Mostafa Kamal Majumder
The visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been looked upon here in Bangladesh from only one perspective – what the leader of the largest and virtually the only neighbour has in his store for the 16 crore people of this deltaic land created by the Himalayan rivers which are natural entities and abide only the laws of nature and are no respectors of the political boundaries that were created way back in 1947. But political boundaries are also important because based on those, the peoples of these two countries have chosen – as a sequel to historical mistrusts – to build their own destiny.Narendra Modi has shown his neighbours a vision – as a leader of the largest country of the region – he wants to play a historical role of cementing a South Asian Union having shared history, culture and being showered by the same monsoon and washed by the same Himalayan watersheds. Modi did, unlike all his predecessors invite leaders of the SAARC (South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation) after achieving a landslide victory in election at India’s centre little over a year ago to his coronation. Despite many critical portrayals of the man in his political career, Modi looks simple, talks simple, and gives a simple vision of his like.Viewed from this perspective Modi has apparently given an indication of his desire to build a common future of the South Asian region. In Bangladesh there can be no two opinion on a common future of the region. In fact as the dreamer and the initiator of the SAARC Bangladesh did moot the idea which many had in the beginning scoffed as a childish thought from a smaller partner of then 7-nation region. But the idea was more popular in other smaller countries of the region than Bangladesh itself, although the two big arch rivals had looked at it with suspicion – did Bangladesh play into the hand of other of the two!
Our expectation is that Prime Minister Modi with all his apparent simplicity of thought and character by which he has won India and wants to make a permanent mark not only on his own country but also the region as a whole would be able to rise above thoughts that have taken roots in seven decades due to inept steering that this land of 16 crore people is at odds with his country. If the honorable Indian Prime Minister goes by logic he will see the people of this land are definitely a distinct collective – 90 per cent Muslims – but have in all the 7 decades proved moderate and peaceful unless instigated. They are overwhelmingly from the Sunni sect that makes inner self-purification of the mind their main goal inspired by Sufism the dominant thought of Islamic scholars of this subcontinent.
Prime Minister Modi’s friendship should embrace all the people of Bangladesh, though as chief executive of India his actions have to be primarily with his counterpart the chief executive of Bangladesh. Modi’s test will be to prove this, and put an end to the decades of mistrust. This is because not a single section or shade of opinion in Bangladesh wants or has or will, or have the military power to fight or conquer India – an impossibility to the power zero. Then what Modi has to fear from? He should collect the courage to embrace all and debrief himself of the ideas and misconceptions created earlier as the partition of India was the outcome of a bloody past. The people of Bangladesh want dignity, and respect to their right to have their physical, economic, environmental, ecological and cultural rights and not encroached upon. Given this there could be no earthly reason for Bangladeshis to be critical of India. Bangladeshis love their country. They are not for causing harm to India, but a desire to benefit from the relationship. There is no need to divide between more friendly and less friendly people here unless incentives are created for this.
So the best option is to bury historical misconceptions, mistrusts and mistakes; please honour the dignity, integrity and sovereignty of the neighbour, take care that this river-made delta is not delinked from rivers and deprived of its lush green, landscape, environment, economy, ecology, biodiversity, life and livelihood. Please talk to scientists based in New Delhi, and other Indian cities who understand this better. Otherwise an environmentally degraded people will have no option but to look for livlihood elsewhere. Like Europe, South Asia should also be inter-connected and their peoples should have the right to move about freely. But before that takes place, make a soul-searching as to whether these people feel secure and sound! The onus is on Modi to create the environment for this. History has bestowed upon Modi this great responsibility. It should be remembered that it was primarily for the greatness of Indonesia and reciprocity by its neighbours that ASEAN has stood the test of time. In case of SAARC the greatness should primarily come from India. It cannot be therwise.
(A political analyst and environmental writer Mostafa Kamal Majumder is the Editor of GreenWatch Dhaka)