The Great Indian Wall


Hush baby..hush ! We are about to finish the wall, did anybody know ?..hell no ! The British miserably failed to accomplish this in 1905-11 and they called themselves the most powerful empire on earth. The Americans fretting over that 700 mile fence with Mexico could learn a lesson or two from the great Indian empire of the 21st century. India is just about to complete a 4,100 km (2500 mile) iron fence across the fifth longest land border on earth, across its border with one of its poorest neighbours, Bangladesh. And nobody knew.

International Border

Post or Pillar Number

Area (km)

West Bengal (India)-Bangladesh

0001 to 1001

2217.70

Assam (India)-Bangladesh

1001 to 1067

0262.00

Meghalaya (India)-Bangladesh

1067 to 1338

0443.00

Tripura (India)-Bangladesh

1338 to 1397(North) & 1397 to 2250 (South)

0856.00

Mizoram (India)-Bangladesh

2301 to 2358

0318.00

Total

4096.70

Estimated cost of the fence and border roads is $1 billion (estimate) and the benefits ?

The reasons could be,

1. The very large number of Bangladeshi immigrants are changing the demographics of Indian border states like West Bengal and Assam. In Assam, Bangladeshi immigration is a very contentious issue that often determines many political futures, like the Mexican illegal immigration in the US. The illegal immigrants put added pressure on the already scarce resources of the Indian border states thereby coming in direct conflict with the local population.

2. Terrorism – The insurgent groups in India’s north-east, often use Bangladesh as a safe haven and launch pad though Bangladesh does not support them in any way.

3. The secular state of Bangladesh is in turmoil with powerful fundamentalist groups working towards the creation of an Islamic state. This could put at risk the Hindu population of Bangladesh (16% of the total population) and could trigger an exodus of 1970-71 proportions.
This will hurt India bad and India would want to avoid this at any cost.

4. Some 160 odd Boundary disputes with Bangladesh relating to the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974.


Why the wall will fall,

1. Elementary – The population pressure and severe poverty in Bangladesh will cause this fence to fail. The 2.6 meter iron fence will not prevent the Bangladeshi – the poorest of poor in the world – from crossing over into India in search of work and a living. The Bangladeshi has only two choices, starvation or migration and in between there is a 2.6 meter fence.

2. Culture and language – families are split across the border like the wall of Berlin. Bangladesh is 98% bengali and the culture is very much Indian. When Yunus got the Nobel, almost every Indian felt like it was another Nobel for India. That explains it.

3. India and Bangladesh are friendly countries except for a few occasional, random incidents of
conflict between the border troops which both governments maintain they have not authorized. There is no military need for a wall.

4. Walls and fences can be easily broken and cut through – this is an inherent property of walls.

5. Floods – there are numerous incidents every year when flood victims are rescued to the other side of the border. There are reported incidents where around 2000 Indians were rescued and kept in Bangladeshi shelters. The wall has a very high chance to fail when the flood comes again.

Despite this, why did we build a wall and shun our neighbour ?


The answer could be India’s desire to “define” its fuzzy borders. This could be the real intention behind this wall. The Indian establishment has been on a overdrive in recent years to settle the territorial disputes. With China recognizing Sikkim, understanding with Pakistan on Siachen and Kashmir kept aside for the 22nd century, India very well knows that the North-East is where borderlines will now be redrawn in the sub-continent. The wall could serve this purpose, if you read between the lines.

The mammoth fence is no long-term solution to the problem of Bangladesh. It just adds to prevailing confusion and the wall is sure to fail. An ‘innovative’ idea is to adorn this wall with mural paintings on both sides and attract some serious tourism like China does, which could help Bangladeshi and Indian economy, at least the world would open its eyes to the beauty of India’s North-east.

Its time we learn from the mistakes of others and history, its time we recognize the futility of building walls.

Good Night and Good Luck !

sources : Economist , CIA factbook

7 Responses to The Great Indian Wall

  1. confusedwww.retributions.nationalinterest.in December 10, 2006 at 7:19 pm #

    Er.

    I wont go into detailed explaination of why the wall is necessary but I will ask one question:

    How did you come tot his conclusion that nobody knows about this wall?

  2. b v n December 10, 2006 at 7:33 pm #

    Confused, India is sealing its borders with a very important neighbour with whom we share the same culture, history and interests. Has this drastic step been discussed at a National level with the importance it demands – yes the parliament and WB and Assam state govts are in favour of the move – but is that it. the media never discusses anything the military-industrial-govt complex doesn’t want them to discuss.

