins and I would line up behind the easy chair, clamber up to his shoulders and slide down his belly. Mum would freak out, as my dad had osteomyelitis as a child and had never fully recovered. His shins were always exposed and very fragile. Quite apart from wanting him to rest, the idea that we might aggravate his injury worried her. Abba was unperturbed, happy to be teddy bear to a room full of kids. We’d run back to the end of the queue to slide down again. We were always tired before Abba ever did. We didn’t think of it as physical contact in those days. When Abba died, I remember feeling the stubble that had grown on his soft skin, as I stroked him before we laid him down.

Newcomers to Bangladesh are overwhelmed by the generosity of our village folk. They love it when strangers clasp their hands, but are somewhat unsure when seconds, sometimes minutes pass, before their hands are reluctantly released. Years ago, when we at Drik were trying to improve our English skills, we struck a deal with the local office of the British Council. Unable to pay for the expensive English classes, we negotiated a barter. We would do their photography. They in turn, would teach us English. It wasn’t just language skills though, it was learning English culture. One of the first things our English teachers told us was to release the hand quickly! Prolonged physical contact could make the English squirm.

Workers sleeping in shipbreaking yard in Rahman Yard in Chittagong. Photo: Shahidul Alam/Drik/Majority World

Modi visits Bangladesh, but Teesta is not even in the agenda

by Taj Hashmi

Last time I met my old friend Gowher Rizvi at his office in December 2011, he was very upbeat and optimistic about the ?impending? Teesta water sharing agreement with India. He seemed to have reposed absolute trust in what Manmohan Singh ? a fellow Oxford alumnus ? had promised him in this regard. Although I was still a bit skeptic about the deal, I brushed aside my skepticism momentarily, thinking the Oxford Old Boy camaraderie might have worked to the advantage of Bangladesh.

PMs Hasina, Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee flagging off a bus service between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka Saturday. (Source: PTI) - See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/india-bangladesh-seal-historic-land-boundary-agreement/2/#sthash.sxgId5nZ.dpuf
PMs Hasina, Modi and CM Mamata Banerjee flagging off a bus service between Bangladesh and India, in Dhaka Saturday. (Source: PTI) – See more at: http://indianexpress.com/article/india/india-others/india-bangladesh-seal-historic-land-boundary-agreement/2/#sthash.sxgId5nZ.dpuf

Connectivity: The India-Bangladesh land bridge

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Himal Magazine

February?2011

By?Kanak Mani Dixit

Can a formal bilateral communiqu? be a ?game changer?, foretell a ?paradigm shift?, in a Southasian relationship? If India and Bangladesh manage to follow through on promises to open up their economies for transit and trade as set out in a memorandum of January 2010, a new era could dawn across the land borders of Southasia. The challenges are bureaucratic inertia in New Delhi and ultra-nationalist politics in Dhaka.
The political partition of the Subcontinent in 1947 did not have to lead to economic partition, but that is ultimately what happened. This did not take place right away, and many had believed that the borders of India and Pakistan?s eastern and western flanks were demarcations that would allow for the movement of people and commerce. It was as late as the India-Pakistan war of 1965 that the veins and capillaries of trade were strangulated. In the east, in what was to become Bangladesh just a few years later, the river ferries and barges that connected Kolkata with the deltaic region, and as far up as Assam, were terminated. The metre-gauge railway lines now stopped at the frontier, and through-traffic of buses and trucks came to a halt. The latest act of separation was for India to put up an elaborate barbed-wire fence along much of the 4000 km border, a project that is nearly complete. Today, what mainly passes under these wires are Bangladeshi migrants seeking survival in the faraway metropolises of India ? and contraband.

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Photo credit: Sworup Nhasiju
This half-century of distancing between what was previously one continuous region has resulted in incalculable loss of economic vitality, most of it hidden under nationalist bombast. Bangladesh lost a huge market and source of investment, even as the heretofore natural movement of people in search of livelihood suddenly came to be termed ?illegal migration?. Bangladeshis were wounded by the unilateral construction of the Farakka Barrage on the Ganga/Padma, a mere 10 km upstream from the border, which deepened the anti-Indian insularity of Dhaka?s new nationalist establishment. Forced to chart its own course, Bangladesh concentrated on developing its own soil and society, uniquely building mega-NGOs such as Proshika, BRAC and Grameen, developing a healthy domestic industrial sector such as in garment manufacture, and learning to deal with disastrous floods and cyclones.
In India, the lack of contact and commerce led increasingly to an evaporation of empathy for Bangladesh, which became an alien state rather than a Bangla-speaking sister Southasian society. The opinion-makers of mainland India wilfully ignored the interests of the Indian Northeast, which they see as an appendage with no more than four percent of the national population. The seven states of the Northeast, meanwhile, became weakened economically with the denial of access to Bangladesh?s market and the proximate ports on the Bay of Bengal. Mainland India, of course, could easily afford to maintain its strategic and administrative control through the ?chicken?s neck? of the Siliguri corridor, but few considered the economic opportunities lost to the Northeast over five decades.
Distrust and xenophobia in Bangladesh, the imperial aloofness of New Delhi, and the Northeast?s lack of agency delivered a status quo in disequilibrium in the northeastern quadrant of Southasia that has lasted decades. Unexpectedly, there is a hint of change. A relatively little-remarked-upon memorandum between the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India holds out the possibility of erasing the anti-historical legacy of closed borders and rigid economies.