As the British party led by David Miliband, the foreign secretary, drove through Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, we all noticed a gigantic queue of people, stretching several blocks. What were people lining up for? Apparently, the attraction was a book fair held on the university grounds. If nothing else, that confirmed Bangladesh’s reputation as an exotic place. But also one with powerful links to Britain. There are some 500,000 British-Bangladeshis – just under 1 per cent of the British population.
But Bangladesh scarcely features on the policy map in Britain, let alone in Washington. In some ways that is odd because the foreign-policy problems posed by Bangladesh are very similar to those posed by Pakistan. Both countries are struggling to restore a democracy that has been marred by feudalism and corruption in the past. Both are threatened by radical Islamism. It is true that Pakistan has nukes and a war on its border (and increasingly within its borders); but then Bangladesh has a claim to fame as a country that is directly threatened by climate change.