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Existential Crisis of Bangladesh-Last part:Lessons From Arthashastra And Thy Tasks

Written By: MuminChowdhury
23/06/2013 19:04
Burning Issue

Earlier post: Existential Crisis of Bangladesh-Part 6

In this last instalment of my current essay series I shall set out the lessons that we, the Bangladeshi patriots, can draw from our reading of Kautilya’s Arthashastra that I have presented in Part 6. This I shall do in the time and context sensitivities of today's Bangladesh.

Lest we forget

To be serious in our endeavour, our first task is to get out of the prevailing misconception that the tradition of Brahmanic statecraft of ‘world conquest’ championed by Arthashastra has no bearing on New Delhi’s modern statecraft. As I have shown in Part 6, most Western scholars -- and following them almost all our ‘educated’ -- have taken it as a fact in view of the book’s much publicised ‘discovery’. This they have done in total disregard of many relevant facts. The result of this erroneous view can be seen from the fact that nowadays many of us use Kautilya’s name as a synonym for a sly person without the remotest idea about his book and its contents continuing relevance. 

As I have shown in Part 6, it is wholly untrue that the Brahmanic ideology of ‘world conquest’, and its concurrent statecraft that Arthashastra so boldly embellished and championed, have been forgotten since Muslim suzerainty. It was kept alive within the Brahmanic elite’s breast without broadcasting and came to the fore again as soon as the British undertook their Retrenchment Policy in the aftermath of the Napoleonic War and started preparations for handing over power under their Home Rule scheme to the Brahmanic elite, whom they thought to be ‘the natural ruler’ of the Indian masses. 

The Retrenchment Policy was adopted to transform Britain’s Empire of Rule into an Empire of Commerce. It was triggered by three things: Britain’s unchallenged dominance at sea, Adam Smith’s teachings about the negative profitability of shouldering colonies’ administrative burden, and the confirmation of its validity from the greater financial gains from the US than before (Robert Hyam, Britain’s Imperial Century, 1815-1915, 1993). The post ‘Sepoy Mutiny’ ‘Hindu revivalists’ as well as the latter-day ‘Indian nationalists’ gave renewed expression to their primordial Brahmanic zeal for ‘world conquest’ through their cult of Bharat Mata and the Bande Mataram battle cry (Sumit Sarkar in David Ludden ed., Contesting Nations, 1996: 167.) New Delhi’s inimical foreign policy towards all their neighbouring states is a clear proof of the continued vibrancy and the shaping influence of this ‘historical institution’. This ignorance has blurred our sensitivity to its continued relevance and made us prone to misconceive and misdirect both our internal and external policies. We have been paying dearly for this and it is time to rectify this state of affairs. 

An Ill-disposed State and Its Evil Axis

‘A nation’, scholars say, ‘is a body of people who possess some sense of a single communal identity, with a shared historical tradition, with major elements of common culture, and a substantial proportion of them inhabiting an identifiable geographical unit’ (The Routledge Dictionary of Politics, 2004). Nations are formed and maintained for protecting and/or promoting their respective community identity and interests vis-a-vis their neighbour communities (Edward E. Evans-Pritchard, The Nuer, 1944; Peter Sahlins, Boundaries, 1989: 271). 

Competition and conflict, at times even war, are integral to this cheek by jowl existence among neighbour nations (Hans Gerth and C. Wright Mills ed., From Max Weber, 1947:176). Our current system of territorialised nation-states arose for separating feuding nations. Naturally, mutual recognition of each other’s sovereignty became the main constitutive principle of the present international system (Anthony Giddens, A Contemporary Critique of Historical Materialism, vol. 2: Nation-State and Violence, 1985). Non-interference in the internal affairs of other states, no territory without a single legitimate ruler, and the legitimacy of ‘reason of state’ as the foundation of external policy became the central norms of this international system. 

