As picketing, shut-downs and street violence take over domestic politics in Bangladesh, India and the US have shared concerns regarding its stability.
Last week, US ambassador to Dhaka, Dan Mozena, visited South Block and spent long hours meeting foreign secretary Sujatha Singh and other senior officials. As picketing, shut-downs and street violence take over domestic politics in Bangladesh, India and the US have shared concerns regarding its stability.
Sources said Sheikh Hasina had invited her rival Begum Khaleda Zia for a meeting and dinner to end the impasse over the caretaker government. But main opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is unwilling to end the violence and insisting on a neutral dispensation.
But India remains more concerned about the colour of politics being pursued by BNP. This is where Indian and the US positions diverge.
The US appears much more comfortable with the BNP-Jamaat combine, who have made no secret of their radicalized politics. India believes if this succeeds, Bangladesh would be very different as a nation. The politics of BNP and Jamaat have become more radicalized in the past couple of years.
Indian intelligence has detected influences of both Pakistan-based Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT) and al-Qaida. There is a lot of funding available to these groups from West Asian countries, and some from Pakistan.
The US is less comfortable with Sheikh Hasina’s government, especially after the PM’s confrontation with Mohammed Yunus of Grameen Bank — the fracas over funding for the Padma bridge project — and also the war crimes tribunal. There appears to be a part of official thinking in the US that believes, according to sources here, BNP-Jamaat have better free market credentials, and that they would move away from radical Islam once they are in power. “They are too far away to have a realistic view of the street,” they said.
India is haunted by the 2001 Pyrdiwah massacre, when 15 BSF personnel were massacred by BDR troops in an ugly confrontation. BNP had explained Jamaat’s place in government thus: it would be better to have them in than out. But once in government, Jamaat occupied the ministries crucial to furthering their radical agenda. Those years saw the flowering of Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) and other terror groups like HuJI. India is opposed to a return to those days.
An added regional vulnerability is the Rohingya problem in Myanmar. With heightened communal tensions in Myanmar along with considerable Rohingya population in Bangladesh, New Delhi believes that the situation is ripe for disaster. The implications of increased radicalized politics in Bangladesh would have terrible implications for Myanmar’s stability.
Again, reports of LeT and al-Qaida infiltration among Rohingyas are popping up frequently. The instability as a result of radical politics could spread to India’s north-east and even China’s Yunnan province.