Subir Bhaumik’s ‘Agartala Doctrine’ launched in Dhaka, bdnews24.com, 3 March 2016
Date: 3 March 2016
Gowher Rizvi, International Affairs Advisor to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, unveiled the book at an event on Wednesday evening at Pathak Samabesh at Shahbagh.
“Subir is really a good friend of Bangladesh. He is probably one of our best spokespersons, always articulating Bangladesh’s perspective in many forums and always standing for our country,” he said.
Bhaumik, a BBC veteran, is a senior editor at bdnews24.com. He is also a regular writer in the international media.
He takes a leaf out of Agartala’s historic relationship with Bangladesh to propose a new national doctrine for the way India deals with its neighbours.
The book credits successive governments in Tripura for being pragmatic enough to pursue a policy of mutual benefits with India’s eastern neighbour, which Bhaumik puts in a framework to be applied to the whole spectrum of India’s foreign policy.
About the book, he said on Wednesday, “There have been such doctrines earlier. We see in the papers sometimes, ‘Doval doctrine, tit-for-tat’. This is based on a statement of (Ajit) Doval, which says: ‘Don’t finger India. If you hit Bombay, I can hit Balochistan’.”
“What I’ve tried to say is what kind of relations Tripura leaders are maintaining with the neighbours, what they are doing and what their proactive roles are.”
About India’s foreign policy, Bhaumik, who lives in Kolkata, said, “India has sometimes tried to dominate the neighbourhood in American style, kind of saying, ‘I am big brother’.
“This has created the problems. Nepal is a great example of that. Modi went there yesterday, they said, ‘Modi ki jai hok’ (Long live Modi). And today, Indians are getting beaten up because India has put up a blockade and pushed the petrol price there to Tk 500-600 per litre.”
“‘Agartala Doctrine’ is all about diplomacy. What’s the diplomacy? Good diplomacy is about turning anybody into friends. Not friends into enemies. ‘Agartala Doctrine’ is about that. And about tough action against some who are hostile,” said the senior journalist.
But military force was used wherever force was deemed necessary, he added.
“It’s basically – ‘Look brother, I won’t spare you if you cause trouble. You stay good, I’ll be good, too. This is the essence of ‘Agartala Doctrine’.”
Talking about the book, Bangladesh Asiatic Society President Amirul Islam Chowdhury said, “Bhaumik has observed that India suffers huge policy confusion when it comes to handling its neighbours. He has suggested the policy, ‘charity begins at home’.
“India needs neither the American Monroe doctrine nor the Gujrat doctrine of unilateral magnanimity. Military power and economic influence are not an essence for smaller neighbours.”
“It depends more on diplomacy rather than on military adventures. The world will no longer allow conventional wars like those of 1965 or 1971,” Chowdhury added.
Former BSS chief and Sector Commanders Forum Acting General Secretary Haroon Habib said he had the chance to work with Tripura and Agartala both before and after the 1971 Liberation War.
Bangladesh’s relation with Tripura was not established during the war but over a hundred years ago when Rabindranath Tagore had a good rapport with several maharajas of Tripura, he said.
“Tripura gave refuge to 1.5 million Bengalees overnight during the war,” Habib said.
“Tripura is still a gateway to the east. Bangladesh should accept this opportunity.”
Filmmaker Nasiruddin Yusuf Bachchu, a guerrilla freedom fighter during the war of Independence, said, “After the Keraniganj massacre, we went to Agartala on March 15 (in 1971). No one told us to, but I went. Because I knew that Bangabandhu had gone to Agartala. We have friends there.
“The support Tripura’s people gave us in 1971 can only be seen in Bangladesh, not outside as far as I know. Dhaka’s relation with Agartala is certainly stronger than that with Kolkata.”
The Oxford University Press has published ‘The Agartala Doctrine’. It organised Wednesday’s launching ceremony at Pathak Samabesh jointly with bdnews24 Publishing Limited (bpl).
The programme was also addressed by Oxford University Press South Asia chief Sugata Ghose and Farooq Sobhan, president and CEO of Bangladesh Enterprises Institute (BEI).
‘The Agartala Doctrine’ has made ripples ever since its launch in Kolkata, Delhi and Agartala.
The book is also set to be launched in Shillong, Guwahati, Mumbai and Bangalore.