India, Bangladesh and Pakistan are part of the large sub-continent that was partitioned in 1947 owing to British divide and rule policy and personal ego and ambition combined with mishandling of the situation politically.
History is full of books and scholarly works on partition of India and creation of Pakistan (that had Bangladesh for the first 25 years as East Pakistan). But in 1971 – 25th year since its birth Pakistan was ‘amputated’ and Bangladesh was born.
Now the paradox – while India has emerged as a critical global power upholding undisturbed and long 75 years of democracy; both Pakistan and Bangladesh have lived with military coups.
In economic terms, Pakistan is faced with multiple crises but the Bangladesh storyline has been different and uniquely creditable.
Here are a few instances that will require closer scrutiny.
The IMF in its report said recently that Bangladesh needs to reduce financial sector vulnerabilities and develop capital markets. While India is way ahead of Bangladesh in capital markets and even money markets, experts say investments Bangladesh have not stopped due to profit potentials.
Notably, for Bangladesh — a country born with Indian assistance and all logistic support including housing millions of refugees; its Textile export story is a mega success.
Bangladesh has a sound 12 per cent exports-to-GDP ratio; and annual export base is also near $50 billion.
“Amputated at 25, Pakistan is tottering at 75. Every institution is wobbling and governance has descended into a farce,” wrote Anjum Alraf in Pakistan’s leading English daily ‘Dawn’.
International journals say besides export, the fiscal prudence and policies such as the empowerment of women and girls have allowed Bangladesh to leapfrog.
In Pakistan, the story is different.
“There are some painful statistics to examine on poverty, mortality, malnutrition, discrimination, pollution, and corruption. But these have long been available and our governments have found ways to ignore, challenge, deny and dispute them with the tools at their disposal,” says the ‘Dawn’ article.
In all these, India of course has a resilient power and the Reserve Bank of India has used cyclical and countercyclical measures along with suitably tailored government policies to manage external shocks.
India has 40 per cent share in American textile imports. But Bangladesh is far better off in the European Union (EU). India only has a 10 per cent market share and ranked a relatively distant fourth to sixth, with Bangladesh, Pakistan, and Turkey doing better than India.
However, Bangladesh has also faced problems in the past and in the beginning of 2020, Bangladesh had to turn towards the IMF for financial stability and survival. India has never had such challenges and rather, it has played its global and regional role significantly in the last seven-eight years helping neighbouring countries in crises or even a number of African and Latin American countries.
In 2015-16 itself, hardly a year after the Modi government came to power, India’s preferential treatment to the Least Developed Countries in Trade in Services involves a cost of Rs. 6.5 crore annually on account of waiver of visa fees and Rs 2.5 crore to Rs 3 crore a year to provide training in management and technical consultancy courses to LDC applicants.
Bangladesh never had to shoulder such responsibilities.
In other words, India’s growth story and robust development in infrastructure have been commendable.
It is not without good reason that on the Red Letter Day, August 15, Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to help the suffering Indians out of poverty and turn the country into a developed country in the next quarter-century.
It is also a fact that India’s per capita income is $1,947 and this was primarily due to a reduction in India’s economic growth due to Covid-19 pandemic and lockdown.
However, Bangladesh’s case is different from India’s chiefly due to differences in size. In terms of GDP growth rates and absolute GDP, India’s economy has mostly been over 10 times the size of Bangladesh. Moreover, India’s economy has always grown faster every year.
Importantly, one key reason for Bangladesh’s increasingly faster growth rate is because it dramatically enhanced itself on various social and political metrics including health, sanitation, financial inclusion and women’s political representation.
Union Minister of State (independent charge) for statistics and programme implementation Rao Inderjit Singh summed up the paradox between India and Bangladesh well when he told Lok Sabha that though the gross domestic growth (GDP) growth rates of India’s economy are less than those of Bangladesh during 2017-2020, such comparison of economies of significantly different sizes may not be appropriate.
The GDP growth rates of Bangladesh (at constant price) are 7.1%, 7.3%, 7.9%, 8.2% and 2.4% for the years 2016 to 2020 respectively as per the world bank database. But India’s growth rate has shown more resilience and dynamism.
India’s economy grew 8.3%, 6.8%, 6.5%, 4.0% and -7.3% in FY17, FY18, FY19, FY20 and FY21, respectively. In the ultimate, of course, a comparison between Pakistan and Bangladesh in socio-political realms makes
After its disintegration, the religion-based foundation of Pakistan was shaken. But it did not learn key lessons. The Pakistani leadership chose to further Islamise their nation, politics and society. It bolstered the politics of Islamism, gave unquestionable powers to army and pushed terrorism in J&K as a policy.
Bangladesh of course could not continue for long with ‘democracy’, but in many areas it opened up an opportunity to establish a secular democratic state. The present dispensation under Sheikh Hasina has been particularly driving a modern state though in some areas, Bangladesh also made Islam the state religion and also opted for authoritarian military rule.
Economic deprivation was a major concern for the Bengalis in united Pakistan; and Bangladesh has that way outpaced Pakistan in the economic sector.