In Bangladesh, terrorists signal that they have arrived

The nationwide bombings were a small demonstration of their organisation

The terrorists who set off explosions all over Bangladesh warned the American president and the British prime minister to get out of Muslim countries, asserting that ‘their days of ruling over Muslim countries are over’. The terrorists think that setting of explosions in an already impoverished Muslim country, terrorising innocent people, a majority of who are Muslims anyway, will strike fear in the hearts of the United States and Britain. Taken at face value, it appears that the terrorists who carried out the attacks in Bangladesh suffered from both an overblown sense of self-importance and an extremely poor understanding of international affairs. The truth is, far from scaring the West out of Muslim countries, the attacks will further bolster the international perception that Bangladesh is on the brink of state failure.

As usual Bangladesh’s two political formations have carried themselves appallingly. The ruling Bangladesh National Party of Prime Minister Khaleda Zia has been in a comfortable alliance with Bangladesh’s Islamist parties. Its longtime policy of outright denial was recently replaced by a reluctant admission that jihadi terrorist did pose a threat to national security. After the blasts it has begun to arrest members of a terrorist group whose existence it had denied until recently. But its Islamist coalition partners have already begun rolling out the conspiracy theories, claiming that the attacks were a conspiracy to malign the Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen. On the other hand, the Awami League, the main opposition party has acted along predictable lines (via Rezwan). It called for a general strike to protest against the government’s failure to prevent the attacks.

But it is inconceivable that the terrorists who carried out such a sophisticated and well-planned series of attacks intended to just make loud noises across the country. In a country where the writ of the government is diminishing, the explosions were the terrorists way of demonstrating their power. Theirs is calculated move to intimidate the general population as the Islamic extremists get on with their job of oppressing religious minorities and stamping out the politics of plurality. If Bangladesh fails to provide an answer to this from within its democratic setup, as it is now, this is the path that leads to Kandahar.

Bangladesh is no Afghanistan. But it may yet end up as a source of international terrorism. There is little to differentiate Bangladesh’s constant denials that it is hosting terrorist training camps and wanted terrorists on its soil, from those of Pakistan that continue to this day. The world ignored Pakistan’s jihadi apparatus to its own peril — and finally woke up to the threat after it was too late. It now runs the risk of repeating its mistake. But what is an urgent need for the international community is an immediate one for India, which has already offered to assist Bangladesh in investigating these terror attacks. It is unlikely that the Khaleda Zia government will take up this offer. That, however, should not deter India from following a more forceful policy towards Bangladesh as far as the terrorism is concerned. For an independent Bangladesh is as much in India’s national interests today as it was in 1971.

Tailpiece: Opportunistic illegal immigrants have been caught running a racket in Kolkata, collecting donations in the name of al Qaeda. And the editor of Arab News speculates that the explosions may have been a pitch by Bangladeshi start-up jihadis to seek an investment from the al-Qaeda. Update: Just to make things more interesting, Indian and Bangladeshi forces are trading fire over the border.

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