The street opposition, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (we have an official opposition in parliament), has held innumerable press conferences and briefings over the last five years.
But the briefing on May 27 got coverage on a lot of credible Indian media, including NDTV.
It was the party’s international affairs secretary and spokesperson, Asaduzzaman Ripon, a flamboyant student leader, proclaiming that the BNP was not an anti-India party.
We Bangladeshis know whether or not the statement is true.
I just want to add that the parliamentary standing committee on foreign affairs in the eighth parliament, 90% of which was comprised of BNP lawmakers, came up with the observation that Bangladesh-India relations were at their “lowest ebb” in history between 2005 and 2006. The parliamentary watchdog’s observation tells us quite clearly whether the BNP ever harboured anti-India sentiments or not.
My intention is not to chart out the anti-India comments the BNP chairperson or other leaders have made; the pro-India Awami League leaders are there to do that.
But the issue I want to raise is that the BNP has now come to understand they need Indian support to return to power.
The BNP-led opposition lobbied with the US, UK, EU, UN, and other international actors to stop the January 5, 2014 polls, simultaneously launching violence on the streets as a means of showing its muscle power or popular support.
The party leadership has forgotten that the Western powers can never take the side that resorts to violence and militancy.
I do not think the BNP by nature is a militant party. But the Awami League has successfully portrayed them as militants, giving examples of the August 21 grenade attacks on Sheikh Hasina, Shah AMS Kibria, and former British high commissioner Anwar Choudhury, the simultaneous bombings in 63 districts, and the incident of the 10-truck arms haul during BNP’s rule.The most serious factor that made Delhi upset with the BNP was the harbouring of northeastern separatists in Bangladesh territory.
The BNP has always been on the side of the Western and Middle-Eastern powers since its inception. The party fails to understand the new reality in South Asian politics. The US and India, in 2004-2005, started strategic cooperation according to which Washington DC was obliged to see Bangladesh through the eyes of India.Sheikh Hasina’s government survived only because of the unflinching support from Delhi.
The BNP-led opposition’s violent moves ahead of the January 5 polls and the non-stop violence and strikes in early 2015 failed mainly because of Delhi’s support towards the AL.
The party launched a violent movement, following the example of the AL that unseated BNP through a violent movement in 1996. But it forgets that violence does not always bring results.
It is good that the BNP seems to have come to understand the reality that they need not pursue “hate” policies towards a particular country.
The BNP should not stand solely on anti-India slogans. I really like the party’s demand for giving us due share of the common rivers and to stop border killings though.
The time has come for the political parties in Bangladesh to build a consensus on our relations with our neighbour that surrounds us from three sides, because we cannot change our neighbours.
The BNP’s statement -- “we are not anti-Indian” -- is a good sign. We want a truly sovereign Bangladesh free from interference from any country, be it India, the US, or others. Our endeavour is to be a welfare state, not a proxy or a client state.