The India bogey is ultimately harmful to Bangladesh
As a politician, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Morshed Khan should know that support is won, not demanded. As a diplomat, he should have known better than to launch a tirade against India in the presence of the Indian High Commissioner. His not so judicious remarks at a recent seminar for young journalists from India and Bangladesh are perhaps symbolic of the recent spill over of Bangladesh’s internal political chasm into the domain of its relations with India.
Morshed Khan’s complaint that India seems to support only one political party in Bangladesh (in this case, the opposition Awami League) is perhaps valid, but hardly justified when his own Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has a decidedly anti-India bent. It is not surprising that India would support those parties and those countries which reciprocate that support. In fact, after his public outburst, he has damaged the image of both his party and his country in Indian eyes.
As for talk about a trade-war with India, when Indian companies are considering massive investments in Bangladesh is cutting the nose to spite the face. Retaliatory trade policies may hurt India, but could well debilitate the Bangladesh economy. Khan’s loose talk of trade wars is particularly jarring even as the region is in the process of setting up free-trade blocs like BIMSTEC and SAFTA.
In his address, Morshed denied Indian allegations that 195 camps of Indian insurgents exist in Bangladesh, allegations that were renewed by two senior Indian ministers two weeks ago.
“The list of insurgent camps from their (Indian) side increases at every meeting between us. But they have not been able to provide a single telephone number or address of these camps,” the foreign minister had told the function.
On the other hand, he said, “We have given phone numbers, fax numbers and office addresses of Bangladeshi insurgent groups like Bangabhumi Andolon, who are in India, and criminals who are hosted by some groups there, but they have not done anything about it.” [Daily Star]
At the very least, Khan’s statements on the terrorist camps demonstrates insensitivity and a callous disregard for India’s serious internal security concerns. This attitude mirrors what is happening in internally within Bangladesh where the BNP government has demonstrated no success in probing the links between Islamic extremists, organised criminals, various insurgent groups and Pakistani intelligence. It does not matter if the failure to confront these sinister forces is due to the government’s rank incompetence or active connivance, the end result for India is the same.
Bangladesh is undoubtedly hurt by all the natural and man-made disasters of recent years. It needs an internal healing process. And it needs friends. Morshed Khan’s recent statements on the contrary were an exercise in ‘how to lose friends and turn-off people’.