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Another Neighbour

Another Neighbour

Author: Editorial
Publication: Statesman
Date: November 30, 2002
URL: http://www.thestatesman.net/page.arcview.php?date=2002-11-30&clid=3&id=6707

The reasons for India's growing anger and frustration with Bangladesh survive even the fluid morals of diplomacy. New Delhi has seen Dhaka go from celebrating its liberation from Islamic/military orthodoxy to first flirting with and now virtually embracing the same obscurantism. More important, Bangladesh hasn't kept its rediscovery of militant theocracy to itself. Like Pakistan which at one point was set to obliterate its identity, Bangladesh, too, finds it useful and profitable to export men, materiel and ideas to its bigger neighbour. Also, like Pakistan, but apparently only more so these days, Bangladesh is a congenial host to a variety of Islamic extremists, including, reportedly, the Al Qaida No 2. There are not too many countries even in this mad world that welcome Osama bin Laden's deputy as a guest. That Khaleda Zia's BNP government apparently has, explains why the Bangladesh leader of the Opposition, Hasina Wajed, is apprehensive of returning home. Look, again, at the similarity with Pakistan. Benazir Bhutto and Nawaj Sharif can't return home, either, because that other great democrat, General Pervez Musharraf, argues that powerful Opposition leaders are bad for democracy. If Hasina is indeed in serious risk of losing liberty or - as some security watchers apprehend - life itself, New Delhi should exercise its full regional clout to warn Dhaka that it will extend its support to the beleaguered leader.

More complicated is the issue of India's response to Bangladesh's growing Islamisation and pandering to terror merchants. Pakistani mischief makers have already opened a second front in their jihad against India on Bangladeshi soil. One of the problems is the political attitudes of state governments like that of West Bengal. The Marxists have nurtured a huge vote bank by encashing on illegal immigration. How powerful the vested interests are was apparent when Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee's perfectly rational policy of monitoring madrasas was shot down by Alimuddin Street apparatchiks. The home ministry as yet has not been able talk to Kolkata about Bangladeshi infiltration without the CPI-M promptly getting on the minority rights high horse. ISI-trained operatives, however, have as little to do with minority rights as Praveen Togadia or Girirarj Kishore has with majority concerns. The CPI-M cannot risk national security in the name of electoral advantage. If Buddhadeb understands this, unlike Jyoti Basu, who seldom appeared concerned over the problem, it is to be hoped that he finds enough allies and/or strength to start a corrective process. The Centre on its part will have to explore diplomatic options. Thankfully, the Americans do not quite consider Bangladesh as an ally in their "war against terror".

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