A country between the Indian subcontinent and South-East Asia, almost completely surrounded by India
, except for a bit over 100 miles of direct border with Myanmar/Burma to the east.
The name Bangladesh tends to trigger images of floods and famine in many western minds, and indeed the densely populated country is prone to both. Its vast low-lying coastal areas are also particularly threatened by climate change
and the expected rising of the oceans' sea levels.
However, the country is mentioned here for a Liberation War Museum
in the capital Dhaka which relates to the historical events of 1971:
Originally part of the British
colonial empire, the area of today's Bangladesh separated from India
together with Pakistan, whose eastern part it became, despite being physically separated from West Pakistan by well over a thousand miles, on the grounds of being, like Pakistan, predominantly Muslim (while India is predominantly Hindu).
However, economic, linguistic and cultural differences led to tensions, esp. as fertile Bangladesh's surplus was funnelled into West Pakistan, and financed the ongoing conflict with India over Kashmir. Matters got worse in 1970 when East Pakistan was devastated by a cyclone to which the West Pakistani government didn't respond adequately. When a candidate from the Bengali-speaking Awami movement of East Pakistan won the general elections in 1970, West Pakistan refused to accept this and East Pakistan soon found itself under occupation and suppression by a military regime that ruthlessly sought to exterminate the Bengali elite and intelligentsia. The Awami movement fled into exile. Between March and December 1971, an estimated one to three million Bengali civilians were massacred and hundreds of thousands of women raped. (Insofar as ethnicity played a role and the perpetrators were a de facto foreign army, this is sometimes referred to as a genocide). As a consequence, some 10 million Bengali refugees flooded into India during the ensuing conflict in what later became known as the Bangladesh Liberation War.
Partly because it was overwhelmed with refugees, India eventually intervened in this conflict and helped defeat the (West) Pakistani military in mid December 1971. Shortly after, East Pakistan, now named Bangladesh (meaning 'land of the Bengals') achieved full independence (which even Pakistan recognized a couple of years later).
There was also an element of Cold War
era proxy war
in this conflict, as the USA
supported Pakistan, while the USSR
and the Bangladesh Liberation Army.
After gaining independence, it wasn't all smooth sailing for the new state, what with military coups and counter-coups getting in the way of the initially democratic state, and economic crises and famine shook the country even further. There was a return to democracy in the 1990s but to this day Bangladesh struggles with a high level of corruption and frequent political disorder. It is thus advisable to check the current situation before travelling to the country.