Reason of state is perceived in transactional terms and is founded on the core assumptions that conflicts are mainly phenomena generated by factors within the international system, that states are primarily actors in that system, and that member states of the system may switch over from friend to enemy, and vice versa depending on circumstances. By making enmity issue-centric and temporary, and limiting it at interstate level, societies and ordinary civilians are kept out of such conflict and persons appear in them as servants of the state. Even when intractable interstate disputes lead to war, their non-combatant citizens as well as sovereignty and territorial integrity remain inviolate. Thus despite their independence and sovereignty, in normative terms states remain rule followers. These ‘are basic to our world and are not going to be displaced’ (Paul Hirst, War and Power in the 21st Century, 2003: 78). 

Given their unique deep-seated tradition of statecraft, New Delhi’s Brahmanic policy establishment cannot but be expected to act in any manner other than that of an opportunist maverick at the overall detriment of the international norms. As I have noted in Part 6, from Pandit Nehru onwards its conducts amply justify this estimation. Its public endearment of the US imperialism since the disintegration of the Soviet block and its latest stand as US’s chief dog against China are further confirmations of the same. 

Talking about the US, it is worth remembering that Francis Fukamaya’s ‘End of History’, Neo-Cons ‘American Century’ and the senior George Bush’s ‘New World Order’ have all been overly optimistic US triumphalism. We are already in Hillary Clinton’s much talked about ‘America’s Asia-Pacific Century’! Mark the shift from American Century to America’s Asia-Pacific Century. Surely one cannot miss the fact that the latter is not the previous triumphalism of an once overly confident sole superpower. It is a desperate, and unilateral, bid by a beaten up and declining superpower in an emergent, and inevitable, multi-polar world to project itself as the commanding power. Yet, if there is going to be any new beneficial improvement to the present world order, it is most unlikely to be ‘Made in USA’. 

The freedom and well-being of the people of the mini ‘world’ of Brahmanic craving may not be of much concern to the failing imperialists of Washington who are keen both to profit from the huge Indian market and make use of New Delhi’s Brahmanic policy establishment in their geopolitical games, especially in their current Great Game aimed at the containment of China, and which no doubt will end in failure too as has all their recent foreign mis-adventures! Apart from threatening our national independence and sovereignty, this axis has the potential of putting the entire Asia-Pacific region in flame. Show me a country or region where US meddling has not resulted in upheaval, bloodshed and national grief. 

Being geopolitically, and geostrategically, placed in the eye of this unfolding Great Game, Bangladesh must not underestimate the danger paused by this axis. However, our patriots must also remember that the hallucinogen of greed and cunning blur wisdom and farsightedness and when the Asia-Pacific Century has its likely cot-death New Delhi will be in grief, too. 

It must not be forgotten that so far as Washington is concerned from now on the interests and security of other South Asian states are insignificant compared to the US need to oblige New Delhi and preserve the New Delhi-Washington axis. Washington needs New Delhi more than New Delhi needs Washington. Patriots belonging to Bangladeshi and other South Asian nations must remember that, and to ignore any of these is to invite self-inflicted suffering to their own nation-state and fellow citizens, and risking their sovereignty too.

Thus it is crucially important for us

1) To make our other neighbours and faraway states as well as the world opinion appreciate the all round mischief potential of New Delhi and the New Delhi-Washington axis. 

2) It is also extremely desirable for all the nation-states facing New Delhi’s ‘world conquerors’ to stand by each other and 

3) Individually and severally to seek counterbalances against both New Delhi and the New Delhi-Washington axis.

4) Of those who are habituated to look towards Washington for help and succour will have to re-evaluate their old conceptual frameworks and re-examine their existing policy stances. A paradigm shift is taking place and we need to be mindful. The way we once looked at the world is no longer tenable and it now needs to be quickly replaced by a new world-view. 

Remember Lendup Dorji

There is no evidence that New Delhi’s Brahmanic policy establishment will ever accept the nation states belonging to their mini ‘world’ as friends; they will continue regarding them as conquests to be made when the time is ripe. Not only Pakistan and Bangladesh within Bharat Mata, even Nepal, Bhutan, Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Maldives outside Bharat Mata are not safe from New Delhi’s imperious machinations. Revealingly, when China was genuinely cultivating their friendship, New Delhi initiated a secret war against it in Tibet in tandem with the US as early as 1950. In this concealed war Dalai Lama and his supporters acted as adhorjas. Lest we forget, this was started at a time when Pandit Nehru was masquerading as an anti-imperialist champion of Third World interests. Unaware of his culturally endowed capacity for stupendous bad faith and treachery, China and other Third World countries, including the Arab countries, even applauded Nehru as a ‘Prophet of Peace’. Speak to any of them and you will find out what they think of the Kautilya’s modern reincarnation now. Had the leaders of China and other Third World countries read Arthashastra and were aware of its continued relevance as a historical institution, they would have been far more careful.

