A New Mantra
Adorned in a saffron jacket and embellished with a detailed map of South Asia the concept of an India doctrine has been introduced to the readers in Bangladesh recently. The book “The India Doctrine” has been published by the Bangladesh Research Forum and edited by Barrister M.B.I. Munshi. Munshi’s contribution to the book constitutes the largest section with several other writers from Bangladesh, Nepal, and Sri Lanka providing some useful and informative chapters.
The book comes complete with a foreword written by an esteemed scholar, Professor Ataur Rahman of Dhaka University, who sets the theme of the book. We are reminded by Rahman that while India might have its own rationale for framing its regional policy compatible with its national interests, the fact remains that constant apprehensions, mistrust, and tensions between India and its smaller neighbors including Bangladesh had its negative effects on any meaningful cooperation and security in the region.
This introduction neatly moves us into the chapters written by Munshi, which are a series of discussions that covers the relations between India and East Pakistan/Bangladesh from 1947 to the present. It attempts a historical and geo-strategic appraisal of relations between the two countries but also offers a more wide ranging analysis involving Indian external intelligence operations in Bangladesh and outside. The central idea of the chapters when taken as a whole appears to be that the India doctrine as implemented by successive administrations is not limited to simply harming the economic interests of its neighbors but also has a historical and intellectual underpinning that comes from the thoughts and writings of Jawaharlal Nehru and Madhav Sadashiv Golwalkar among others. The idea of a United India (or an “Akhand Bharat”), according to the author, is still a goal of Indian policymaking in South Asia.
Rahman is forced in his foreword to contend that this thesis may seem implausible and “far-fetched” but also points out that Munshi supplements his ideas with an exhaustive and elaborate set of references and notes to back up his argument. However, a defect in this intricate framework of references is that the chapters lack a bibliography, which would have made it easier to verify the arguments advanced by the author. The chapters also seem to be hampered by the fact that they were written originally as a three-part article and the author clearly has had some difficulty in framing his arguments within this constriction. However, Francis Fukuyama and Samuel Huntington both started their seminal works in a similar manner with articles in prominent journals before they were rendered into book form, and this does not seem to have affected the stream of their discussion and thoughts.
As this may be, the principle cause of disquiet will certainly be Munshi’s interpretation of significant historical events and his commentary on the motivations of characters such as Jawaharlal Nehru, Indira Gandhi, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Ayub Khan who are all now long dead. I was certainly surprised by some of his findings, but it was difficult to find fault here as most of his views are backed-up with thorough research and investigation. His chapters on the 1971 war and the insurgency in the C.H.T. (Chittagong Hill Tracts) are probably the most tantalizing in terms of historical data and comparisons.
Some of Munshi’s arguments are further buttressed by a short chapter by Khodeza Begum, who makes reference to events that occurred during the 1990’s related to clandestine meetings held in Dhaka concerning the reunification of the subcontinent. In her chapter, there is an extensive discussion on