Colorful Dhaka procession marks new year festivities

Thousands of people took to the streets of Dhaka to celebrate the Bengali new year. (AN photo by Shehab Sumon Dhaka)
Updated 15 April 2019
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Colorful Dhaka procession marks new year festivities

  • Bangladesh president and prime minister send greetings to citizens

DHAKA: Thousands of people took to the streets of Dhaka on Sunday to celebrate the Bengali new year.
Vast inflatable animals and colorful banners could be seen in a procession — known as Mongol Shovajatra — to mark the holiday.
The Mughal emperor Akbar is said to have introduced the Bengali calendar in 1556 for the purpose of tax collection.
The first day of the new year, Pohela Boishakh, is when businessmen traditionally update their account books and people settle debts.
“During the Mughal regime, it was an agriculture-based economy and that’s why people didn’t have enough cash in hand,” Dr. Shamsujjaman Khan, Bangladesh folklore expert, told Arab News.
“Since it is centered on the paddy-harvesting period, the farmers used to sell it to have the cash and bought new clothes and other necessary things for their family, which eventually turned it into a festival. This is the most secular occasion for the people of this land, since people from all religions and classes take part in this festivity. It is an integral part of our culture and heritage.”
President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent their greetings to citizens, expressing wishes for a happy and prosperous nation.
Mongol Shovajatra was the main attraction for Dhaka-dwellers celebrating the new year.
The procession has been organized by students from the Fine Arts Institute of Dhaka University since 1989.
UNESCO declared the procession part of the country’s “intangible world cultural heritage” in 2016.   
“It’s a procession which represents the essence of Bengali culture where people unite at the beginning of every year and promise to fight against all evil forces,” 39-year-old businessman Abdur Rahman told Arab News.
He has been taking part in the procession for 11 years.
Tahmina Begum, a 21-year-old student at Dhaka University, was at the procession with classmates and friends.
“It’s a symbol of our communal harmony as people from all religions and sects participate,” she told Arab News.
“It is the only festival which upholds the secular spirit of our country and I feel very proud to be a part of this festival.”


Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

Updated 32 min 7 sec ago
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Pompeo pledges close cooperation with India but trade, defense issues unresolved

  • But US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues
  • The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance

NEW DELHI: US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sought to reduce heightened trade tension with India on Wednesday, promising a renewed focus on negotiating improved trade and investment ties between the two nations.
But Pompeo, on a visit to India, gave few specifics of how they would overcome disputes on issues ranging from access to Indian markets for leading American companies to New Delhi’s demands for foreign firms to store Indian data in the country, and exports of steel and aluminum to the United States.
The two nations are “friends who can help each other all around the world,” Pompeo told a joint news conference with Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar after they met.
The current differences were expressed “in the spirit of friendship,” he added.
The disputes have led to higher trade tariffs by the two countries and created unease over the depth of their security alliance.
In particular, the sudden introduction of new e-commerce rules for foreign investors in February angered the Americans because it showed New Delhi was prepared to move the goalposts to hurt two of the largest US companies, discount retailer Walmart, and Amazon.com Inc.
Walmart last year invested $16 billion to buy control of Indian e-commerce firm Flipkart.
Just days before Pompeo’s visit, India slapped higher retaliatory tariffs on 28 US products following Washington’s withdrawal of key trade privileges for New Delhi.
Jaishankar, a former Indian ambassador to the United States, played down the spat on Wednesday.
“If you trade with someone and they are your biggest trading partner, it is impossible you don’t have trade issues,” he said.
India’s ties with Russia and Iran, both now subject to US sanctions, are also a sore point.
US pressure has led India to stop buying oil from Iran, a top energy supplier. The United States has also stepped up pressure on India not to proceed with its purchase of S-400 surface-to-air missile systems from Russia.
The missile deal and Iranian oil were both discussed during their meeting, Jaishankar and Pompeo said, but mentioned no resolution of either at the news conference.
Earlier, Pompeo met Prime Minister Narendra Modi for talks at his official residence in the capital, New Delhi, and they exchanged handshakes in images broadcast on television.
“The Prime Minister expressed his strong commitment to achieve the full potential of bilateral relations in trade and economy, energy, defense, counterterrorism and people-to-people contacts,” the foreign ministry said in a statement, without elaborating.
Pompeo is expected to round off the trip with a policy speech hosted by the US embassy, before departing on Thursday for a summit of leaders of the Group of 20 nations in Japan.