How this false ‘Prophet of Peace’ set out to get East Pakistan out of united Pakistan and into India eight months before the creation of Pakistan, and through secret war followed by open war his adepts led by his equally duplicitous daughter achieved part of his set objectives with the help of our own adhorjas in 23 years instead of the anticipated 25 years are too voluminous to be enumerated here. Suffice it to say that separated Bangladesh has a lease of life only because its Muslim nation was not ripe for conquest at the time of its creation and efforts to make it ripe for the eagerly awaited ‘merger’ with India has not stopped ever since (see the author’s forthcoming book, Bangladesh O Tarpor (Bangladesh and After) to be published in summer 2012). 

Given the constraints of international law New Delhi might prefer conquering Bangladesh like Sikkim through ‘merger’ rather than ‘annexation’. It means 1) our state cannot afford to allow New Delhi to have a stranglehold on its democratic processes, and 2) our patriotic intellectuals and media have a duty to remind us all of the constant danger of falling for the likes of Lendup Dorji and 3) forewarn our potential Lendup Dorjis about the bitter public contempt and New Delhi’s cruel snubbing awaiting them.

Appease Not, Be Fearless

Conscious of the fact that sometimes Brahmanic kings could also find them pitted against an anti-Brahmanic ‘demonic’ king like Mahapadda Nanda for instance, Kautilya left many practical tips for states faced with the threat of being conquered. These are of practical value in organising our own security and defence against New Delhi’s threat.

One such tip is about the futility and danger of an appeasement policy. Remarkably our serial failures to appease New Delhi also prove its continued validity. Take Farrakha Barrage, for instance. Whereas Pakistan’s potent counter threat kept New Delhi from commissioning it, even though the dam construction was finished in 1967, more and more conciliatory agreements by successive Bangladesh leaders, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, General Ziaur Rahman and Sheikh Hasina to be precise, have failed to get us any lasting relief. On the contrary an emboldened New Delhi have diverted more water from other common rivers without even bothering to consult Bangladesh. Now only the last two rivers, Teesta and Barrak, are next in line. New Delhi is currently busy planning to link Brahmaputra with Ganga for the dual purpose of diverting more water for irrigation and creating a strategic waterway for its military use against the people of the North-East. The cumulative results of all these measures will be no less than an ecological and environmental catastrophe and a permanent disablement of Bangladesh’s agrarian economy. We have more or less similar experience in regards to trade, tariffs, transits and border enclaves. The more we acted submissively the more New Delhi’s drive to weaken and cower us became brazen. 

For us, it is more than getting into a blackmailer’s trap. In addition to inviting evermore illicit demands on us and disregard for our legitimate interests, the continuation of our ungainly appeasement policy will be seen as a confirmation of our growing vulnerability. New Delhi’s last few years sabre rattling underscores this.

It is time to recognise that instead of pacifying New Delhi, our continued appeasement policy will only whet their conquering appetite further by making us look getting more and more ripe for conquest! To ignore this is to court extinction of our nation-state and servitude for us all.

Hence, no patriotic Bangladesh government should;

 1) Ever allow New Delhi cower our nation; 

2) Conceal our resolve; 

3) Present us as weak or indecisive; 

4) Entertain any dream of ever winning the enemy’s friendship; 

5) Undertake any appeasement policy; and 

6) Allow the nation to be paralysed by governmental evasiveness and over secrecy.

The constant battle cry of the Bangladeshis should be: No To Appeasement! No To The Appeasers! Only then can we make ourselves safe from the long grasping and greedy hands of the hegemonic would-be colonisers.

