In parallel with Bangladesh’s fundamentalist thugs getting bolder, Pakistan’s Inter-services Intelligence (ISI) is doing to Bangladesh what it did to Afghanistan. This includes peddling visions of an Islamic state, sending fundamentalist teachers in madrasas, supporting terrorist organisations like Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami and corrupting ordinary people to take up the criminal tasks of terrorism. The only missing portion is setting up a drug-smuggling operation to raise and launder funds. Its an all too familiar pattern.
In my last post, I proposed that it is time for an Indian diplomatic intervention in Bangladesh. This does not mean putting in a kind word alone, especially in unlistening ears. Also the worst kind of diplomatic intervention is threatening economic throttling – through sanctions or punitive restraints on bilateral trade. These just punish ordinary people who had nothing to do with their government’s sins of commission and omission anyway.
Minimally, India should act to defend its security. Bangladeshi territory is being used to destablise India, and if the the Khaleda Zia government is taking an ostrich-like approach to India’s genuine concerns, then it must be made clear in no uncertain terms that hot pursuit and surgical strikes against terrorist installations are within the domain of the possible. If need be such threats can be backed up with bold but relatively small scale military operations that target terrorist infrastructure.
More generally, Bangladesh is a better candidate for enhanced people-to-people contact. Civil society groups from across India and Bangladesh would gain from the interaction. In the end, I believe an enlightened civil society is the strongest bulwark against religious fundamentalists (of any colour). It may be time for Indian civil society to intervene in Bangladesh too.
With a bit of government support and facilitation, this intervention could well be an effective way to address the traditional evils which plague India’s bilateral relations with its neighbours.