In an unseemly resemblance of Groundhog Day, the milder September weather was sullied once again by authorities in Bangladesh getting caught with their pants down, after the Indian government was forced to impose a ban on exports of onions, the wildly popular bulb that is so essential to the Subcontinental cooking style. Actually nowhere else could such pandemonium, as witnessed last year and this, be occasioned by onions. But no amount of distraction can let us live down the shame of falling to the same bowler, from the same end, bowling the same delivery.
To be fair to the Indians, we know there was no malice involved. Our Foreign Minister speculated on how torn they must have felt, and felt visibly chuffed to bits at some words furnished to that effect by some junior operative at Delhi’s South Block, home to the Indian foreign policy establishment. To be sure, they are under no obligation to inform Dhaka in advance of such policy moves. An export ban is by its very nature a decision that is left till very late, without much advance warning, as exporters may drive down stocks further by selling more aggressively in the intervening window. In fact Indian officials have been kind by not telling Dhaka to get its act together and be more proactive in monitoring Indian market conditions throughout the monsoon every year.
We need to be clear, that whenever the Indian government is forced to take this drastic step for which they draw enough flak from their own export-oriented industries, it means their backs were pushed to the wall. Nor is the action ever aimed individually at Bangladesh. It is always a blanket ban imposed on their own traders and covering all countries. You can look as hard as you want, there is no discrimination to be found here.
Add to that our neighbour’s present troubles dealing with the Coronavirus crisis, where it is well on its way to ending up with the world’s largest caseload - despite the U.S. still enjoying a lead of over 2 million in the total number of confirmed infections. The economic fallout of the pandemic in India has also been horrendous to a degree not seen in too many other places, if at ball. The latest quarterly GDP figure out of Delhi showed an eyewatering downturn of almost 24 percent, year-on-year. On the border across Ladakh, a standoff with an increasingly assertive China refuses to die. The common complaint being touted by a number of Bangladeshi officials, that India should have given word to Dhaka before the ban was announced, has no grounds.
If the issue is indeed of such severe consequence to us, we are capable of anticipating any such move on the part of Delhi well in advance. To the extent that it is always desirable to have your fate in your own hands, we have been guilty of shirking away from it.