Indian thinker moots Bay family

An Indian strategic thinker has broached a new idea of building a Bay-of-Bengal community in a lecture in Dhaka.

Published : 12 June 2014, 05:51 PM
Updated : 12 June 2014, 06:30 PM

C Raja Mohan who is the head of strategic studies and distinguished fellow at the Observer Research Foundation in New Delhi said Bangladesh, India and Myanmar could form a trilateral group to build the community.

He said on Thursday that the three littorals along the Bay can create a framework for cooperation.

He put forward an idea when China was pressing for an economic corridor with these three countries called BCIM –Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar.

Mohan, a former professor of South Asian studies at the Jawaharlal Nehru University, also known as JNU, and Nanyang Technological University in Singapore, however, said anyone including China and the US who have keen interest on the Bay can help in the process.

But he said strong India and Bangladesh would matter in any regional cooperation.

He said new trends and forces brought the Bay back to global politics.

“In the globalised economy, India, Bangladesh and Myanmar are going to turn the Bay into a more active and important domain,” he said, “Energy and natural resources would make it more important”.

Mohan wrote a book titled Samudra Manthan, or ‘churning the ocean’, invoking a tale from Hindu mythology to tell the story of a Sino-Indian rivalry spilling over from the Great Himalayas into the Indian and Pacific Oceans.

The Indira Gandhi Cultural centre (IGCC) organised his lecture as part of its ongoing month long guest lecture series. Former ambassador Humayun Kabir, also vice-president of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute, moderated the talk.

Sujit Ghosh, counsellor of the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, introduced Mohan as one of the India’s foremost strategic thinkers and commentators.

He had been the Henry Kissinger chair in foreign policy and international relation at the Library of Congress in the US in 2009-2010.

He is currently a member of India’s National Security Advisory Board (NSAB).

Mohan has also been the Diplomatic Editor and the Washington Correspondent of The Hindu and the Strategic Affairs Editor of The Indian Express, he said.

He is a Visiting Research Professor at the Institute of South Asian Studies, Singapore, and a Non-Resident Senior Associate at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Washington DC.

Mohan said his proposal was “a very simple” one.

He said anyone can help in the process of the Bangladesh, India and Myanmar collaboration.

Based on the reality, he said, China and the US would always be around.
He said trilateral cooperation can be in the field of environment, as well as scientific research.
He also proposed to set up a major marine science institute that would bring science capacities of the three countries together.
But he stressed strong India-Bangladesh relations to make it happen.
“Bangladesh has become very important to India for strategic reasons,” he said.
“India cannot be successful in implementing a look-east policy without significant cooperation with Bangladesh.”
He said Bangladesh also became “a critical factor” both for the BCIM and the maritime silk road that China also envisages.
“None of the thing is going to work if India and Bangladesh do not cooperate”.
“If there is no substantive bilateral cooperation between India and Bangladesh, none of the thing is going to take off,” he asserted.
“Any of the transport corroders, whether it is Asian highway, Asian railway, or BCIM corridor, you can draw any line on the map.
“But critical thing would be how deep, how firm, how fast India and Bangladesh can work together becomes the critical issue that we need to think of”.
The former ambassador Kabir lauded Mohan’s new idea and he gave an overview of “a new world of resources and prosperity”.
He said Bangladesh and India are the two “major pillars” in this littoral area and “if we can take Myanmar on board, then we are going to 1935 when Myanmar also was a part of larger South Asian landmass”.
“So if we can reinvent ourselves, rediscover opportunities that existed and reinforce and expanding in future ourselves with the same landmass, I am sure that we have better future to look forward,” he said.