Burma Times – By Mohamed Ibrahim 10 April 2014
On March 26, 2014, Bangladesh celebrated their 43rd independence anniversary. This has been a difficult 43 years. Yet in these troubled times, Bangladesh has survived against all odds defying the pessimism of many cynics which counted among their ranks respected intellectuals and diplomats, outperforming their former country Pakistan in almost all sectors and their giant and resourceful neighbour India in most areas of social development. Despite significant challenges for this land, where poverty has ruled unchallenged for centuries possibly millenniums, Bangladesh is now regarded by many as a model for development in the third world. This is a truly remarkable achievement for one of the world’s most densely populated country that resides in a delta devoid of natural resources and instead frequented by deadly cyclones and floods.
The road ahead for Bangladesh remains long and difficult. Bangladesh is still poor and most people suffer from miserable living conditions. But Bangladeshis can be forgiven if they are looking for a place alongside the richer countries of the world. In the last half a century many countries have failed to live up to their potential. For Bangladesh the opposite is true. Some predictions point out that this hitherto dirt poor nation can expect to be a middle income nation by 2021, and overtake the West by 2050. The latter especially might sound like a farfetched dream but this is no fringe opinion.
Strangely for a nation that has overtaken so many barriers, Bangladesh still remains much too dependent on foreign powers to conduct their political affairs. Whenever Bangladesh faces a political crisis, internal or external, Bangladeshi politicians turns to Western countries and lately to India for solutions. Unsurprisingly solutions have been few.
In the meantime Bangladesh’s troubled neighbour Myanmar plans to pass off their indigenous Muslim inhabitants in their Western province of Arakan as illegal immigrants from Bangladeshi and gradually expel them. If the past is an example, Bangladesh will rely on the USA and other Western countries to pressurise Myanmar. The end result is a foregone conclusion and not in favour of Bangladesh.
Whenever the issue of Myanmar’s Muslim Rohingya population have come up, Bangladesh has excused themselves saying that they don’t have the political or economic leverage to aid this persecuted community. Bangladeshis genuinely believe that. Such a mode of thought is rooted in the 20th century when Bangladesh was weak and vulnerable. The parable is comparable to a father that refuses to acknowledge that their children has grown up.
As sectarian strife in Myanmar evolves into a full blown genocide against Muslims, Bangladesh cannot afford to remain aloof especially as the government describes their Arakanese Muslim populace as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh. By supporting the Arakanese Muslims in their struggle for freedom, Bangladesh can advance their own geopolitical interests which means that the country need to protect their independence from hostile foreign powers. A friendly state in the Arakan can also do much to protect Bangladesh’s borders from an unpredictable regime that almost officially hates Muslims and seems determined to acquire nuclear weapons. The other alternative is to contend with a Muslim free Arakan whose hostile inhabitants will no doubt destabilise Muslim majority Bangladesh.