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Friday, November 2, 2012
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It was a 'mistake'

Many top BNP leaders say party shifting from 'anti-India' stance

Realising that its long-held “anti-India” stance was a mistake, the BNP appears to be making a turnaround in its policy towards the big neighbour, party insiders say.

Now on a visit to India, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia has clearly signalled that she wants to reverse the stance on relations with New Delhi. She has assured Indian leaders that her party would not allow Bangladesh territory to be used by terrorists and insurgents to target India.

Political analysts say that after benefiting from its anti-India polemics over the years, the BNP is shifting its strategy because of the changing socio-economic and political conditions at the national, regional and global level.

According to some top BNP leaders, the growing realisation that the party had to pay much for its anti-India strategy and that India is now a big factor in regional and international politics is the reason behind this shift.

Talking to The Daily Star on Wednesday, former foreign minister M Morshed Khan said the relations between the BNP and India could not grow to an expected level due to “politics of blame game”.

“And madam's visit certainly marks a change in her mindset regarding India.”

He also said that it would be foolish to bank on anti-India politics just to please the country's people, as they very well understand the importance of good relations with India.

“Those days of anti-India politics are gone and it would be a mistake if anyone still maintains that stance.”

Speaking to this correspondent, at least three BNP leaders said that two allies -- Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote -- some BNP policymakers and close aides to the chairperson had convinced Khaleda to take the anti-India position.

The party made various mistakes regarding relations with India, Lt Gen (retd) Mahbubur Rahman, a BNP standing committee member, told The Daily Star at his Banani DOHS residence on Tuesday.

“The party had been pursuing wrong policies, especially from 2001, when it made a political alliance with the Jamaat-e-Islami and Islami Oikya Jote.”

The former army chief said, “The BNP's new stance on India reflects the changed mindset of the party chairperson as well as her realisation to this end.”

“The two Islamist parties [Jamaat and IOJ] had Islamised the BNP-led four-party alliance and with the support of a section of BNP policymakers, they convinced the chairperson to follow an anti-India stance to exploit popular sentiment against India.”

He said the party chief after long years had understood that the anti-India stance would not do her party any good.

“Many of us had earlier tried to make the party chief realise the matter but failed as our opposition in the party and in the alliance was more powerful and the party chief had no alternative but to listen to the powerful lobby.

“Although it was not on the agenda, some of the policymakers, including myself, at several meetings called upon the party chairperson to shed the anti-India stance,” Mahbubur recalled. He declined to go into details.

He said his relations with the party had certainly deteriorated over the 10-truck arms haul during the past BNP-Jamaat rule in 2004. India widely considered that the arms cache had been brought in for some Indian separatist organisations.

Besides, the BNP's ties with the world's largest democracy deteriorated further after the August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League rally in 2004.

“And there were BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman's various controversial activities when the party was in power in 2001-06,” he said.

“BNP policymakers now realise that the party has to be sincere to resolve all unresolved bilateral problems with India when it takes office.”

However, he added, “It's also true that the BNP had not seen a cordial attitude from India either till 2010.”

According to party insiders, the former army chief along with senior leaders Tariqul Islam, Moudud Ahmed, M Morshed Khan and Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury are among those who played a vital role to “repair” the party's relations with India.

Before Khaleda's New Delhi visit this week, M Morshed Khan toured India twice to do the groundwork to this end. Even Mosaddek Ali Falu, a close aide to Khaleda, had gone to India for the same purpose, BNP sources said.

Talking to this correspondent at his Mohakhali office on Wednesday, Morshed Khan admitted he had visited India for seven days from October 9. But, he said, it was a personal visit and it had nothing to do with the visit of Khaleda Zia.

Also, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee played a vital role in changing his country's stance on relations with the main opposition party of Bangladesh.

“We have got a clear signal of its changed mindset when Pranab Babu categorically mentioned that his country wanted to maintain good relations with all democratic parties of Bangladesh and the people of Bangladesh, not with any particular party,” said BNP standing committee member Moudud Ahmed.

He added this was for the first time any Indian prime minister had invited Khaleda Zia when she was in opposition.

“We have to accept that we have to have good relations with India to resolve all outstanding issues with the largest and powerful neighbour.”

Another BNP policymaker, seeking anonymity, said the party and its allies had used “indecent” language against India on several occasions, especially when the party was in opposition. This attitude breached Indian trust and confidence in the BNP.

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Just you wait. BNP supporters need not worry. Neither should AL. If BNP comes to power they will certainly make another u-turn. Incorrigible.

: Shubhro Ahmed

It is very funny how politics in Bangladesh is evolving recently. When AL talks about good relationship with India, they are selling the country and they become Indian agent, but when BNP does the same and agrees with all Indian demands, then it shows pragmatism and maturity. Hypocrisy at its best.

: Md Musa


  • Ashraf
    Friday, November 2, 2012 01:32 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    There is a very serious item in this article expressed in just one line: And there were BNP Senior Vice-Chairman Tarique Rahman's various controversial activities when the party was in power in 2001-06 - Mahbubur Rahman, a BNP standing committee member, told The Daily Star. So how is BNP's plan to tackle this issue? Is their supreme leader Khaleda finally ready to make real sacrifice for the sake of her party and country? If not, then all these pledges and policy u-turn will turn out as nothing but cheap ploy just to win the election. It will be business as usual after election win. We have witnessed it once before in 2001.

  • Shah Deeldar
    Friday, November 2, 2012 01:52 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    Anti-India rhetoric has never really worked for Pakistan for last sixty years. It was enigmatic why BNP chose such line with the full knowledge of failed Pakistani politics that one could sense at the end of US-Soviet cold war. While Indians stuck to their guns, neighbors have been forced to change to the new reality.

