Bangladesh’s democracy and India

New Delhi, Tue, 17 Jun 2008 NI Wire

No doubt the recent time has brought some kind of positive outlook in Indo-Bangladesh relations, as the Muslim nation is moving towards democracy and India as a concerned neighbour taking it as a new step to mutual cooperation. However, New Delhi’s handling of foreign relations with neighbouring countries, especially with Pakistan, Myanmar (Burma) and Bangladesh in the past did not arise much hope; however it can be taken as a sign of improving affairs in the subcontinent despite some hard issues that never seems to die down.

With much concern of militancy in the north-eastern part of the country and the increasing economic migrants, the recent high-level visits from both countries in the month of March, including Bangladesh’s Army Chief of Staff Gen. Moeen U Ahmed, can be seen as the positive most since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971. The train service from Kolkata to Dhaka is just the visible result of improved cooperation.

No matter how lenient the caretaker military government is but its presence has been a worrying factor for India. There has been some encouraging development in Bangladesh in terms of initiatives for a dialogue process between political parties and the interim government. The release of ex-Premier and Awami League party president Sheikh Hasina Wajed for medical treatment abroad is a part of the same. The process of release of another premier political leader Begum Khaleda Zia, the supremo of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) is also on the card, who is also serving imprisonment with corruption charges.

Again with these developments spawning around, India has shown some signs that it favours a friendly, stable democratic Bangladesh. India has uttered nothing concrete yet for the release of political prisoners including the top two leaders: Hasina and Khaleda Zia; it is just that the caretaker administration seems relatively friendly towards India taking note of India’s security concern and economic cooperation.

The caretaker administration has freed the Judiciary from Executive control in its corruption clean up drive, but a large piece still remains on the objective of conducting a free-fair election at the scheduled time. However, India needs to be bit more proactive without turning back to the developments in Bangladesh if, keeping finger crossed, the result would be no different to Pakistan and Myanmar where people have had enough military rule.

India’s overall ‘attitude of appeasement’ can be very well understood with its North-east concern where insurgency by fundamentalists is a daily affair and if India continues the same policy with the army-backed caretaker government in Dhaka then result would be no different. There is a greater role for India to play in the subcontinent both politically and economically.