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Neighbourly Concerns

Deb Mukharji

Edited by Jaideep Saikia
Vision Books, New Delhi, 2006, pp. 272, Rs. 495.00


It is encouraging that several books on Bangladesh have appeared in recent months. There have been few publications on Bangladesh in India, and perhaps fewer from abroad, to be seen on the shelves. For India, this is regrettable on two counts. Firstly, we should know more about a neighbour of nearly a hundred and fifty million people whose territory adjoins the most sensitive region of India for over four thousand kilometres, and, secondly and consequently, whose internal developments have an inescapable fall-out on India.   Bangladesh: Treading the Taliban Trail is an important contribution towards understanding some of the major contemporary issues between India and Bangladesh as also some significant internal developments. The title caters to the concern of the day about the growth of Islamic fundamentalism in Bangladesh. But this concession to the need for titles which attract attention should not detract from the intrinsic merits of the contributions which cover areas well outside of what the title would suggest. Of the thirteen chapters in the book, including Saikia’s introduction and Habib’s contribution in the appendix, several do indeed deal directly or in passing with the question of rising fundamentalism. The majority are, however, on a variety of issues of direct concern and consequence for India. All the contributors have been, or are, professionals in government, uniformed services, journalism or academics with credentials testifying to their knowledge of the subjects under review.   The focused concern of editor Jaideep Sailkia at the increasing sway of Islamic fundamentalism is evident in the introduction. Facts and reportage are quoted to show how the Jamaat and Islamist organizations have been gaining in strength and whose terrorist attacks within the country have gone unchecked. To Saikia’s dismay, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) is repaying the assistance from the Bangladesh intelligence agencies by condoning the rapid illegal migration from Bangladesh to Assam. Saikia is also hurt at the unfair treatment by Bangladesh “to a nation whose soldiers had shed blood to liberate Bangladesh”. There is an element of naivete in such expressions, as we see in later chapters as well, with the underlying assumption that gratitude is a factor in relations among nations.   Matthew Aaron Rosenstein (‘Superpower and the Imperilled Democracy’) looks at Bangladesh from an American perspective and details the problems of governance and corruption and concludes that “these political and socio-economic factors are creating an environment in Bangladesh that ...

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