More than a week has passed since BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia was put behind bars in the old Central Jail of Dhaka, following her conviction in the Zia Orphanage Trust graft case.
However, it is not yet clear how Bangladesh’s closest neighbour, India, is the viewing the issue of jailing one of the major political leaders, and a former prime minister of the country.
After a special court sentenced Khaleda Zia to five years’ imprisonment on February 8 this year, India has yet to release a formal statement, or even a comment, addressing the issue.
Spokesperson of Indian Ministry of External Affairs Ravish Kumar held a regular briefing on Friday, but the matter was not brought up.
On the same day, while responding to a query, an insider from the south bloc said: “We should not comment on internal matters of a friendly and neighbouring country.”
Despite the decision of the Indian government not to discuss the matter in public, there is no doubt that New Delhi is keeping a close eye on the aftermath of the verdict.
Insiders also claim that the situation is being regularly discussed and evaluated among the highest level of policy makers in Bangladesh and the south bloc in India.
Jyoti Malhotra, an eminent columnist and diplomatic affairs analyst based in Delhi, said, “Delhi was very concerned about the aftermath, after Khaleda Zia was sent to jail on February 8 this year. However, India became a bit relieved after no incident of violence and unrest was reported throughout Bangladesh so far.
“India trusts that Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be able to tackle any situation with flying colours.”
Malhotra also added: “The whole incident has undoubtedly proven to India that Sheikh Hasina’s hold on the political arena of Bangladesh is absolute, and she is the best bet for India.”
On the other hand, a former Indian high commissioner in Bangladesh said, “India still believes it is necessary to ensure BNP’s participation in the 11th general polls, despite Khaleda’s incarceration.”
The former high commissioner told the correspondent: “India has full confidence over the judiciary of Bangladesh. New Delhi has mentioned it numerous times since war criminals were being sentenced in the country.
“India has no reason to believe that Khaleda Zia was convicted in a false case to serve a political agenda.”
The former diplomat further said: “A question remains, will the BNP participate in the next general polls if Khaleda Zia remains incarcerated. However, India believes that it is imperative to ensure an inclusive election for the sake of upholding democracy in Bangladesh.
“Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, during her visit to Dhaka October last year, made Delhi’s stance on the issue very clear to Khaleda Zia.”
The ex-high commissioner firmly stated that India’s stance on an inclusive general election in Bangladesh remains unchanged, following the graft case verdict on February 8.
Is BNP seeking advice from abroad?
The correspondent has also learned that a number of top BNP leaders contacted an influential BJP leader in India following the verdict.
According to sources, the BJP leader advised the BNP to stick to the legal proceedings and mount a stronger legal defence for Khaleda Zia.
The Indian ruling party leader also recommended that the BNP not make a hasty decision of not participating in the next general polls.
So, it is quite clear that even if the Indian government is maintaining silence on the issue to the media, New Delhi is not ignoring the imprisonment of Khaleda Zia.
India is very much looking forward to seeing BNP participate in the upcoming 11th general election of Bangladesh in a peaceful political landscape.
This article was first published on banglatribune.com