Foreign Friends of Bangladesh
Usman Zafar


Awami League government seems to be in hurry to reward the friends of Bangladesh; the friends those who somehow helped her to fragment from Pakistan. First ceremony in this connection was held on 25 July 2011. Freedom Honor was given to late Indian leader Indira Gandhi. Second ceremony was held on 27 March 2012 in which eighty three foreign friends Bangladesh were honored. It was followed by an other ceremony which was organized on 20 October 2012, wherein, sixty one individuals were honored. Fourth such ceremony is scheduled on 15 December 2012. Reportedly 150 foreign friends of Bangladesh will be honored.

The list of beneficiaries besides Indian President Pranab Mukherjee also include about fifteen Pakistanis those who had supported Bangladesh’s war of liberation against their own country back in 1971. Bangladeshis are well within their right to pay their respect and gratitude to those who helped them achieve independence. But interestingly, these predominantly are Indians. The arch enemies with whom Bangladeshis had opted not to live with, back in 1947. It would be interesting to examine if this change of heart was the charisma of the historical mistakes committed over the years or just a propaganda gimmick.
Relations between East and West Pakistan weren’t ideal. Division of resources and developmental works conducted were skewed towards West Pakistan. Yet there were all the reasons that the two wings of the country could co-exist and resolve their differences. The petty issues were converted into major impediments due to indifferent attitude of the rulers and were projected as grave injustices by hostile media. Protests demanding resolution of issues created a false impression of Bangladeshi nationalism. Effective propaganda launched by Indian intelligence agencies obscured facts from the commoners. An unbiased researcher, “Sharmils Bose” a lady from a Bengali nationalist family from India, in her book, “Dead Reckoning: Memories of the 1971 Bengladesh War” has completely negated the myth of Bengali nationalism. She reached to this conclusion only after interviewing thousands of Bengalis presently living in Bangladesh. If that was so, the present effort by Awami League government is to re-enforce the fallacy and a gesture to appease her masters.
Indian interference in 1971 events in East Pakistan was to undo Pakistan. In the process Bangladesh a client state was created. A state that would always comply to the Indian wishes. Probably people at the helm of affairs in Bangladesh weren’t really aware of what will befell them when their initial vendetta is settled. Today Bangladesh is entirely dependent on the goodwill of Indians for 54 rivers to flow into their territory. Controversial project like Tipaimukh Dam can render Bangladeshi water channels dry, creating serious economic and ecological problems. Besides taking away Bangladeshi water they also want to build direct route through Bangladesh connecting Kolkata and Agartala that will reduce the distance between the two cities from 1880 km to 740 km. Sovereignty of Bangladesh is not the issue after all it is just a client state; it must please it master. By the same analogy it must put aside its observations and rights and must accede to Indian demands regarding maritime and land boundary demarcation instead of referring these to International Court or United Nations. Her friends have all the right to accuse her of insurgency and “demographic aggression” a term coined by RAW for illegal immigration of Bangladeshis to India. According to Indian Defense Review , September 2005, between 15 to 17 million Bangladeshis are living in India. It is difficult to ascertain the correctness of the estimate but one can only wonder if ever the friends of Bangladesh will befriend these people.
Bangladesh now is an independent country and has all the rights to honor her friends. In any case, it is her economic and geographic compulsion to maintain good relations with India. Therefore, rewarding friends from India is more of a compulsion than choice. Such exercises which are divorced from reality are seldom helpful in re-enforcing nationalism. But such gimmicks do provide an opportunity to India and Indian sponsored media to tarnish the image of Pakistan. Four ceremonies within a span of about one year only reflect on the cant nature of the undertaking. Reportedly, fifteen Pakistanis will also participate in the event. That reflects that turncoat exist or may have penetrated in our ranks and files. Pakistanis need to be watchful of such rogue elements those who betrayed Pakistan in the past and may do the same in future.