Britain backs Dhaka’s junta

Conniving with the generals or patronising the people?

The official line is simple. British Airways refused to allow passenger Sheikh Hasina Wajed to fly to Dhaka due to a notification issued by the Dhaka regime banning her from entering the country. Only the naive will believe that a person like her could be kept off the plane without the tacit approval of the British government.

It may well be true that keeping both the begums out of politics is good for Bangladesh. But that is not a decision for the British government—and certainly not for British Airways—to make. In doing so, it has become party to the political re-engineering that Dhaka’s generals are conducting. Even if the Blair government is not directly backing the regime, it did no favour to the Bangladeshi people by taking a patronising attitude towards them. There exists a possibility that the British government acted to give Sheikh Hasina a face-saving way out of the confrontation. That’s unlikely, though.

The decision to admit or turn back a passenger is made by the immigration official at the destination airport—on the other side of the yellow line. The immigration officer at Dhaka airport could have refused to stamp her passport, and sent her back. Given the political environment and Sheikh Hasina’s popularity, this would not have been easy. The generals would have had to pay a high price to send her back.

The British government wittingly but unwisely give them a huge discount.

13 thoughts on “Britain backs Dhaka’s junta”

  1. Airlines these days DO have a stake in whether passengers are admitted into their destination country. They are often charged a “turnaround fee” if a passenger arrives with improper documentation, for example. The fee in the US is $3000 per passenger. If Dhaka is telling the airlines in advance that Hasina (and her retinue presumably) won’t be admiited in to the country, BA would be making a financially prudent decision, no?

    Look at it this way. If no country was willing to accept Hasina when she was “exiled” (ie., she didn’t have proper entry documentation), the airlines are under no obligation to allow her on their flights.

  2. RWB,

    If BA was only trying to manage its financial risks, perhaps it could ask those passengers to post a bond of US$3000 per person in case of repatriation.

    As for ‘no proper entry documentation’, that’s very much debatable, no?

  3. Upon reading the post, my immediate reaction was exactly what rwb noted. I think that Nitin’s response is an excellent mechanism for protecting the commercial interests of a common carrier and also for providing the passenger the chance to get to his or her destination.

  4. A bond sounds good in principle, but would add unnecessary costs and terrible PR. Can you imagine airlines trying to explain the need for a bond to passengers? And just try and collect — the costs of setting up and maintaining that collection system (sheltered from legal challenges that might crop up, for example, from a passenger turned around) would probably be much too high. And those costs would get passed on to you and me and the other passengers of course.

    My poorly worded point about “no proper entry documentation” meant this: airlines were not bound to allow Hasina OUT of Dhaka without her possesing a valid visa to the US or some other country. So why should they assist in getting her back to the port of entry in Dhaka?

  5. RWB,

    The bond is not intended for everyone, but applies to those passengers that the airline thinks may be at risk of being refused entry. But I was talking specifically about this case—any bad PR from asking for a bond would have been far smaller than the PR of refusing to fly a passenger outright.

    As for the documentation bit: I would presume flying back a passenger to the country of origin (ie the country that issued the passport) is a sensible option. Otherwise you risk having plenty of stateless people in transit areas of airports! So there is a case for treating the case for documentation asymmetrically with respect to outbound and inbound passengers.

  6. Seems strange that Dhaka is not keen to apprehend a murder suspect for whom an arrest warrant has already been issued. No?

    Yahan hum hain, desperately trying to extradite D company thugs from our friendly neighbourhood and there Dhaka is saying no to a murder suspect who wants to extradite herself…..

    Fishy, eh?

  7. Sudhir,

    desperately trying to extradite D company thugs from our friendly neighbourhood

    Hey it’s 2007, years into the ‘peace process’. We are not even trying anymore.

  8. This is a lousy post! How could the you hold the British Government responsible for the deeds of the bangladeshi government. BA would definately not want the bangladeshi airport authority to park a oil tanker in the run way and ask the flight to be turned back (like what happened to Musharaf when he returned to Pak). It will want to make sure the safety of its passengers and crew and its aircraft comes first. BA might be only doing the political correct thing-i.e to listen to the current Bangladeshi government when there is an emergency and not want to make a hasty decision. The whole issue is an internal issue of Bangladesh. I think any other airlines or governmnet would have done the same thing rather than trying to dump Sheik Hasinna at the Bangaladesh airport and start another international crisis

  9. RWB,

    I don’t. But here’s how Merriam-Webster defines the term:

    Main Entry: con·nive
    Function: intransitive verb
    1 : to pretend ignorance of or fail to take action against something one ought to oppose 2 a : to be indulgent or in secret sympathy b : to cooperate secretly or have a secret understanding [M-W]
    Hard for an ordinary blogger to have evidence for this, no?

  10. Thanks. I know the definition, that’s why I specifically asked for evidence. While hard to come by, lacking evidence undermines your claim. Asserting that people who don’t agree with your opinion are naive is a bit unfair since you’re engaging, then, in speculation.

    1 : to take to be true on the basis of insufficient evidence : THEORIZE
    2 : to be curious or doubtful about : WONDER

  11. RWB

    While hard to come by, lacking evidence undermines your claim. Asserting that people who don’t agree with your opinion are naive is a bit unfair since you’re engaging, then, in speculation.

    You are right in all respects. It’s entirely my opinion.

Comments are closed.