Published on The Asian Age (http://www.asianage.com)
Created 16 Apr 2013
Mere ideological support is not enough, and there has to be other more concrete manifestations of Indo-Bangladesh cooperation
Of the total population of neighbouring Bangladesh, 96.4 per cent of the people profess Islam as their faith, while a small minority of 14 per cent covers Hindus, Buddhists, Christians and others. The population of minorities in Bangladesh has shrunk progressively under the harsh impact of earlier military and quasi-civilian dictatorships.
It is, therefore, worth noting that the present Bangladesh Awami League dispensation in that country, under the government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, has emphasised the designation of Bangladesh as people’s republic rather than an Islamic one.
This is a significant statement of political and social intent by the Awami League, because it encapsulates the course of secular governance which the party intends to adhere to during its present and hopefully future tenures in office. It is also a bold declaration of defiance by Ms Hasina against the assorted jihadi and fundamentalist forces which have made Bangladesh their home under the political umbrella of the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) headed by Begum Khaleda Zia. Ms Hasina knows what she is up against because it is no secret that Ms Zia and the BNP command significant support and adherence amongst the radical and fundamentalist elements within the country, including sections of the country’s police, paramilitary as well as the armed forces. The entire Liberation War of 1971 in Bangladesh is sought to be depicted as a mere misunderstanding between the senior and junior members of the same family, i.e. the Punjabis of West Pakistan and the Bengalis of East Pakistan, cleverly exploited by wily Hindu outsiders to tear the Muslim homeland of Pakistan apart.
The BNP is externally supported by the Inter-Services Intelligence of Pakistan. Even though in accordance with the shadowy rules of the game such support will always remain plausibly deniable, it provides operational resources for surrogates like the Islami Chhatra Shibir, the BNP’s student front of political storm troopers for street warfare.
India must note the possibility of a spillover into its territory of the fallout from the ferocious street clashes in Dhaka over the prosecution of Razakars and other religious extremists as war criminals for the most abominable atrocities against the Bengali people during the War of Liberation in 1971.
This is important because an insidious counterpoint to “peace within Bangladesh” calling for an end to the war crimes trials in Dhaka is being increasingly raised by certain elements in India as well, particularly where strongholds of the minority community constitute strategic electoral pivots. These are dangerous portents, which must be checked at the earliest.
India understands that a secular Bangladesh is in the larger interest of this country as well. The ongoing turmoil and violent street confrontations in Dhaka and elsewhere between the Awami League and its opponents are centred on the preservation of secularism, which distinguishes Bangladesh under the government of Ms Hasina from more fundamentalist Islamic regimes elsewhere, especially across India’s western borders. As she articulated during her speech in Dhaka on March 24, honouring the Friends of Liberation War “…we recommit ourselves to noble ideas and principles — equity, democracy and democratic practice, inclusive development, social justice and rule of law.”