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INDO-BANGLA RELATIONS SET TO IMPROVE

By Ashis Biswas

 

Relations between India and Bangladesh are on the upswing if recent Dhaka-based media reports are any indication.

 

The Government of India’s decisive intervention into the law and order situation in West Bengal, following the Burdwan blast on October 2, ignoring the state Government’s objections, has been welcomed among the ruling Awami League circles in Bangladesh.

 

Significantly, Bangladesh authorities have been interacting regularly over matters and issues relating to the Burdwan blast killing two persons, one of them a Bangladeshi, directly with New Delhi. They have scrupulously avoided any contact with the Trinamool Congress(TMC) ruled West Bengal Government, bypassing its Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

 

Bangladeshis have not forgotten Ms Banerjee’s flat refusal to agree to the long awaited Teesta water sharing treaty during the UPA II regime, which affects water availability in their northern districts.

 

Worse, not only did Ms Banerjee in effect sabotage the treaty. She refused to discuss the matter either with the Indian Government or Bangladesh! The state government agreed to the appointment of the Kalyan Rudra Expert Committee to study the seasonal water flow and other features of the Teesta, so as to work out an acceptable formula. The committee has submitted its recommendations a long time ago. But the West government has refused to make its contents public. This fuels speculation that the report has not been unfavourable to Bangladesh’s stand on the issue.

 

The matter assumes importance in that Ms Banerjee’s refusal greatly helped the opposition Jamat-e-Islami/BNP campaign against the ruling Awami League and its leaders, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the recent national elections. The Jamat and BNP are known to be supported by Pakistan, Saudi Arabia and other Islamic countries, which do not support the Awami league’s secular political culture.

 

Ms Banerjee’s stubbornness on the Teesta water issue was by no means a one-off gesture in support of the Jamat, which has been banned in secular Bangladesh. It has reappeared in a new avatar, Jamat-ul-Mujahideen(JUM). West Bengal Government’s objection to the present probe into the Burdwan blast by the National Investigating Agency (NIA) after a strong JUM link was conclusively established, provides further evidence that the TMC is actively helping the JUM , even in its anti India agenda of setting up an Islamic terror hub in India’s heartland !

 

There are other signs that indicate the TMC-Jamat link. Pro Jamat elements in Kolkata have been allowed to hold public meetings in support of Bangladeshi war criminals, who opposed the 1970-71 struggle for Bangla independence. No other state in India has allowed this.

 

A senior leader of the banned Students” Islamic Movement in India (SIMI), of possible Bangladeshi origin has been made a TMC Rajya Sabha member. Bangladesh has officially complained to India about his links with Jamat elements there and has banned his visits. It has forwarded details of monetary transactions of this MP who runs a daily paper for West Bengal Muslims, with Bangladeshi Jamat elements. The MP has also been questioned for his role and involvement in the multi-crore Saradha chit fund scam by the Central Bureau of Investigation.

 

Pressured by pro-Jamat elements, some of whom have crossed over from Bangladesh to escape a crackdown and received shelter from TMC leaders, the State government has not allowed writer Taslima Nasreen return to Kolkata. It also did not allow writer Salman Rushdie from visiting Kolkata, for the same reason.

 

Now that the JUM link with the Burdwan blast has been established (details covered in these columns earlier) and several arrests have been made, Ms Banerjee broke her sullen silence to make a significant statement. She expressed her resentment at being bypassed by the Centre and observed that an entire community should not be criticised for a few miscreants! She did not speak one word in condemnation of the blast, or of those associated with it.

 

A further interesting detail is her red carpet reception to the Pakistan Ambassador and plea for Pakistani investment for Bengal, although she had kept a Bangladeshi diplomat who had sought an appointment, waiting for two years!

 

Nor had she any explanation as the head of the state, as to how the miscreants, coming across the Bangladesh border, had managed to manufacture thousands of IEDs that were despatched to many parts of India and Bangladesh. Or how they had set up functioning terror labs and cells in Burdwan, Birbhum, Nadia and Murshidabad, buying up land, houses and recruiting Jehadis, spending money liberally..

 

As Minister for Police, it was under her that the state police had failed miserably in detecting anything, or perhaps had even connived with the JUM! “What was her Intelligence branch doing’, has been a common question among citizens.

 

Where the ruling BJP has scored with Bangladesh political circles and diplomats is in its handling of the situation, overruling Ms Banerjee and her government totally. Reports in both the Indian and Bangladeshi press suggest that Prime Minister Narendra Modi has given his commitment to Mrs Hasina about addressing Dhaka’s reasonable demands. He and senior Indian officials have been deeply embarrassed by the Burdwan incident, which proves that Bangladeshi Islamic militants had succeeded in setting up their base in West Bengal. They were aided and abetted by the local ruling party, to harass and attack secular leaders and parties across the border.

 

It is for the first time that India will face this charge from Bangladesh, as the boot was always on the other foot before the Burdwan explosion.  It was India which used to finish details of the location about anti India modules and bases in Bangladesh. Now for the first time Bangladesh has provided similar details, pinpointing locations in Burdwan, North and south 24 Parganas, Murshidabad and other districts.

 

Authoritative sources in Dhaka are also confident that with the support for the Teesta water sharing Bill in Indian parliament from both the ruling BJP, its allies, the Left parties and the Congress, any opposition of the TMC would not matter. The signing of the treaty was only a question of time, expected to take place sometime in the November (winter) session of the Indian Parliament.

 

This would be a major defeat for the TMC and its stonewalling tactics (not to mention its Jamat allies!) which did not allow the UPA II Ministry to function properly. The BJP is under no such compulsion.

 

When that happens, Indo-Bangla relations would continue to flourish, even with the supposedly nationalist BJP in power in India and a secular Awami league in Bangladesh. (IPA Service)

 

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