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Knocking on Delhi’s door (1/2)

  • Published at 07:03 pm October 21st, 2015
Knocking on Delhi’s door (1/2)

“Will there be any substantial benefit for us if an election was to be held in Bangladesh now at this moment? Why should we want an interim election there?”

I cannot disclose the identity of the person who told me that, but I do have the liberty to say he is a very powerful leader of BJP, the ruling party in India. He is concerned with “Bangladesh affairs” regarding the Indian government, regularly communicating with the politicians of Dhaka and giving input to his country’s government on a regular basis.

When I asked him about India’s concerns about a possible interim election here in Bangladesh, he gave me that reply.

An exciting discussion was underway at the well-furnished house of the BJP leader in question, situated in the posh area of South Delhi. He was answering any and all questions regarding India-Bangladesh relations, but on one condition: The exchange must be kept off the record, and he must not be quoted.

I have no intention of disclosing his identity, but my eyes have been opened after I learned about the attitude of Indian politicians towards Bangladesh and Bangladeshis.

After walking through the alleys of Delhi’s powerhouses for three consecutive days last week, speaking privately with BJP politicians, and representatives of its opposition, Congress, and by discussing certain issues with Indian policy-makers, I can tell that they are not taking Bangladesh lightly anymore. They now have a better sense of the dynamics of Bangladesh’s internal politics, the presence of Islamist extremists, and the opulence of the existing militant groups, which have made some impact on the other side of the border. They have also taken measures for the ongoing situation accordingly.

There are murmurs of an interim election in Bangladesh being an inevitability, quite soon. Some speculate that there are pressures for such from Western countries. I asked him if India has any role to play here. The very first sentence is what I received as an answer to this question.

India thinks Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government should finish its five-year tenure, but it also thinks that the election from January 5, 2014 cannot be considered a standard election, but also that no one can cry foul about it being unconstitutional.

Bangladesh is in a stable condition at the moment, with the frequency of political violence having decreased. Moreover, they feel that Bangladesh is currently in the hands of an ally of India. According to the BJP, the ruling AL is “tried and tested,” having passed the important exam of friendship. Delhi does not see any purpose in making things turbulent before the scheduled election of 2019, no matter the pressure from the US or the UK. 

Is the Teesta agreement likely to happen in the near future?

Straight answer: There is no chance of any progress on the Teesta agreement before West Bengal’s Bidhanshava election, scheduled for 2016. Nothing can be done on Teesta … for now.

The reason is pretty clear as well: Ms Mamata Banerjee. Sacrificing the interests of the state by signing some international treaty before the election, the chief minister is not willing to send such a message to her people.

BJP is not going to make the same mistake the previous government of Manmohan Singh made, as Singh’s government tried to push the Teesta agreement, bypassing West Bengal.

Is there something “fishy” going on between the BJP and Bangladesh’s BNP?

BJP leaders will surely deny any such speculation, but it’s not too much of a leap to assume that some sort of connection does exist between these two parties.

A senior minister of BJP said: “The relationship which should be kept between the opposition party of the neighbouring country with the ruling party of India -- the same is the case with the BJP and the BNP. No more, no less.” 

Actually, the relationship between BNP and India was ruined during the Congress period. One of the reasons could be the strong family bonding and personal relations between Sheikh Hasina and with the Gandhi family.

Over the last few years, Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi were able to foster a smooth relationship, but Mr Modi also believes that it would not be a wise decision to completely sever ties with Bangladesh’s prime opposition party.

“We should not ignore the fact that BNP also may come to power some day. So, let’s not put all the eggs in one basket. And, as we want BNP to shun Jamaat-e-Islami, we must try to convince them to do that through maintaining a good relationship with them,” said a senior leader from BJP.

The reality is, even in 2015, elements of uncertainty and doubt remain regarding India-Bangladesh matters.  

The second part of this long form will be published tomorrow.