September 2020

LETTERS – September

Bangabandhu: Bangladesh’s past & future

Dear Sir

Asian Affairs’ tribute to Bangabandhu in the centenary year of his birth did great justice to the Father of Bangladesh, capturing his complex qualities of charisma, political pragmatism and pride in his Bengali culture, though not overlooking some of his very human flaws.

As this is also 45th anniversary of his assassination, it is important to also remember that sad event, as it was not only an attack on many human lives but also on values of Bangladesh, which it fought for in liberation from Pakistan: state secularism, democracy and prosperity for the people. Bangabandhu’s death changed the course of politics in Bangladesh, as it gave free rein to military power and let religious parties play a central part in the politics of Bangladesh. It also allowed deviation from Bangabandhu’s policy of close friendship with India, which helped Bangladesh to win freedom.

We Bangladeshis should always remember Bangabandhu in both life and death. His life brought us our freedom and a distinct national identity; his death left Bangladesh with a sense of insecurity, and those repercussions can still be felt today. Even as we continue to progress as a country, socially and economically, we must never forget the lessons that Bangabandhu taught us. In this way, he is part of our future as well as our past. 

Mr H. Khatun

Dubai, UAE

Looking ahead

Sudha Ramachandran makes a fair point about the youth of Bhutan wanting to reap some of the benefits accruing from China’s economic growth (‘New mood in the Himalayas’, August issue), and about the hindrances posed by India. Beijing and Thimphu may not have formal ties, unlike Bhutan’s 50-odd years of diplomatic relations with India; but China’s ‘soft power’ approaches to Bhutan have been far-reaching and appreciated, especially by the young – for example, the growing number of scholarships Beijing has issued to Bhutanese students wishing to study in China.

Like the world over, the young people of Bhutan are politically savvy and looking to a good future. India should take note.

Lakshmi Patel


Peace in a poke

Thank you for the enlightening perspectives on Afghanistan in your August edition, as covered in Dr Dawood Azami’s article and the write-up on the Democracy Forum online conference, which I watched with interest.

It was little surprise that the general tone was gloomy, from Ambassador Haqqani’s grim prediction of the Taliban’s ideals ‘taking Afghanistan back to the 14th century’ to Tim Foxley’s vision of a future ‘perfect storm’ of problems. Provisions made for ‘peace’ are clearly insufficient, with the Afghan government not even participating in US-Taliban talks. It seems ever more likely that the United States under President Trump is placing its own military withdrawal over what is truly needed in Afghanistan: a multifaceted political resolution that upholds at least some of the socio-political and humanitarian advances made since 2001. Without this, as Lord Bruce points out, a vacuum could form after the Americans leave, allowing militant groups to operate – as can be seen, for instance, in the August 2 attack on a Jalalabad prison, claimed by ISIL, in which at least 21 people were killed and over 40 injured.

Even Dr Dawood Azami’s faintly more optimistic concluding note about negotiations being the way forward does not fill me with much hope. Additional prisoner releases that will precede peace dialogue between the Afghan government and the Taliban, expected to start soon in Qatar, will simply discharge violent terrorists back into the Afghan population (or, in the case of foreign fighters, back to their homelands) and it is unclear whether they will even be monitored.

After all these years and all these promises, the Afghan people deserve better. 

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