Chairman of the Subcommittee of Asia and the Pacific Rep Matt Salmon has stated that Bangladesh is in a state of chaos.
“Though the country has long been divided along political lines, the most recent parliamentary elections in 2014 have led to violent protests with the senseless deaths of numerous innocents on both sides of the political line,” he said.
Salmon also said if these were not concerning enough, there have also been repeated reports of radical Islamism violence in the country.
“At a time when international terrorist groups are increasingly recruiting across national boundaries, and because the United States is seeking closer cooperation with regional partners in South Asia, we need a full understanding of the state of affairs in this densely populated nation.”
He made the remark at a hearing, titled ‘Bangladesh’s Fracture: Political and Religious Extremism’, held in Washington on Thursday.
The Subcommittee on Asia and the Pacific under US House Committee on Foreign Affairs hosted the event at Rayburn House Office Building Washington, DC.
Witnesses of the hearing were Lisa Curtis, Senior Research Fellow, Asian Studies Center, the Davis Institute for National Security and Foreign Policy, Prof Dr Ali Riaz, Department of Politics and Government Chair, Illinois State University and Jay Kansara Director, Government Relations Hindu American Foundation.
On the Role of the International Community, Prof Ali Riaz said although Bangladesh drew the attention of the international community in late 2013 in the wake of the elections, there was lack of serious engagement after the election.
The relative calm of 2014 was a wasted opportunity not only for the ruling party but also for the international community in ensuring that democratic norms are upheld, he observed.
“As such, the international community cannot escape responsibility for the political mayhem in early 2015,” he added.
In equal measure, he said, the international community cannot continue to have a ‘Business-as-Usual’ approach while the country is slowly descending into a situation which has strong potential for engendering a prolonged conflict.
“An unstable Bangladesh will pose more danger to India than any other alternatives,” he added.
On possible trajectories Prof Ali Riaz said the current window of opportunity, although far smaller than it was until the city corporations elections, is utilised to its fullest by both parties and a national dialogue is launched without preconditions in earnest to explore the modus operandi of an inclusive national election, code of conduct of political parties, and protection of fundamental rights of citizens to live a life free of fear; the dialogue, whether mediated by domestic actors or international interlocutors, is held involving all political parties and members of the civil society.
He said the current retreat of the opposition and the “success” in the city corporations elections are viewed as a victory by the ruling party, which continues the path of using state power to rout the formidable opposition to create a de facto one-party state.
Which path the political leaders will take is a matter of their choice, but it will certainly affect the lives of all the citizens of Bangladesh and the future of the country, he observed.
“If history is an indicator, this may turn out to be another lost opportunity. But, failing to take advantage of the situation, may push the country into a downward spiral towards a prolonged and unprecedented scale of violence,” he said.
Prof Ali Riaz also said non-state actors including militant groups with regional and extra-regional connections might take advantage of the instability.
In conclusion, he said it is time that the political leaders of Bangladesh firmly establish institutions.
Source: Bangladesh Chronicle