    I guess when I said “nobody knew” , I wasn’t “Breaking News” :)and you are not the second person to know.

  3. Jiby December 11, 2006 at 3:52 pm #

    bvn, some valid arguments you have raised here…the problem is fundamentally about bangladeshi immigration and the rest is all just issues added to gloss up the fencing. the fencing had been reported in the media when it started a few years back, but its something everyone in india agrees with, that needs to be done and since it didnt court any controversy it didnt get reported any longer.

    if it was just to west bengal and assam with which bangladesh has historical and cultural ties it would have been fine, but bangladeshi immigrants have million plus ghettos teaming up in cities as far away, as delhi and bombay. it would have been fine for an all-embracing country like india but they refuse to come out and become indian and join the country, these places have become dangerous breeding ground for terrorists and have become like a mini-bangladesh and indian law and order doesnt even prevail there.

    this isnt my opinion…my roomies in delhi who were bengali i talked to were saying this…i infact asked one of my roomies to take me there but all he asked me was if i am crazy. building the fence isnt an act of statesmanship and the poverty of east bengal is saddening, but the loyalties to which these people subscribe to are exactly counter to what the indian nation strives to get to…it is a difficult issue…but i support the govt on this.

    coming to other problems like regular floods, the fragile situ in bangladesh, the hindu minority, etc all i can think of is the 1971 war and india’s involvement. the atrocities committed by pak have been forgotten with time and today bangladeshis blame india for severing east pakistan…what did we do so bad for all the goodwill to evaporate…it is best for india to stay away from bangladesh…the bengali ties are there but i think religion is today bigger to them than culture and language. our involvement in any way will only be mistaken for imperialism.

    good topic…though our views dont agree here, u have raised valid issues which i hope the policy makers thought of, weighed the consequences, etc before they started on this fencing venture.

  4. neermathalam December 11, 2006 at 3:52 pm #

    “The Indian establishment has been on a overdrive in recent years to settle the territorial disputes.”

    this is a valid point..When emerging India..become richer and richer…it becomes..pro-imperialistic..Cant blame it..because.When we have something to lose..we want external influences..to be minimum..I dont want to comment whether it is bad or good..but on a broader perspective…these activities..portray a more bold India..at least to weak..counterparts..now this is a game of power..And India to have develop tooth and might..yes.what if it venture out by preventing illegal immigrants..playing local
    arbirtrator(in nepal…)
    As long as a global utopia remains..an utopia only…We cant blame…india for spending…1 million$.. Wall is more of a statement…I would like to read this in tandem..with the way India ditched Iran…like that..
    But was’nt India a different country altogether..With NAM and all..or was it like this only…i m confused…But i dont find anything wrong with this wall…either..it seems a like a statement for me..but when you ask..is it neccessary like P Sainath..I m helpless…It would be like should India..host..2010 commonwealth games when farmers of vidarbha..is ending thier lives..
    treat the wall as a vairudyam..(cant find the exact english word..)

  5. b v n December 12, 2006 at 6:26 am #

    Jiby, that was an excellent take on this issue. I do agree with the valid concerns of ghettoisation and a opaque culture in there. I had missed the problems in Bombay and Calcutta. I think these are concerns which led to the fence after all. i wud rather that you disagree on this blog :-), that makes good conversation and really brings out stuff both of us may have overlooked or may be not even thought about. I have some more to say on this issue, i’ll probably post a reply tommorrow.

    Neermathalam, Yes the wall is a statement, and you rightly put it when you talked about the new imperialist nation. btw, if India wanted to make an imperialist statement, why doesnt it invade Australia – that is imperialism of the real warrior class. What we are doing with weak counter parts is just building a wall between their poor and our poor. If its a statement, THEN its not imperialism but a clear case of impotentialism 🙂

  6. Alexhttp://alexmthomas.wordpress.com December 16, 2006 at 8:46 am #

    I figure in the ‘nobody knowing’ group.

    I just learnt of this now. I too wonder if the fence will stop immigration. It certainly will reduce the magnitude.

    Whatever happens, i hope that the people who live on either sides will be happy because of the wall.

    Doing it for political purposes does not help in nay way.

  7. b v n December 17, 2006 at 12:03 am #

    Alex, everyone was aware of the wall being built…but the real scope of it..the cost and the size..sealing off the boundary…its all meaningless.

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