How to Write about Bangladesh

Representational Image: Collected

Representational Image: Collected

It’s quite a simple formula, really

Be bold. Address the basket case question early. Readers have a short attention span. 

You can’t expect readers to dig through your piece to find out whether Bangladesh is a basket case. It’s the most pressing issue facing the country. For five decades now.  

And who better to set the tone than Henry Kissinger? The Nobel prize-winning Bangladesh expert. Readers may even appreciate your attention to arcane diplomatic history. 

Not that Kissinger ever said it, exactly, but why let the facts get in the way of a good story? Your readers won't mind at all.

Now that you have everyone’s attention, post up some head-turning numbers. 

The numbers will show that you are an objective observer. That you trade in the kind of data hidden in 100+ page annual reports. That you may even read those.

This is where that Kissinger reference comes in handy. You’ve said people may think Bangladesh is a basket case, right? Keep going! 

Is Bangladesh a basket case? Safe choice. Corruption Perceptions Index, Doing Business, and Freedom in the World rankings have you covered.

Not a basket case? I feel you. Dig out those literacy, poverty, and income stats over the past 10 years. Now you’re walking the sunny side of the street.

Whatever you do, pick a side and stick with it. 

Don’t get flustered if one of the reports you Control-F’ed didn’t fit your narrative. There are plenty to choose from. And the goal here is to show your readers that you know the score. Literally. 

Control+F’ing is a thankless task. I know. So, if you want to have some real fun, and believe me, you’ll thank me later, compare whatever Bangladesh numbers you found with India numbers. 

Sure, India and Bangladesh are pretty different. But readers will love it. Or, hopefully, hate it. 

They’ll rant and rave on social media platforms. Likes and retweets and hearts will fill the eyes of your publisher’s marketing team. Fractions of pennies will rain down from the digital advertising gods. 


Now is the time to climb to the top of the greasy pole. List all the most recent Bangladesh-India disputes in a long paragraph or two. There is no better way to establish your expertise. 

Let me explain. Everyone who is anyone lists those disputes in their Bangladesh article. And all you have to do to beat them at their own game is make that list current. 

Don’t overthink it. Just update the list from whoever wrote the last piece.

Google: India AND Bangladesh AND onions OR “water rights” OR borders OR “border killings” OR “BSF” OR trade OR exports OR “trade barriers” OR “line of credit” OR investment OR immigration OR “Amit Shah” OR China OR Chinese. Set the search to the Past month under the Tools drop-down. 

Pull up those first page results. Keep nouns, change verbs, and cut adjectives. Now your readers know where Bangladesh stands in the world. Or vis-à-vis India, I mean. 

Did you see where I was going with that list? Yes, that’s right. World War Three! Boy, are we cooking? From Kissinger to a world at war in just a few paragraphs. Who would have thought? 

There is no better way to let your reader know how important Bangladesh has become than Dubya Dubya Three. India (and the US, of course) versus China. Tiger, or elephant, versus dragon, or, err, tiger. Right in Bangladesh’s backyard. 

This will be hard to substantiate -- you know, prove. There has been a lot of talk. About interests, and influence, and sway, and spheres, and alignment, and blocks, and conflict, and disputes. That’ll look like a game of telephone to a sharp-eyed editor. 

Nip the bud by pulling up a map and writing it out. That’ll shut your editor up.

It’s called geo-strategy. 

You see, maps are wars in the making. You can find all kinds of reasons for war when you look at a map close enough. Wars are just waiting there. All over the place.

Right away, you’ll see all the borders. That doesn’t take a degree. 

Then there are rivers and dams and EEZs and a string of pearls and the Nine Dash Line and the free and open Indo-Pacific. Not rocket science. 

There is the SCO and Five Eyes and Quad and AUKUS too. The BRI and Asean and RCEP and CPTPP. Low-hanging fruit. 

All of it will be pivotal in the war. And Bangladesh will tip the scale. Bangladesh is a glaring weakness, or the final piece of the puzzle, depending on how you want to look at it.   

So, which side will Dhaka choose? 

Don’t think too hard. This is about suspense. Mention the loans Beijing has offered Dhaka. Remind readers India came to Bangladesh’s aid in 1971. It could go either way.

But your readers will get it.  Whatever side Dhaka chooses, the consequences are clear. Influence. Control. War. The apocalypse we have all been waiting for. 

Phew. We got deep there, didn’t we? But you’ll need a few more paragraphs. Let’s see. Kissinger, check. Rankings, check. India comparison, check. End times, check. Maps and acronyms, check, check. 

Oh, I know! Political instability.  

I have to level with you here. I don’t really know what political instability means. But I see it mentioned at the end of other foreign people’s Bangladesh essays all the time. The wildcard. 

Still, it’s a real head scratcher. What do you think they mean by political instability?  

Is it that there are too many protests? That can’t be. Those happen everywhere these days. Farmers laying siege to Delhi. Right-wing jobs storming the US Capitol Building. 

Or do they mean too many strikes? That’d be funny. There is the “Great Resignation” in the West. And “Laying Flat” in China. All while Bangladeshis kept factories open during a pandemic. 

I’ve got it! The battling begums!

Yes, that’s the ticket. Those Oxbridge wizards at The Economist and BBC really nailed it all those years ago. And what better for you? You don’t have to look at the issues. You don’t have to look at their track record. Just frame up a good old fashioned cat fight.

Well, that must be everything. All the boxes are checked. Your Bangladesh article is complete. Read it out loud once. Send it off. And when payday arrives, don’t spend that hundo all in one place. 

 The writer is an editor based in South Asia. 

 This article was inspired by

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