I hope all of you remember how Mandira Bedi expressed her dissatisfaction on a show with Charu Sharma on SET Max TV when, to her displeasure, Bangladesh beat India. That was in 2007. God knows how many times she uttered the word “minnow” while talking about the Bangladesh team.
She was very rude, full of ridicule for Bangladesh’s win. More than a billion viewers watched her as she fumed with jealousy against Bangladesh as if she was trying to say that it was okay to lose against anyone – West Indies, Australia, England – but not to Bangladesh.
After all these years, I had the same feeling when I saw the news that Bangladesh was set to surpass India in terms of per capita GDP as predicted by the International Monetary Fund and that it had come as a shock to many Indians. The IMF’s latest World Economic Outlook report said: “Bangladesh’s per capita GDP would rise to $1,887.97 at current prices at the end of this year, up 3.96% from $1,816.04 in 2019. India’s per capita GDP would fall to $1,877 in 2020, a decline of 10.3%.”
Some Indian media outlets have appreciated Bangladesh’s progress, and have criticised their own government’s policies. However, many others – both on social and traditional media – found this piece of information very hard to digest. Many were seen heartbroken regarding this.
Congress leader Rahul Gandhi also could not accept the fact, attacking the BJP government, saying: “Solid achievement of six years of BJP’s hate-filled cultural nationalism – Bangladesh set to overtake India.”
Well, his mission seemed to have more to do with politics than Bangladesh’s status as a “minnow,” but the tinge of sadness in his mind was quite evident.
I cited these two examples because we in Bangladesh have a belief that India, the country that helped us during our Liberation War, still looks upon us as an unsuccessful nation. Millions of Indians tend to think that Bangladeshis will always remain in their backyard – always dependent on them, Bangladesh will remain underdeveloped, and not much else can be expected from this nation.
This attitude pains me. I will not deny the fact that there is a strong anti-Indian sentiment running in the minds of many Bangladeshis, but no Bangladeshi considers India as a backward or unsuccessful country. We learn a lot from Indian culture, literature, politics, and history. And we quite often express our gratitude for their help in 1971.
However, we should always remember that Bangladesh is in no way in competition with any other nation. We rejoice in our success among ourselves and we feel sad in our own failures.
Dhaka’s contribution to India
Since our independence, we have been given more than we have taken. We contribute to the Indian economy in a big way.
Indians send an enormous amount of remittance to their country. As of November 2019, a report says the total remittance inflow into India had reached $16.67 billion. If we look at the number of Bangladeshi patients seeking medical treatment in India, it will be clear how much India earns from us.
I do not have any current data, but I can cite a report released by the Indian government in 2017. The report said, one in three foreign patients in India was from Bangladesh. Of the 460,000 inbound patients in Indian hospitals, more than 165,000 were from Bangladesh. Bangladeshis had bought over $343 million worth of services.
There is more.
One report says that 60% of the buyers in West Bengal are from Bangladesh. Did you notice that West Bengal – especially Kolkata – markets during the last two Eids when the Covid-time travel restrictions were on? Their markets looked deserted.
Here in Bangladesh, the markets are normally flooded with Indian apparel during our Eids. Despite that fact, thousands of Bangladeshis still prefer to go to India for Eid shopping.
In 2017, an estimated 150,000 shoppers went to India. If the shoppers had bought goods worth at least $1,000 each, they would have ended up spending $1,170 crore. But many spend way more than that.
We are a market for many other Indian goods and products. The country earns enormously from selling these goods and products to 165 million Bangladeshis.
And this is how Bangladesh has always given to India. Sometimes, we feel that we deserve to be praised by India but, instead, what we receive is high-pitched jealousy whenever we achieve something good.
We do not expect this from India, a country that should have become more mature all these years.
This article first appeared in the Dhaka Tribune.