A recent visit of the delegation of the ruling party of Bangladesh to India came under severe scrutiny and disproportionate limelight for a whole range of diverse reasons.
While the purpose of the visit was absolutely benign and aimed at elevating the relationship between our two neighbours, there were attempts from different corners to taint its intentions unnecessarily.
Some interested corners went on to claim that the Awami League delegation went for a visit to India to seek the blessings of India to win in the forthcoming national elections scheduled to be held within a few months.
This was unwarranted, and displayed a very narrow and myopic view of the political culture. Bangladesh is not anymore a country that is shaky and hesitant to decide her destiny.
We are a self-reliant nation, and are in no way dependent on foreign power to dictate to us what should be our future course of action. What we need are equal partners for growth and prosperity, not prompters telling us what and how things need to be done as we head into the next poll in a few months’ time.
Bangladesh is no more a week and fragile state. Under the stewardship of Shekh Hasina, Bangladesh has achieved tremendous socio-economic progress in the last few years, so much so that Bangladesh has been termed as one of the developing world’s greatest success stories, moving rapidly on her glorious trajectory towards prosperity.
Graduation of Bangladesh from LDC to developing status serves as a testament to that fact. The nation is on the cusp of transferring itself to the fast-paced highroads of progress, achieving record-breaking growth with respect to all the major spheres of development.
This indeed has propelled the nation to a much higher plane of visibility, admiration, stability, and regional recognition. A host of large infrastructural undertakings and mega projects like the Padma Bridge, Rooppur power plant, and Dhaka Metro Rail have boosted our image regionally and globally, and granted Bangladesh a status of respectability and prominence.
What we need now is to believe in ourselves and restore confidence with regards to our prowess and capabilities.
That will only happen when we perceive and nurture a vision that is united, mature, and pragmatic, void of narrow party politics. It is needless to mention that everyone inside and outside the government must act in a manner that will always uphold the national honour and prestige above and beyond their personal and collective group gains.
As a matter of fact, this was the dream of our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, when he did very wisely forecast that one day the world would come and see how Bangladesh is progressing. There are more than enough indications to believe that day is only over the horizon.
There is, however, no denying the fact that Bangladesh and India’s relationship has deep rooted historic, cultural, and economic ties which go back to our War of Liberation. Both countries have always been more than neighbours, sharing not only common borders and rivers, but also culture, language, and heritage.
We do not need any country to help us decide our future destiny
In recent years, cooperation between our two countries has reached new heights in sectors such as settling historical land border and maritime border disputes, landmark diplomacy, and bilateral and regional connectivity, among others.
While, as a nation, we fondly harbour sincere gratefulness and unflinching regards towards India for all her assistance to Bangladesh, we hope and wish that similar gestures would also be reciprocated from their side also.
Our two incumbent governments have always operated from a noble position of maintaining mutual respect for each other and promoting unhindered development and regional stability.
Incidentally, many of the Indian strategic thinkers also subscribe to such a foreign policy.
I could not resist myself from referring to the famous Gujral Doctrine articulated by Mr IK Gujral in the mid-90s where he clearly suggested: “As the largest nation in South Asia, India must show a big heart to neighbours. With Bangladesh and others, India should not ask for reciprocity, but should give all in good faith and trust.”
Let me wrap up this paradoxical relationship with an excellent illustration made by a former American National Security Advisor Zbigniew Breznisky. He commented: “India may be called a strategic player, and Bangladesh may be called a geo-strategic pivot.”
It’s a proven fact and should be unequivocally realized and accepted that in this era of globalization, we need India as much as she needs us. There is no reason for anyone to assume that our progress and development will be dependent on the activities of India.
There are many reasons to second the thoughts of AL General Secretary Obaidul Quader, who was highly resolute while committing very firmly that: “Foreign forces may be our friend. But we do not need their interference in our election.”
Those who are trying to pursue a propaganda campaign about the recent visit of the delegation of AL to India are also not realizing that they are unnecessarily undermining the vibrancy and the intensity of the might of Bangladesh.
That should not be allowed to happen under any circumstance.
It could thus be inaccurate and preposterous to assume that our ruling party would seek any kind of interference and intervention from our closest neighbour, since it is unnecessary.
We do not need any country to help us decide our future destiny. Our people are competent, reaffirmed, and confident enough to decide what type of governance they need and in what fashion they will be chosen.
Please take a look at the rickshaw-puller who is on his mobile phone enquiring about the passenger in the next moholla, or the lady health worker who is in the Union Information Centre trying to access the internet to fill up her form to go to the Middle East.
Please try to rise above the rhetoric of party politics and give these people the opportunity to fulfill their dreams. Give Bangladesh a chance -- a resurgent self-reliant Bangladesh as it heads into the next poll.
Rear Admiral (Retired) Kazi Sarwar is a security analyst, and was Ambassador of Bangladesh to the Maldives.