  • neutral
    Friday, November 2, 2012 01:56 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    The so called leaders are not aware of the full picture of their leader's political move; these might be fully unveiled after her intended visit to the USA and the UK. There is nothing to be shocked and to lament. The BNP was born as anti-Indian, remains anti-Indian and will finish as anti-Indian.

  • RI
    Friday, November 2, 2012 02:17 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    I wish in her lifetime she also corrects herself from denying the tremendous contributions of Sheikh Mujib for Bangladesh independence and acknowledges her mistakes in making happy Pakistan and her Bangladeshi supporters to discredit him, and for providing all support to his killers.

  • Debashis Chowdhury
    Friday, November 2, 2012 03:03 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    I have been observing the politics of BNP for many years. The anti-India role of BNP pleased people who were against our liberation. Moreover, the anti-India politics of BNP helped to build the anti-Hindu sentiment in Bangladesh. For this reason, minorities in Bangladesh always felt helpless whenever BNP came to power. Recently leaders of BNP showed some interest in the situation of minorities in Bangladesh. I believe this is a very good sign and this gesture will help to build the confidence among minorities. Bangladesh was created by all its people and we were helped by India and other neighbours during the process. I hope that the Chairperson of BNP will keep her promise and will help to make a stronger relationship between two neighbouring countries and their people.

  • ekatturer_jishu
    Friday, November 2, 2012 03:24 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    Tomorrow if Begum Zia visits Pakistan, she would sing a different what this means is that we are in reality have been punished to be citizens of Bangladesh where ideology is created overnight and policies are determined in a whimsical manner all for the glory of power.

  • Anonymous
    Friday, November 2, 2012 03:34 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    Indian anti-Bangladesh strategy has not changed yet.

  • Amdem, USA
    Friday, November 2, 2012 04:28 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    No political party should adopt any anti-Indian, negative stance in foreign policy. If BNP harbors anti-Indian attitude, it should change its policy immediately. For a neighbouring country, the stance should be friendly relationship.

  • Sabir Majumder
    Friday, November 2, 2012 06:53 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    This is simply amazing and unexpected from BNP. However, this is a good move for BNP and the country. Demand of the time!

  • N. Alamgir
    Friday, November 2, 2012 07:36 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    It would be a real boon to the nation if the political parties could woo China more! Look at the infrastructure development done in many nations of China in the African continent and all done free! I don't think India would do half as much. Also note that India helps us only when it is to their benefit!

  • Reza Karim
    Friday, November 2, 2012 07:59 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    Pro-India and anti-India debate is nonsense. It is simplistic too. India sends a signal; BNP avails the opportunity. Both have shown change of hearts. I consider it a good start and see immense possibility.

  • Harun Rashid
    Friday, November 2, 2012 08:16 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    Shifting from anti Indian policy would be a pragmatic decision for the BNP and country. Neither do we want BNP become pro Indian or pro Pakistani or pro any country, they should be real nationalist, should be done everything for the sake of great interest of people of Bangladesh. Now we are eagerly waiting one day BNP leaders will realize anti Bangabandhu's legacy in our history also an another mistake that needs to be shifting as well. And also we believe BNP's core leaders will realize Jamat and IOJ or other anti liberation elements are stick with BNP not for the great interest of Islam rather to hide their activities during liberation war in 1971.

  • Iftikhar-ul-Awwal
    Friday, November 2, 2012 09:09 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    It is too early to comment-far less to pass a judgment on Indo-Bangla relationship. Much depends upon India-whether they are truly interested in fostering a good neighborly relationship on the basis of trust and sovereign equality or treading their conventional and well-charted path of domineering over-lordship. If the past is any indication of the future, I cannot but remain a confirmed pessimist. Has India offered Khaleda anything other than customary hospitality?

  • abu s azad
    Friday, November 2, 2012 12:07 PM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    We must not forget that Begum Zia was advised by the US administration during her last visit to US to improve her relation with India before seeking US support. We believe, having returned from India She would now turn to US to fulfill their implicit promise.

  • Masudur Rahman
    Friday, November 2, 2012 03:15 PM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    Better late than never; the realisation that no country can achieve economic prosperity, political stability and social harmony maintaining better relations with neighbours. Only particularistic political interests create the image of the neighbours as enemy and make use of the image that would serve their interests only. The people both sides of the border want friendly relations which is good both for the people and for the country as well as political interests that do not confront the common interests of the people.

  • Anonymous Chakma
    Friday, November 2, 2012 03:16 PM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    We, the minorities, feel pretty enthusiasm when we see the opposition leader Khaleda Zia is visiting India! AL is not only the protector of minorities in Bangladesh since it has been proved from two recent incidents at Ramu and Rangamati. In the time of globalisation and regional cooperation, BNP's stance and policy towards India is definitely appreciable and diplomatically matured. We want humane government next time not the human who can not go beyond race and religion.

  • Vampire knight
    Friday, November 2, 2012 03:29 PM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    There is no last word in politics as we used to hear usually. As India wished to have relations with all Bangladesh political parties instead of one, there must be reciprocity from this side of the border. Foreign policy of the political parties must be flexible, accommodating to the changed situations, but must be favourable to own people and country.

  • EB
    Friday, November 2, 2012 12:38 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    We need good relation with India as well as China. There is nothing wrong to be pragmatic. It shows maturity. Instead of listening to emotional folks in your circle, go with what is best for our national interest.

  • Nisar AHmed
    Friday, November 2, 2012 12:38 AM GMT+06:00 (171 weeks ago)

    I am glad to see BNP is changing it's mindset towards India. It's about time though the proof is in the pudding. We will need to wait and see how BNP form their election alliance and it's attitude towards the fundamentalist segment in Bangladesh politics.





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