Friday, July 01, 2011

Indian prime minister comments on Bangladesh raises eyebrows

SALEEM SAMAD

IN AN unwarranted comment, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh on Thursday said Bangladesh political landscape can change anytime.

Speaking at the capital New Delhi to a select group of Indian newspaper editors he frankly said his neighbours worries him a great deal. “So a very uncertain neighbourhood.”

He blames Pakistan’s dreaded spy agency Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) having nexus with the terrorist elements in Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami may change the political regime in Bangladesh, India’s eastern neighbour.

The prime minister also said that he reckons that at least 25 percent of the population of Bangladesh motivated by the Jamaat-e-Islami are diehard anti-Indian, and are working for Pakistan spy agency.

The branding of a quarter of Bangladesh's population as “anti-Indian” by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has raised diplomatic eyebrows here.

However, Bangladesh senior government official who does not wish to be names scoffed off Indian prime minister comments and said it was out of context. The official on Friday, of course said that Bangladesh would seek clarification from New Delhi regarding the sensitive comments.

Professor Nazmul Ahsan Kalimullah of state run Dhaka University said his comments came when Indian and Bangladesh senior officials are frequenting visits into each other capital prior to the visit of prime minister Singh’s visit to Bangladesh, like in the end of this year.

Since Shiekh Hasina returned to power nearly three years ago, has initiated steps to nab wanted Indian insurgent leaders who were sheltered in Bangladesh for decades. Most of anti-Indian leaders were unofficially extradited, despite both countries does not have any treaty to handover each others most wanted persons. Scores of camps of northeast guerrilla groups and were operating from inside Bangladesh territory have been busted.

India's former High Commissioner in Dhaka Veena Sikri was more forthright. “I don't think it is proper to describe people of another country in this manner,” she said while contextualising the BNP's stand. “The BNP says the interests of Bangladesh are not served by India. Sheikh Hasina on the other hand seeks to promote friendship because she feels friendship with India is in Bangladesh's interest.”

“I do not agree that 25 per cent population of Bangladesh supports the Jamaat-e-Islami. If you look at the votes they had polled in the last elections, it does not reflect so, although they contested elections along with the right-wing Bangladesh Nationalist Party of Begum Khaleda Zia,” said a close observer of politics in Bangladesh.

The influence of the ISI, which has been trying to regain its hold since the early days of an independent Bangladesh, was strong under earlier regimes. But institutions such as the Bangladesh Army or the Directorate General of Forces Intelligence, unlike the Pakistani ones, are very sensitive to public opinion.

Singh mentioned that Bangladesh government has gone out of its way to help India in apprehending anti-Indian insurgents operating from inside Bangladesh for a long time, he said. “And that is why we have been generous in dealing with Bangladesh.”

The former Indian ambassador Dev Mukerjee, who was posted in Bangladesh echoed with the Bangladesh official and said he does not fear that Jamaat-e-Islami is capable of undertaking any action, when he does not have significant people support, which they failed to demonstrate in the electoral regime in past polls.

Saleem Samad, an Ashoka Fellow is an award winning investigative journalist based in Bangladesh. He specializes in Jihad, forced migration, good governance and elective democracy. He has recently returned from exile after living in Canada for six years. He could be reached at saleemsamad@hotmail.com

No comments: