Manmohan Singh, Jamaat-e-Islami in Bangladesh and ISI

New Delhi, June 30, 2011 (bdnews24.com)

Ahead of his proposed visit to Dhaka, Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh has said Bangladesh’s political landscape could ‘change anytime’.

He also said 25 percent of Bangladesh’s population count on anti-India Jamaat-e-Islami, which was often influenced by the Pakistani spy agency Inter Services Intelligence.

Full Transcript of Manmohan’s Q&A Session

Manmohan phones Hasina

Manmohan’s ‘anti-India’ comment startles many
“Our relations (with Bangladesh) are quite good. But we must reckon that at least 25 percent of the population of Bangladesh swear by the [Jamaat-e-Islami] and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the ISI.

“So, a political landscape in Bangladesh can change at any time. We do not know what these terrorist elements, who have a hold on the [Jamaat-e-Islami] elements in Bangladesh, can be up to,” said Singh.

He made the remark while interacting with some of the senior editors of Indian newspapers on Wednesday. His office made public the full transcript of the Question and Answer session.

Though India recognises that its relation with Bangladesh significantly improved after Sheikh Hasina took over as prime minister, Singh’s remark apparently reflected New Delhi’s concerns over vulnerability of the Awami League government in Dhaka.

The Indian prime minister made the remark at a time when Dhaka is set to play host to a number of dignitaries from Delhi.

India’s external affairs minister S M Krishna is likely to reach Dhaka on July 6 next for a visit to Bangladesh.

Water resources minister Salman Khurshid may also visit Dhaka soon for a meeting with his counterpart Ramesh Chandra Sen. Sen and Khurshid are expected to give final touches to an interim agreement on sharing of water of Teesta.

President of India’s ruling Congress party, Sonia Gandhi, is also expected to be in Dhaka on July 25 next to attend a special conference on disabled and autistic children.

Gandhi, who also chairs the ruling United Progressive Alliance, accepted an invitation from Hasina to attend the conference.

Singh, who himself is also likely to go to Dhaka on a state visit to Bangladesh within the next few months, made the remark on Bangladesh, when he was asked by a senior editor to comment on the situation in the neighbourhood of India.

He started his reply to the question admitting that he was worried by the situation in the neighbourhood. “Well, neighbourhood worries me a great deal, quite frankly.”

He lauded the Awami League government in Dhaka for going out of its way to detain the leaders of the Indian insurgent organizations from Bangladesh and hand them over to India in 2009 and 2010.

“With Bangladesh, we have good relations. Bangladesh government has gone out of its way to help us in apprehending the anti-Indian insurgent groups which were operating from Bangladesh for a long time. And that is why we have been generous in dealing with Bangladesh,” said Singh.

He was obviously referring to the tacit cooperation between Dhaka and Delhi that led to the arrest of several top leaders of the Indian insurgent organisations like United Liberation Front of Assam and National Democratic Front of Bodoland along the border in November and December 2009 as well as in May 2010.

The arrested militant leaders included ULFA chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and NDFB chief Ranjan Daimary.

Neither Dhaka nor New Delhi, however, recognised the role of Bangladeshi agencies in creating the situations that led to the arrests of the top militant leaders. But, according to New Delhi’s official versions, all of them were arrested after the Border Security Force personnel spotted them near the Bangladesh-India border.

New Delhi has since long been alleging that insurgents active in India’s North-East have bases and training facilities in Bangladesh and many leaders of its proscribed militant organisations live in its eastern neighbour.

“We are not a rich country. But we offered it a line of credit of one billion dollars, when Sheikh Hasina came here (Delhi). We are also looking at ways and means of some further unilateral concessions,” he added.

Singh said that New Delhi and Dhaka were also “looking at ways and means of finding a practical and pragmatic solution to the sharing of water of Teesta”. “I plan to go there myself,” he said, referring to his proposed visit to Bangladesh.

Indian prime minister’s remark on the ISI’s influence on Jamat-e-Islami also came at a time when the testimony of terror-plotter David Coleman Headley during the trial of his childhood friend and accomplice Tahawwur Hussain Rana in a court in Chicago exposed the Pakistani spy agency’s role in the November 26, 2008 terrorist attacks in Mumbai.

The carnage perpetrated by 10 terrorists of the Lashkar-e-Tayyiba left at least 174 killed and many others injured.

Both Headley and Rana were arrested by the US Federal Bureau of Investigation in Chicago in October 2009 for plotting the terror-attacks in Mumbai and Denmark