jump to navigation

BCIM Corridor a game changer for South Asian trade July 24, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Pravakar Sahoo and Abhirup Bhunia

The Bangladesh–China–India–Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor will increase socioeconomic development and trade in South Asia. The initiative seeks to improve connectivity and infrastructure, energy resources, agriculture, and trade and investment. It will connect India’s Northeast, Bangladesh, Myanmar, and the Chinese province of Yunnan through a network of roads, railways, waterways, and airways under a proper regulatory framework. The current focus of BCIM talks is on an inter-regional road network. This makes sense, as roads are the cheapest route of trade. NyaungShwe_Conrad2236 The BCIM Economic Corridor is a modern version of the Silk Road, and a revision of the 1999 Track II Kunming initiative between BCIM countries. It is planned to run from China’s Kunming province to Kolkata in India, and link Mandalay in Myanmar and Dhaka and Chittagong in Bangladesh. BCIM initiatives have gained momentum since Chinese Premier Li Keqiang’s visit to India and the conclusion of the first official meeting of the joint study group of the BCIM Economic Corridor on 19 December 2013.

(more…)

FEATURE ARTICLE: Borodin – Christmas in Bangladesh June 6, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Features, Guest authors , comments closed

Joyce Das

It was around 9 am on Christmas morning. I was on my way to Savar, about 24 kilometres to the northwest of Dhaka city, the place that is mostly famous for Jatiyo Smriti Soudho, the National Monument for the Martyrs of the Liberation War of Bangladesh. But in April 2013, it hit the headlines with the collapse of a large garment factory, causing many deaths and injuries. Both my father and I were going to the Savar Baptist Church to attend the Christmas service. We were travelling by a car, sitting on the back seat scanning the street scene with curious eyes. The driver suddenly broke the silence; “Finally today people have come out with their vehicles after so long”, he said. And he was right. During a month of blockade, violence, and political instability leading to the national elections, people could hardly come out of their homes in Dhaka, the capital city of Bangladesh.

Christmas in Savar (Photo: J. Das)

Christmas in Savar (Photo: J. Das)

Since 25 November, the entire country was embroiled in political violence. Between the night of 25 November and 21 December, the death toll had reached 127, out of which 46 were ‘common’ people, that is, innocent bye-standers without any political affiliation. In this context of turmoil, most of the Christians could not go back to their homes in villages – something that they normally do every festive season – to celebrate Christmas. In retaliation, on 23 December, the Christian Association organised a human-chain in front of the National Press Club in Dhaka, to protest the countrywide blockade so that the ordinary Christians can celebrate. The lack of response to this protest has frustrated many Christians; one of them posted on her Facebook: “Blockade across Bangladesh….!!!! Because we are the minority…No one cares about our festival…!!! We do not have the right to go home and celebrate our festival with our family and friends…do we?!?” Others kept their frustration within themselves and tried to talk about the situation casually, as though it is normal to expect that the political parties would never consider Christmas as a festival significant in Bangladesh. (more…)

Sham election sets dangerous standard for Bangladesh February 17, 2014

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Guest authors , comments closed

Tom Felix Joehnk

For more than two decades Sheikh Hasina of the Awami League (AL) and Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) have ruled Bangladesh. They hate each other viscerally and refuse to communicate, much less negotiate. Both women inherited their political followings from relatives who were assassinated. They have since turned the country’s two largest parties into patronage-based personality cults that specialise in looking backwards.

Bangladesh is the world’s eighth most populous country. It has made tremendous progress in recent years — very much despite its appalling leaders. Their greatest feat might have been when they joined hands in 1990 to oust Mohammad Ershad, a dictator. Ever since, the two autocratically inclined ‘begums’ have given Bangladeshis no choice but the choice between the two of them.

The incumbent prime minister has always lost — until now. But now Bangladesh is entering a new phase. In a farce of an election on 5 January Sheikh Hasina won a second consecutive term as prime minister. She laid the ground for this victory in 2011, by junking a provision added to the constitution in 1996 which had called for neutral, ‘caretaker’ governments to oversee elections.