As explained in detail in Part 4, the sincere patriots amongst us need to recognise the futility of a New Delhi 

appeasement policy. A strident, expansionist power can never be appeased. It required an ever vigilant and 

combative Sir Winston Churchill to make the appeasers like Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain and Foreign 

Secretary Viscount Halifax (formerly Viceroy of India Lord Irwin) in the then Conservative Party led British 'National Government' to realise that the expansionist Nazi Germany cannot be appeased. We all know what that appeasement policy eventually led to. Who is the putative Churchill amongst us?

Countering Other Forms of War’s 

However, without having a well defended state these will not carry weight. As we stand now, the enemy can afford a good laugh and easily call our bluff.

How to make our state well defended then, you might ask? There is no question about this. Like any other country of the world Bangladesh also needs an Army, fortified by proper nationalist ideology and zeal, beside other minor considerations, for resolutely defending our sovereignty and territorial integrity in case of an open war and an Intelligence for keeping an eye on hostile countries and their intelligence. If anyone proposes anything otherwise, he or she can either be a crackpot or an enemy sponsored crook. After the creation of Bangladesh there was an orchestrated media campaign by well known Indophiles against our having any Army. New Delhi also tried to keep our Army crippled and dependant on it (J.N. Dixit, Liberation and Beyond, 1999: #). You do not have to be a crystal-gazer to divine either their connectivity or significance. 

In this context, the officer cadre and soldiers of Bangladesh Defence Forces also need to keep in mind that the sole raison d'aitre of their existence is to protect the sovereignty, integrity and territory of Bangladesh and defend its people even if it requires the highest sacrifice on their part, that of their lives. If the independence of our own nation is at stake then no amount of UN "peace-keeping" elsewhere is going to help them or the nation! In return there is a compact between the Defence Forces and the Nation, and that is to provide all political, material and public support so that our valiant Defence Forces can do their job properly and effectively. This is a sacred covenant which both the parties need to adhere to with honesty, integrity and due diligence.

But in addition to the threat of open war, we have to contend with our enemy’s two other forms of relentless war, concealed and secret war. The Army can fight insurgents fighting the enemy’s concealed war and the Intelligence can hunt down agents fighting its secret war. Indeed, our Army fought New Delhi sponsored Chakma insurgents in the Chittagong Hill Tracts with credit. Yet their success was partial, thanks to the safe haven insurgents had on the other side of the border. 

At the end an enemy agents’ led Bangladesh government gave the moribund insurgent group the subterfuge of a negotiated settlement in order to bring them inside to carry out secret war and preserve them for another future concealed war. Now the same Indophile government has virtually turned both our Military and Intelligence in to extensions of New Delhi’s Military and Intelligence respectively. It is significant that various media reports have confirmed that not only the BDR massacre of 2009 but also the new epidemic of ‘missing and murder’ of foreign diplomat, investigative journalists, trade unionists, human right activists and opposition politicians are the handiworks of New Delhi sponsored secret agents in connivance with certain section of our Indophile government. At least under kingship it was impossible for the enemy to have a government by its le amour. Nepal is in similar situation, thanks to successful concealed war in the name of the proletariat. 

The Maoist leadership is apparently on the payroll of RAW as even its grassroots activists are now alleging according to recent media reports! Unless we are similarly pretentious or are in a perpetual denial mode, it is high time to admit that neither our representative institutions nor our defence and security apparatuses are secured sufficiently enough to guarantee our nation-state’s lasting security. There is an inescapable lesson to draw from this: unlike in kingship, in a democracy the polities like ours cannot be made secured without first securing their politics. If anything Sikkim underscored both its importance and urgency. Here at least for survival’s sake Bangladeshi patriots must now forgo their borrowed wisdom.

Design Faults 

I anticipate you will be quietly asking: Where all these went wrong then? How do we save our vital state institutions from government downwards? 

