In the time I spent in Delhi I spend as much time reading newspapers trying to understand if they are focusing more on international affairs. I also tried to watch news on television but I always found myself switching to BBC World News ! The feeling I always get is that while most Indians I meet think that India is destined to be a superpower , no one really knows what it means and the knowledge of the world beyond is very limited. The focus is more on the former and no one really talks about developing the latter.

From my limited reading, international news coverage is dominated by 30% Pakistan, 20% US, 20% UK and Australia, 20 % China and 10% the rest of the world (including the subcontinent). Pakistan has gone down over the years and China has come up and continued to stay up. There is still too little focus on China and East Asia and still too much focus on Pakistan. A leading national daily has launched a ‘people to people friendship’ venture along with a newspaper in Pakistan to promote peace in the two countries. I don’t see the point of this venture. Can this not be resolved by simply putting more people in Pakistan and getting more unbiased stories out of that country. Why this charade of this grand friendship venture? and why only with Pakistan ? what about Bangladesh, Nepal , Sri Lanka or even Japan. Japan is the second largest economy in the world, it is a big institutional investor in India, presents a counterweight to China in Asia and how much does the average newspaper reader know about that country. Especially when LDP has been voted out of power for the first time in more than 50 years. What does DPJ rule hold for India ?

But this post is about Bangladesh. Sheikh Hasina was in Delhi around the same time. While she was feasting on ‘illish’ I was checking out news coverage of her trip in India and I was very disappointed. India’s relationship with Bangladesh has been a sticky one at best and a bad one at most times. My favourite story is when I was in Dhaka in 2001 on the 30th anniversary of its independence from Pakistan and while the newspapers were full of coverage of how the war was won, there was not one mention of India. If that is not an unqualified foreign policy disaster then I don’t know what is !  It is like  if Iraq celebrates its freedom from Saddam in 30 years time and there is no mention of the US !!

But more importantly – why is the media not going around town talking about this visit. Why is it fixated with Pakistan ? I have always been surprised about the lack of knowledge, in the non Bengali speaking community, about Bangladesh in India.  Exactly what is this country of 160 million people about ? I only hear about it when it is affected by a natural disaster or about illegal immigrants from across the border. India imports natural gas from middle east when Bangladesh sits on huge reserves. Is it really that impossible to get them to trade gas ?

By some stroke of fortune, India has finally got a Prime minister who understands the potential of good relations with Bangladesh and this trip was a successful one.  Bangladesh agreed to do things which I never thought would be possible even a year ago and India promised a 1 billion $ credit which I didn’t know it had lying around. The PM should know better than anyone else, he after all co-wrote a report on reconstruction of Bangladesh in 1972 !