(more…)

Will gains for Bangladesh workers founder on political reality? July 24, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Bangladesh, By contributor, Guest authors , comments closed

Sharif As-Saber

In the two months since the collapse of the Rana Plaza in Bangladesh left 1129 people dead and hundreds more still unaccounted for, world attention has turned from the actual cause of the incident to scrutinising the entire industry.

So far there has been three notable international efforts aimed at improving working conditions, wages and building safety and importantly, acknowledging the responsibilities of multinational Big Brand retailers and buying house intermediaries making up the global ready-made-garment supply chain.

The Bangladesh government has this week amended its labour laws following pressure from the United States, which suspended its preferential market access following the Rana Plaza collapse.

But those who seek to reform the Bangladeshi ready-made garment industry face political and economic pressures that might stymy these early efforts.

The Bangladesh government has responded to international calls to improve their labour laws, but a fraught political environment could threaten gains. Source: AAP.

(more…)

The rise of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh and its implications for women May 28, 2013

Posted by nishankmotwani in : Bangladesh, By contributor, By country, Guest authors , comments closed

Eshan Motwani

The attack on Nadia Sharmin, a news reporter for Ekushey Television, by a group of Islamist activists last month was a brutal reminder of the wave of anti-secularism that has gripped Bangladesh in recent months. Her perpetrators belonged to the Islamic Group ‘Hefajat-e-Islam Bangladesh’ (hereafter referred to as Hefajat). The group was staging a rally in the capital Dhaka to push a list of demands that stand in clear contradiction to the nation’s secular principles. Sharmin was providing coverage of the protests for her network when the group of activists took notice of her. To them, Sharmin’s presence represented one of the many facets of modern day Bangladesh that they were protesting against, namely the free mixing of males and females. Sharmin, who was fortunate to survive the attack, spoke of her experience from hospital and stated that “fifty-six activists hurled brickbats and water bottled at me at Bijoynagar. They snatched my mobile phone and handbag having several thousand Takas. Then they threw me on the ground and beat me up”. Hefajat’s list of demands further threatens the advances that women like Sharmin have achieved since Bangladesh gained its independence.

(more…)

‘Promoting peace and maintaining stability’: the evolution of the Bangladesh Navy April 15, 2013

Posted by aungsi in : Bangladesh, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article originally appeared in South Asia Defence and Strategic Review

As a Bay of Bengal littoral state Bangladesh has strong maritime interests. Increasingly, Bangladesh has recognised the importance of its maritime domain and the requirement to augment its Navy to secure and project its regional interests. Bangladesh Navy chief, Vice Admiral Zahir Uddin Ahmed spoke to Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe about the navy’s changing responsibilities, maritime security challenges, efforts to mitigate the effect of natural disasters and the need for naval diplomacy.

Vice Admiral Zahir Uddin Ahmed (right) and Vice Admiral Anil Chopra of the Eastern Naval Command, India. Source: http://indiannavy.nic.in/

(more…)

Assam: friction in a crucial corridor July 30, 2012

Posted by sandygordon in : Bangladesh, Bhutan, Gordon, Sandy, India , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

A week ago some 48 people were killed in Assam in clashes between the Bodo ethnic group (a Tibetan-Burmese people who are now predominantly Christian and Hindu) and Muslim Bengali immigrants, mainly from Bangladesh and its previous incarnations. Approximately 400,000 have also been displaced from their villages. These are by no means the first such ethnic clashes in Assam, the most recent being between Bengalis and Bodos four years ago, which left 70 dead. The worst attacks occurred in 1983, when an estimated 2000 Bengali Muslims were killed.

Since well before the British left in 1947, Bengali Muslims have been crossing into Assam. Pushed by desperation, they often occupied the shifting char lands – dangerous but fertile flood plains of the rivers that criss-cross the region. Since independence in 1947, East Pakistanis, and later Bangladeshis, have continued to cross the poorly policed, poorly defined border. There are now an estimated 10-20 million Bangladeshis in India. But of course not all Bengali Muslims are in Assam illegally and many have been there for generations. As pointed out by the New York Times, it is well nigh impossible to distinguish between those legitimately in Assam and those who have come illegally.

Besides the devastating displacement and loss of life, ethnic unrest in Assam is important for a number of reasons.

