From Sri Lanka to Pakistan and even India, how has Bangladesh remained a bright spot in a neighbourhood grappling with economic crises and challenges? There might be some lessons for India as well in the explanations put forth by veteran economist Syed Akhtar Mahmood on Bangladesh’s resilient agriculture sector and economy.

In the sixth episode of Spotlight South Asia, by the Centre for Policy Research, host Sushant Singh and his guest discuss crucial questions of climate change, economic development and democracy in Bangladesh.

According to Mahmood, the economic fundamentals of Bangladesh remain strong and that the country’s agriculture sector and rural economy weathered the Covid-19 pandemic reasonably well.

Mahmood also touches upon how Bangladesh took a completely different journey from Pakistan, after independence and that the country’s approach continues to be driven by a focus on the poor and marginalised sections of society.

On economic ties, China occupies a major role in terms of infrastructure funding and investment, but Mahmood says that there is a lot of room for relationships with other countries, especially India. Discussion of economic relations should not be too clouded by geo-political considerations, he notes.

They discuss the nature of politics in Bangladesh, especially the presence of violence, which Mahmood says is a legacy the country has inherited from the colonial state and Pakistan rule.

As a small country surrounded by India on three sides, Mahmood also talks of the big brother syndrome that Bangladesh faces. On how India looks from Dhaka, Mahmood talks of a perception about a decline in secular principles and increasing intolerance to dissent. But perceptions, he notes, can be important.

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