We went wrong because of primary level ‘design faults’ arising from our failure to keep in sights our unique defence and security requirements. This occurred mainly due to our lack of appreciating that India under its Brahmanic elite is driven by their primordial ‘world conquering’ ideology and ambition and that the states like Bangladesh within the Brahmanic mini ‘world’ will have to contend with two other additional forms of war other than the commonplace open war. Our borrowed expertise on statecraft, security and defence from the West also made us continue to see no fault with our colonial institutional inheritance and put the entire blame for their ‘failures’ on the ‘deficiencies’ of our people. We took to aping as ducks to water because of our ‘authority led’ education that preclude and/or prevent context sensitivity, analytical learning and lateral thinking and the nationalist proclivity to be like our colonial masters.

Arthshastra’s Tips

Regarding the second question, for the same reason as in the case of appeasement policy, Arthashastra has left us a number of tips covering prevention to pre-emption which can be of use to us in creating effective bulwarks against New Delhi’s mischief making and remedying our nation's current existential crisis.

As I have noted in Part 6, Arthashastra has given a number of indices to judge whether a state is most impregnable or most vulnerable. It is 

1. Most impregnable if it has a) strong ally; and b) loyal subjects who are likely to fight back in bands. 

2. Most vulnerable if its a) ruler is unjust; and its subjects are b) disaffected; and c) disunited.

Then Arthashastra proceeded to set out how and when a state’s ambitious antagonist might proceed against it:

3. Get local agents for concealed and secret war: a) to exploit internal divisions; and recruit b) the seducible through endearments and gifts, and c) the not-seducible by exploiting their disagreement and discord and applying threat, even force.

4. Employ local agents for a) assassinating leaders; b) creating divisions within the body politics; and c) spreading propaganda and disinformation.

5. With the purpose of a) harassing; and b) weakening the ruler; and c) creating a climate of fear; and d) making people dishevelled.

6. Consider a state ready for termination when: a) it has no ally for support’; b) its government is disunited; c) deserted by subjects; and d) if attacked likely to flee.

For A Safe and Secured State

Though we are forty years late, and in many respects in a mess, in Arthashastra we have a much needed holistic approach and many potentially useful tips for recasting our state institutions anew and rectifying our state architecture’s design faults. Obviously to do this many other aspects of our national realities will have to be considered and addressed and will require a major rethinking too. I shall try to do so in another extended essay rather than the present one in a few weeks time. Besides, such major changes cannot be rushed and will require due diligence in their implementation and a patient time frame to derive the requisite benefits. To be impatient is as bad as being in slumber. The patriots need to be both proactive and practical in this respect.

On Immediate Policy Undertakings

Meanwhile in view of the 'undeclared war' on Bangladesh by New Delhi, our patriotic politicians and parties should immediately pledge to incorporate the following urgent tasks in the Election Manifestos for the 2014 national elections. Since the enemy is already aware of and knowledgeable about all of Bangladesh's internal systems, structures, processes, policies and strategies, and are all the time analysing them at New Delhi's South Block, North Block and Lodhi Road there is no need for any secrecy from the Bangladeshi side. Because nothing is secret to New Delhi in this age of 'insect size' drones and outer space satellites eavesdropping! They are at it too as numerous media reports have stated! Rather an 'open source system' of openness and fullest transparency with the Bangladeshi public will enable a truly patriotic government to achieve maximum political and strategic national consciousness of the population, and the electorate, and thus secure committed and 'knowledge-based' patriotic participation to counter all New Delhi's hegemonic designs and stratagems and thus continuously defeat them. Because of the geological and geographical position and location of Bangladesh vis-a-vis India; the 'Kautilyan war of attrition' will be never ending. Thus Bangladesh's open acknowledgement of having to eternally fight the 'fog of war' will be its own 'asymmetrical response' to New Delhi's much greater cunning, resources and forces. 

The urgent tasks are:

1) Politically educate the population of Bangladesh as to the stratagems and policies of New Delhi.

2) Politically educate the party activists and leaderships of all the patriotic political parties as to the stratagems and policies of New Delhi.

3) Establishing policy think tanks and research institutes to continuously assess New Delhi’s policy formulations and their impacts upon Bangladesh.

4) Initiate and publicly publish annual, three yearly and five yearly impact assessment of Bangladesh's counter policies and counter measures to the policies and stratagems of New Delhi.