India's North East - this version includes Sikkim

(more…)

India and Bangladesh: calculus of territorial dispute settlement February 8, 2012

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Guest authors, India , comments closed

Guest author: Sourabh Gupta, Samuels International

This article was first posted in East Asia Forum on 10 October 2011.

On 7 September 2011 in Dacca, the prime ministers of India and Bangladesh signed a landmark protocol to their 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, providing for final settlement of their long-pending boundary issues.

Given that instances of territorial dispute settlement in this sovereignty-conscious region have been few and far between, this exercise in statesmanship is both commendable and long overdue. A review of the principles and processes underlying the compromises reveals useful insights into territorial dispute settlement at New Delhi’s end.

The India-Bangladesh boundary is no ordinary one. Hastily constructed in the dying days of British colonialism, it was the longest international boundary created during the age of decolonisation. The border was intended to separate a contiguous majority area of Muslims from that of non-Muslims — but for only about a quarter of its length does it separate a Muslim-majority in Bangladesh from a Hindu-majority in India. As many as 162 tiny enclaves (111 Indian and 52 Bangladeshi) dot a section of the frontier: in the extreme an Indian enclave sits within a Bangladeshi enclave, itself situated within a larger Indian enclave, all surrounded by Bangladeshi territory!

(more…)

China’s investment spurs Bangladesh development June 22, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, DeSilva-Ranasinghe, Serge, Future Directions International, India , comments closed

Sergei DeSilva-Ranasinghe

This article was first posted in Future Directions International on 15 June 2011

Background

On 9 June 2011, Bangladesh signed a loan agreement worth US$211 million ($198 million) with the Export-Import Bank of China to upgrade the country’s telecommunications network. Such initiatives by China to develop critical infrastructure are illustrative of the central role it has played in strengthening Bangladesh’s economy and connectivity to the region.

Comment

Bangladesh established formal relations with China in 1975 and thereafter bilateral relations were steadily enhanced by frequent diplomatic visits to both countries. Subsequently, in 1986, the Bangladesh-China People’s Friendship Association was formed, which helped set the pattern in two-way trade and investment, especially throughout the 1990s, fostering China’s emergence as a vitally important partner and ally.

Indeed, from the time relations were first established until October 2000, China provided cumulative assistance worth US$217 million ($205.6 million) to Bangladesh. In the same year, bilateral trade reached an unprecedented high at US$715 million ($677.6 million).

Later, in 2002, on a visit to Bangladesh, Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao signed nine bilateral agreements to enhance co-operation in a variety of fields. Among the crucial agreements signed was a defence co-operation accord, which strengthened China’s position as a key supplier of weapons, equipment and ammunition to the Bangladeshi military. ‘Bangladesh wanted time-befitting armed forces for the country. China will co-operate with Bangladesh for this purpose,’ stated Morshed Khan, the former Bangladeshi Foreign Minister. He added: ‘[The] intention is there to co-operate in defence sector; now the two sides will co-operate with each other. This umbrella agreement is not directed against any country and would not affect Bangladesh’s relations with India.’

(more…)

Book review: Bina D’Costa’s ‘Nationbuilding, Gender and War crimes in South Asia’ (London, New York: Routledge, 2011) May 17, 2011

Posted by southasiamasala in : Bangladesh, Gordon, Sandy, India, Pakistan , comments closed

Sandy Gordon

In her new book, Bina D’Costa provides a convincing picture of the role of war, war crime (especially against women) and myth in the construction of modern South Asian nation-states. The story of the women caught up in the violence of 1971 is movingly told, in terms of how they originally suffered and how they continue to suffer due to family and societal ostracism, the re-emergence of the religious right in Bangladesh and the failure of the state to acknowledge their stories or suffering.

I liked a great deal about this book – its density, its extensive reading into the problem, its intellectual subtlety and especially its use of history.  Dr D’Costa argues convincingly that the atrocities of 1971 cannot be understood without reference to those of 1947; that South Asia is not just India, but constitutes a culturally inter-connected set of countries that interact constantly over porous borders; and that the analysis of nation-building should incorporate the micro-level stories of women as well as the macro-level ones.  This last is especially difficult to bring off analytically, and D’Costa accomplishes it superbly.

Women fighters during the 1971 war.

(more…)