Mahboob Ar Rahman
What Indian could not resolve for decades, because of the sincere cooperation of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, it was done in less than two years! Still, Indian policymakers and its South Bloc pundits seems to be showing their ungrateful faces to Sheikh Hasina and are reportedly negotiating with Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and terror-linked Jamaat-e-Islami Bangladesh (JIB) in extending India’s support to these anti-Indian forces during the upcoming general election in Bangladesh. According to newspaper reports, Indian policymakers are considering Sheikh Hasina’s ruling Awami League as a party lacking popular support of the masses. Even Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is willing to turn his face from Awami League and look for “new partners” in Bangladesh. What India, Narendra Modi and the pundits of that country are forgetting, without the support from Sheikh Hasina, they could not have effectively resolved the decade-old insurgency within the north-eastern provinces in India. It is Sheikh Hasina, who has exhibited sincerest attitude towards India and has broken the backbone of United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) in particular as well as other insurgency, terrorist and militancy groups, which had been using Bangladeshi soil and continuing numerous forms of terrorist activities inside India. By now, most of the ULFA kingpins have given up their decade-old practices of terrorism and joined the society as patriotic Indians. On the other side, ULFA’s so-called commander Paresh Baruah has already become a huge clown. Dozens of ULFA bases as well as bases of anti-India elements in Bangladesh has been totally dismantled by Sheikh Hasina.
Indian policymakers have started thinking, BNP and Jamaat would do more for them if they come to power. Meanwhile, BNP’s self-exiled fugitive acting chairman Tarique Rahman has signed a “memorandum of understanding” with India giving clear promise of “never raising the issue of water sharing” as well as “other sensitive issues” with India if his party comes to power. He also has pledged to continue transit facilities with India and “totally stop all sorts of defence and military cooperation” with China. Tarique Rahman reportedly has assured India, his party will be much loyal to it than Awami League.
But, Indian policymakers do not realize, Tarique is a double-faced snake. While he has signed the “memorandum of understanding” with India, he also is continuing negotiations with Pakistani spy agency Inter Service Intelligence (ISI) as well as making frantic bids in getting support from the US administration. BNP’s standing committee member and former chief of the Armed Forces, Lt Gen (Retd) Mahbubur Rahman is also keeping contact with his Chinese counterpart. It seems like BNP has gone mad about returning to power – by hook or crook even by compromising the sovereignty and dignity of Bangladesh. Tarique Rahman is known as a notoriously corrupt individual in Bangladesh society.
Meanwhile, Pakistani ISI, on the basis of “field surveys” is hopeful of a “landslide victory” of BNP-Jamaat coalition bagging “at least” 200 seats. None of these surveys show Awami League getting more than 70 seats while security deposit of many of the partners of the Grand Alliance would be forfeited. To ensure a smooth victory of BNP-Jamaat coalition, ISI has pledged a significant amount of money. According to sources, Pakistani spy agency is going to spend over twenty million dollars and major segment of this fund would be spent on the Election Day. ISI wants a huge voter turnout while motivational campaign will be done through BNP and Jamaat, encouraging voters to fearlessly go to the polling centers and cast vote.
A political analyst in Washington told senior journalist Anita Mathur, December 30 General Election in Bangladesh is seen a battle of supremacy between Pakistani ISI and the secularist forces. In this battle, India already has retreated and secretly joined hands with BNP and Jamaat. The reason behind India’s shifting its Bangladesh policy is because of several surveys conducted by India and the Western nations that show Awami League led Grand Alliance’s popularity been declining very fast.
Former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh and a distinguished fellow at the Delhi-based Observer Research Foundation, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty is already seeing a humiliating defeat for Awami League in the upcoming General Election.
He said “Bangladesh has never voted an incumbent government back to power, except in 2014, when the BNP boycotted the election, giving Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League a walkover.”
Mr. Chakravarty further said, “Allegations against Hasina’s government include authoritarian governance, hounding of the opposition and rampant corruption. These issues and the India factor will dominate the electoral campaign.”
Commenting on India’s possible support towards ruling Awami League, Pinak Chakravarty said, “As Bangladesh and India head for general election in 2018 and 2019 respectively, the India factor will also loom large, as the BNP [and Jamaat] is likely to pillory Hasina of kowtowing to India. The main criticism will be that Hasina has given India too many concessions in return for precious little. While India will deal with any government in Dhaka regardless of its hue, it would strain the imagination to conceive of an Indian option to oppose Sheikh Hasina. There is, however, a growing feeling in policy circles in India that Sheikh Hasina’s authoritarian impulses and taking India’s support for granted would not be in India’s interest.”
In an article titled – India Must Continue to Support Hasina but Should Not Write off Khaleda Zia Mr. Chakravarty suggested, “India has backed Sheikh Hasina and must continue to do so, given the track record of the Khaleda-Tarique regime. But in Bangladesh, there is a growing perception of misrule by the AL government even though Hasina has done a lot for the economic and infrastructure development of the nation. So India must be prepared to deal with a BNP-Jamaat government in future and hope they would not commit the same mistakes vis-à-vis India once again.”
Commenting on India’s newer stance, a research scholar on international relations said existence of BNP and Jamaat depends on continuous confrontation with India. These parties will never serve India’s interest and whatever promises BNP leadership might have made; those will be trashed once the party returns to power. For the sake of India’s national interest and security, there is no alternative to Awami League and any other choice will be suicidal for India.