Prime Minister Narendra Modi to reach out to Bangladesh with Mann ki Baat

While it is not known yet when Modi will effectively start sharing his Mann Ki Baat with listeners in Bangladesh but this is not the first time when AIR will be transmitting to Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has been telling us his “Mann Ki Baat”— a monthly address to the nation -- for almost two years now. But the man who has been jet setting across the globe ever since taking charge of the country with an aim to rebrand India’s image, is not content with the audience of just 1.2 billion people.

If reports are to be believed, in the coming months Modi is all set to ride the air waves into neighbouring Bangladesh to share his Mann Ki Baat in Bangla (not to be confused with Bengali different dialect altogether).

To make this possible, All India Radio's (AIR) upcoming Bangla language service channel Akashvani Maitree will beam PM Mann Ki Baat programme to listeners in Bangladesh waves through a powerful transmitter. A joint effort between the two countries the channel will be inaugurated by President Pranab Mukherjee and West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee in July.

In his monthly 20 -minute address to the nation, that started was started in October 2014, and broadcasted in English, Hindi, and various other regional on radio and TV, the prime minister has taken up a wide range of topics in his address. From appealing to people to make initiatives like Swaach Bharat a success to warning them to declare their undisclosed income, Modi has made his “Mann Ki Baat” clear to his countrymen.

But this will be the first time, the PM be addressing to a foreign audience. And that not all, with soft diplomacy at heart, Modi will also take questions from listeners across the border and talk about Indo- Bangladesh relation. The idea behind is to strengthen bilateral ties and break the stranglehold of Pakistani and Chinese radio channels, The Economic Times, reported.

Need for Diplomacy

Since his party – BJP -- was given an overwhelming mandate by the people in 2014 general elections, Modi as a prime minister has shown a keen interest in handling the foreign policy with a personal touch. While his frequent foreign trips and photo-ops with top world leaders have helped him build a ‘rockstar’ image in the western media. But closer home, he has been unable to strengthen ties with his immediate neighbors’.

Under Modi’s leadership India’s relation with Pakistan has witnessed many ups and downs. When Modi invited SAARC leader including his Pakistani counterpart Nawaz Sharif to his swearing ceremony it was viewed an effort by the new regime to have better times with its neigbhours. But any sort of positive dialogue with Pakistan on important issues like Kashmir and terrorism failed to materialised, sometimes his efforts have been blocked by members from within the party.

China’s cold snub to India on the NSG deal, on the other hand has again highlighted a fractious relation between the two countries fighting to outdo each other. But that not all, Modi’s foreign policy has also failed to reign in China’s growing clout in the Indian sub-continent. The cozy relation between China and Pakistan is no secret but China’s ambition in the region has grown tremendously over the recent past. It’s 50 billion dollar deal with Pakistan to develop Gawdar port that will give it direct access middle-eastern and western markets is just a prime example.

However, Modi’s shortcomings have just not been in nurturing better ties with it China and Pakistan. He somehow also managed to sour an old and strong bilateral relation with Nepal. During Madhesis’ agitation against the new constitution in Nepal that left 50 people dead and crucially a blockade of essential supplies to this landlocked country was viewed by the media and commentators in the Himalayan country as an Indian government’s official stance.

Nepalese Prime Minister Khadga Prasad Sharma Oli, in fact, accused India of carrying out an “unofficial blockade” in Nepal and raised the issue with UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon. But India refused these allegations.

Bangladesh could be termed as the only exception in this regard. Despite his tough rhetoric on Bangladeshi immigrant coming up to the 2014 general election, India’s relation with Bangladesh since Modi rose to power has been on an upswing. In May, under the Modi’s government the two countries finally resolved a long standing border dispute. While the bilateral trade between the two countries has risen to to $7 million, Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has also been getting support from New Delhi to crack down on hardliners in the country. But the recent spate of attacks on minorities and freethinkers must again be a worry for India that Modi would want to address with his radio diplomacy.

Rekindling Memories of Liberation

While it is not known yet when Modi will effectively start sharing his Mann Ki Baat with listeners in Bangladesh but this is not the first time when AIR will be transmitting to Bangladesh.

During the liberation movement in erstwhile Bangladesh in 1971, a similar initiative by AIR played a huge part in bring a state of assurance when Pakistan’s the President General Yahya Khan had declared war on its own people in erstwhile East Pakistan.

Upen Tarafdar, a vetran radio broadcaster, who produced Sangbad Bichitra, a programme for AIR Kolkata and beamed across the border, in a recent interview told Livemint, how the programme helped “neutralize” Pakistani propaganda. It used to be banned there at the time but people would still listen to it in secret. The service continued till 2010.