A New Mantra

Southasia - - Book review -

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

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from Pakistan

© PressReader. All rights reserved.