5) Have a compulsory full 100 marks subject, with examinations, on understanding 'New Delhi’s Kautilyan policies and strategies' in the Bangladesh Military Academy, National Defence & Staff College, Police Training Academy, Foreign Service Academy, Civil Service Academy, Bangladesh Border Guards Academy, and in the international relations, political science, sociology and history departments of all the state universities, quomi and alia madrassas of Bangladesh.

This way over a period of 5 years a cadre of trained 'Kautilyanologists' (like the Kreminologists of the Cold War period) will emerge, in all the sectors of Bangladesh, and thus 'Kautilya-proof all Bangladesh's domestic and foreign policies'.

6) Build up an open 'all weather' strategic and defence relationship with China.

7) Urgently revamp, with Chinese training and assistance, the Counter-Intelligence and Counter-Surveillance Departments in DGFI, NSI and Special Branch and immediately flush out all the adhorja 'fifth columnists' traitors who have been infiltrated into the core defence and security apparatuses of Bangladesh.

8) Similarly undertake Counter-Intelligence and Counter-Surveillance assessments of all of Bangladesh's 

Defence Forces, Civil Service, Foreign Service, Police Force, and the Judiciary Service to immediately flush out all adhorja 'fifth columnists' traitors who have been infiltrated into these bodies. This urgent task should be an open and transparent election manifesto pledge of the patriotic politicians and parties so that they can secure popular, electoral mandate to undertake the above 're-patriotisation' or 'Bangladeshification' processes of all these vital services and key forces.

9) Immediately issue publication and broadcasting licences to properly security vetted Business Groups and individuals to establish print media, radio and television stations and internet channels to establish patriotic 

hegemony over the media world as part of fulfilling the election manifesto pledge. Then regularly initiate and publicly publish annual, three yearly and five yearly impact assessments of these media and internet outfits, programmes and their outcomes so as to determine whether they should retain their licences. Those not 

fulfilling the patriotic objectives should have their licences revoked and it should then be auctioned off to properly security vetted Business Groups and individuals thus generating additional revenue to the treasury. A fully staffed and funded Patriotic Media Regulatory Commission should be set up to undertake all these 

urgent tasks.

10) Disband RAB as it is now severely compromised by its RAW connections and hence has lost all credibility vis vis the Bangladeshi public who view it as death squads doing the dirty job of the foreigners.

11) A legally constituted, conscripted, unpaid, million person Popular Militia Defence Force (PMDF) should be 

set up as a 'back up asymmetrical response' to any hegemonist or imperialist invasions or incursions into 

Bangladesh's sovereign territory and waters. All 17-year olds must undertake compulsory 6 months Popular 

Militia Defence Force training upon reaching their 17th birthday. This militia should be modelled on a fusion of the Swiss militia system and the British Territorial Army. This will be the most cost effective system, yet building up a strategic reserve for the future generations, of committed patriots who will be always a force to reckon with by New Delhi's Kautilyan strategists, and who will think many times about their inability to digest this brave Muslim nation of ours. 

12) All Bangladesh's school, college, technical and vocational institutes, and university curriculum need to be

'national security' reviewed to weed out or cleanse it of all subversive and anti-national material by properly constituted, and appropriately trained and qualified, panels of patriotic academics, scholars and intellectuals.

Without the implementation of all the above 'national security, sovereignty and independence consolidation' 

urgent measures our beloved fatherland, this brave and indomitable nation state of Bangladesh will be sent 

towards its abyss!

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About MuminChowdhury

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  • Name: Dr. M. Abdul Mu'min Chowdhury
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    Dr. Chowdhury is a UK-based retired Bangladeshi academic who has Educated at the universities of Dhaka and Exeter University (England) and London. As a teacher of Sociology, he taught in his early career at the universities of Agriculture (East Pakistan) and Dhaka during the period of 1967 to 1973. 

    Dr Chowdhury held academic appointments at several universities including London University. His works include "The Myth of Three Million" and "The Rise and Fall of Buddhism in South Asia". His Bangladesh O Tarpar (in Bengali) is about to be published, followed by its English version, Bangladesh and after.

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