The relationship between Bangladesh and India mainly concentrates on economics, and sometimes on divisions -- religious divides, land and border disputes, export-import imbalance, sovereignty, nationalism, political differences, often leading to hatred.
Nations can be analysed from different angles and in different aspects. Let’s not forget, each and every nation has its own unique attributes, its unique sets of social and cultural values. Every nation has a past, which can be scrutinised by others, and it is no different for Bangladesh or India. But when it is about the relationship between these two neighbours, are we concentrating too much on differences? Has the negativity between the two nations gone too far?
This argument appears every now and then in the Bangladeshi and Indian political landscapes due to irresponsible and harmful political commentary by the leaders of both countries -- which damages efforts to establish a strong bilateral relationship. It is probably the most significant reason for our unsatisfactory progress, despite many efforts to strengthen ties between the two neighbours in recent years.
Currently, the focus is mainly on economic matters. Apparently, it is not achieving much, because of negativity and mistrust. Despite all the efforts and intentions, somehow the diplomatic process got stuck somewhere; and the differences and mistrust are not being resolved fast enough.
In a bid to change this atmosphere, it is probably time for both countries to evaluate the existing policies and invest in a shared opportunity-based policy, which means extensive cultural exchange programs, collaboration between scientists and academics, joint education programs between top universities, creation of joint industry and business research groups, and of course, easy and effective visa procedures.
There must be clear intentions, agenda, and effective mechanisms to learn about each other and to engage with each other in every level possible.
It would be wise to respond to those challenges of education, science, and research jointly rather than alone
Building a strong relationship between two countries is not just about economic partnerships or solving border issues. It is important to allocate the time and effort to find common ground.
Focus must be put on people and their desires. Bangladeshis and Indians are proud of their respective cultures, and are dedicated to make efforts for its preservation. We have the same expectations from the health and education sectors, democracy, and leadership. These are the common ground between the people of the two nations, which can be used to build bridges.
Understanding the domestic dimension and building confidence amongst people are pivotal, and can only be achieved by shared living experiences of the travellers, students, and current and future academics. Let’s not forget that it is always easy to communicate with people who we trust and are familiar with.
Countries around the globe are now responding to global challenges collaboratively. Neither Bangladesh nor India currently has such a partner -- which means there is an opportunity for both to build a true and meaningful regional partnership for future prosperity.
There is a widespread belief that the future holds great opportunity for this part of the world.
And the predicted economic advancements would definitely change the living standard of people in this region, which also means new challenges. It would be wise to respond to those challenges of education, science, and research jointly rather than alone.
To find the driving and influencing forces of the two nations, it is high time for a joint Bangladesh-India research and education centre -- as the commissioning of new studies through the institute and collaboration between academics can radically re-shape the relationship. It can achieve goals which were considered impossible in the past.
We all know the historic and cultural similarities between Bangladesh and India. There is plenty of common ground which must be used positively to find new ways of collaboration. We have more things that unite us, than we do that divide us. It is time to identify them and use them positively through new approaches.
Nur E Emroz Alam Tonoy is a blogger.