Window on South Asia

Published:  12:40 AM, 11 July 2018

India cannot escape Bangladesh election fever

India cannot escape Bangladesh election fever

As the elections dates come closer in Bangladesh , assuming they are scheduled at the end of the year , main Bangladesh political parties are making a beeline to India sending overtures and warming up apparently for support to secure victory and gain recognition amongst the international community about the party's legitimacy .

Only early last month, a high level Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) delegation had come to New Delhi and interacted with a number of think tanks and tried to convince them about the credibility of their party. 

Though it did not cut much ice yet their presence in the Indian mainstream did register that here was a political party, albeit a opposition one trying to carve a space in the Indian polity and dispel the misgivings about the party's past record of being anti Indian.

Now, barely a couple of days ago, a high profile figure from Bangladesh , HT Imam , the senior Advisor to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, visited a think tank in Delhi and addressed a gathering which comprised retired civil servants and diplomats , academics, Bangladesh watchers and media persons of national and international repute. 

HT Imam's address was profound and seems to have left an indelible impact on the minds of many. It was just not a routine lecture dwelling upon traces of history between India and Bangladesh but it touched upon bilateral issues and ways to strengthen relations between the two countries.

Imam, during his speech, very candidly cautioned the perils that BNP had posed to Bangladesh and India, while in power and may pose again in case they are at the helm. Significantly, he pointed out the attempt on Hasina's life on August 21, 2004, perpetrated through a dastardly grenade attack, which had nearly taken her life. 

According to Imam, the attack was masterminded by the BNP and their cohorts to silence Hasina for ever so as to ensure there is no political adversary and Begum Zia and her despotic and corrupt son Tarique Rahman have a field day to rule Bangladesh in a dictatorial manner.

The visiting Bangladesh dignitary also questioned the so called wisdom of BNP contesting local civic elections (reference to recently held Gazipur elections) but shying away from participating in the forthcoming parliamentary elections. By implication, it appears there is a hidden agenda on BNP's part for this self acclaimed electoral strategy.

Talking about elections, Bangladesh apprehends stepped up Pakistani designs to cause trouble calling for a hawkish eye on the ISI particularly during the polls. He affirmed security cooperation with India to jointly address the Pakistani and ISI menace. 

Meanwhile, there are secular and forward thinking forces prevailing in Bangladesh alleging Awami League (AL)'s increasing proximity towards a fundamentalist group Hefazat-e-Islam. 

At least that is what is perceived. To allay such fears , Hasina's envoy clarified that it was more a tactical move as it was not practically possible on part of the authorities to neutralize a fundamentalist outfit by force so diplomacy was resorted to 'befriend ' such elements . 

HT Imam's recent visit and convincing rhetoric will go a long way to further cement Indo- BD ties which has already seen a slew of agreements reinforcing the relationship on maritime and land boundary issues. This is also expected to indirectly help Bangladesh achieve its ambitious program of meeting its target of Vision 2021 and eventually Vision 2041.

Credible reports, in the meantime, suggest that Bangladesh is unlikely to raise the Teesta issue and is able to counter mounting opposition attacks on Hasina for failing to extract its pound of flesh from India on the contentious issue of Teesta water sharing.

More crucially , Imam made it amply clear that it was opposed to continued refuge to Islamic ultra Zakir Naik in Malaysia and assured that if at all Naik manages to come to Bangladesh , he would be extradited to India in the larger interest of security in the region , also signaling Bangladesh's commitment of friendship towards India . This gesture is a huge token of collaboration between the two countries.

The writer is a security analyst, a free lance columnist and former National Security Advisor
to Mauritius

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