Bangladesh Reflections on an Emergent Nation
Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury
The evolution of the consciousness of the Bangladeshi nationhood found fruition in the establishment of a sovereign State in 1971. It was shaped by over two centuries of pre-history. Since then Bangladesh, a predominantly Muslim nation, largely tolerant and secularist in its broad ethos, has managed to anchor itself in pluralist tendencies, though these values have at times confronted challenges. Conflicts have arisen out of the dichotomy in the nation’s identity, between ‘Muslimness’ and ‘Bengaliness’, and some of these still await resolution. Two major political parties, the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, that broadly, though not entirely, reflect this schism, remain in deadly loggerheads. Any understanding currently seems to lie well beyond the rim of the saucer. Despite frequent political volatility, Bangladeshis have achieved remarkable progress in development, particularly in the social sectors, causing some analysts to view the phenomenon as a ‘paradox’, given the matrix of seeming instability. Bangladesh also boasts of a vibrant civil society, and its intellectual resources have led it to produce a number of recognized global thought-leaders. Bangladeshis have been travelling to and working as expatriates in huge numbers in almost every corner of the globe and transmitting home large amounts of remittances. This, together with an impressive performance of the garment-export industry, have helped keep the economy afloat .Its troops have helped maintain order as peace-keepers in distant shores, thus contributing to global peace and stability. The concept of regional cooperation in South Asia, leading to the formation of the South ASIAN Regional Cooperation (SAARC) originally was the brain-child of its leaders. The author has sought to encompass these elements in the essays contained in the book that span across the past half -decade. In doing so, he has drawn heavily on the advantages of a ‘ring-side’ viewer, as an administrator, a diplomat, a policy-maker in the nation’s cabinet, and finally bringing to bear on his analyses the detachment of a scholar based in Singapore.