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The BNP will not close the door to India if it comes to power: Humaiun Kobir

Sadiq Naqvi | Updated on: 16 May 2017, 16:45 IST

The Bangladesh National Party (BNP), currently the country's chief Opposition, will not be antagonistic to India in case it comes to power. According to the party's new 'Vision 2030' document, it “will build up special relation with the Muslim Ummah and the neighbouring countries”.

Pointing out that India is one of Bangladesh's most important neighbours, BNP International Affairs Secretary Humaiun Kobir said his party was for a sustained relationship with India.

“Bangladesh National Party will not close the door to India. It will keep the door open if it comes to power,” said Kobir, who is a special advisor to Tarique Rahman, Begum Khaleda Zia's son and BNP senior vice-president.

Both Zia and Rahman, “the present and the future leaders of the BNP”, look forward to a special relationship with the neighbours, Kobir told Catch from London.

In the recent past, the Awami League government has come out in support of India on the issue of cross-border terror being perpetrated from Pakistan.

When asked how the BNP will have a special relationship with India and Pakistan at the same time, since BNP has had a closer relationship with the latter and is also talking about a 'special relationship' with the Muslim Ummah, Kobir claimed that the lack of a democratic government in Bangladesh is what lead to knee-jerk reactions from the Awami league leadership. And that a democratically elected BNP will be in a better position to forge a balanced relationship with the countries in the subcontinent.

Picking sides

India and Bangladesh have seen an unprecedented cooperation during the term of the Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

India, in fact, did not succumb to international pressure to delay the last general elections which the BNP had decided to boycott and supported the polls. This had not gone down well with the opposition parties like the BNP, who had claimed that India had kept all their eggs in one basket. India had taken the side with the democratic processes.

For the mandarins at the South Block and the security agencies, it was only logical to have supported the Awami League government’s position for security had been a headache during BNP’s tenure.

Politicians and intellectuals in Dhaka often point out how some of the anti-India terror groups almost enjoyed a free run during Begum Zia’s tenure.

Indian leaders including Prime Minister Narendra Modi have often praised Sheikh Hasina for her tough approach when it comes to dealing with fundamentalist elements who have been growing in Bangladesh. The country has recently seen a spate of high-profile attack signalling that radicalism is on a rise in that country.

India has also supported the International War Crime Tribunal to bring to justice the criminals of the Liberation War. The opposition, including the BNP, has opposed the Tribunal claiming that it doesn’t follow international standards and is being used to target political opponents.

More on the table

Kobir said security cannot be the only criteria for a relationship between two countries. And that an “insecure government cannot guarantee national security”.

“The vision document shows that BNP has learned from its past mistakes. And that BNP may not have been the perfect government in the past, but it did some good work in many areas, including economic development, women's empowerment, and so on. It needs to do better,” said Kobir.

With a history of a troubled relationship during Begum Zia’s tenure, why should India look up to the BNP?

“No mature government would like to make the neighbour unstable,” Kobir said, explaining that the days of fomenting rogue activities by using security agencies to destabilise the neighbour were over.

“That is outdated politics for both countries,” Kobir said, claiming that both Begum Zia and Rahman share the same opinion.

During the recent visit of the Bangladeshi Prime Minister to India, BNP had opposed the Bangladeshi government signing an MoU on defence ties with India.

Kobir claimed the BNP was not blaming India, but was merely asking that such important issues be discussed at least in Parliament - as "highly flawed" as it may be.

“Prime Minister Hasina keeps people in the dark. She doesn’t have a mandate so she lacks confidence,” Kobir said.

He, however, claimed that India doesn’t realise how the Awami League has politicised the relationship with it, and the kind of damage it has done to India’s image domestically.

“She sees it as a relationship between her and India,” Kobir said adding how she was not able to get anything for Bangladesh and how Teesta issue remains to be resolved.

“She claimed that the relationship with India is at its height but India cannot be supporting every act. How can India not want democracy?” he asked.

BNP believes that Bangladesh can play a conduit on both the economic and security fronts and “we would gain if India makes economic progress”, he added.

Claiming that BNP has been singled out for being pally with the radicals, Kobir said that when Prime Minister Hasina came back from India she met people from Hefazat-e-Islam and promised them concessions.

“She is the real practitioner of mixing religion with politics,” pointed out Kobir.

Edited by Jhinuk Sen

First published: 15 May 2017, 13:27 IST