Wait and watch
Recent Pakistani attempts to woo Bangladesh call for India to watch its western neighbour’s moves with caution and diplomatic shrewdness
A courtesy meeting between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Pakistani High Commissioner to Dhaka, Imran Ahmad Siddiqui at the Bangladeshi capital on December 3 has led to various speculations. While the Hasina detractors and pro-Pakistan elements are seen exuberance and happy with the meeting, drawing their own conclusions, it's clear that Hasina, an astute politician and having matured with the uninterrupted rule of the country for the last over a decade, articulated well on her meeting. Bangladesh PM, mincing no words, said that Pakistani atrocities against Bangladesh can never be forgotten and the persecution has left a deep scar which still remains.
Quoting from the secret document of intelligence branch on Father of the Nation (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman), Hasina said the book, specifically the Urdu version, by her father was still a best seller in Pakistan which reveals most credibly the untold atrocities and miseries unleashed by Pakistan against Bengalis from 1948 to 1947. Her message, therefore, to Pakistan was loud and clear leaving no or little scope for the Pakistan inclined lobbies to cash in the meeting to try and upset the warm relations between India and Bangladesh. Further, out of sheer courtesy, the BDPM said that Pakistan can carry on with routine bilateral ties with Bangladesh. The Pakistan High Commissioner in Dhaka conveyed the greetings of Prime Minister Imran Khan to BDPM. It is worth recapitulating that Imran Khan, strongly thought to be at the express prompting of China, which is taking an extraordinary interest in Bangladesh especially after the Chinese border aggression in Galwan valley in Ladakh on June 15, had made a telephonic call to his Bangladeshi counterpart ostensibly to warm up mistakenly thinking that Indo-BD ties were on a low. This phone call also led to a kind of disinformation that Pakistan and Bangladesh were coming closer after Pakistan sent its High Commissioner in January this year after a lull period of several years.
Pakistan, on the other hand, is euphoric with the December 3 meeting and its mainstream press including prominent newspaper 'Dawn' has expressed optimism over the development describing it as rare claiming that the bilateral mechanism between both the countries is now back on rails. Media circles in Pakistan are also overboard in stating that Hasina had called for the strengthening of relations between the two nations.
Analytically, it's the month of December when the war of liberation of Bangladesh enters into its 50th year. December 16 is observed as the Bijoy Divas or Victory Day. India is time and again acknowledged by Sheikh Hasina for its contribution to the creation of Bangladesh and standing steadfastly behind the new nation for the last half a century. Then, next year ie., 2021 is being celebrated as the Mujib centenary year and a lot of events are under active planning. This includes visits by international leaders like Turkey's Erdogan who too has sent feelers to woo Bangladesh. According to BD watchers, Hasina is now playing the role of a statesman with accepting overtures of those leaders who are anti-India. However, sceptics do not rule out the possibility of Hasina closing her options to be at a vantage position in the event of relations with India getting soured. With a robust economy and political stability, she is placed to enjoy the 'win-win' situation, at least at this moment. Pakistani attempts to woo Bangladesh calls for India to watch its western neighbour's moves with caution and diplomatic shrewdness.
From the perspective of security, it looks important to see that the Pakistani High Commissioner in Dhaka remains limited to its activities of making only ceremonial calls on the BDPM. The High Commission, as in the past, should not indulge in undercover incompatible diplomatic activities which are detrimental to Indian security interests. Worse, to attempt to subvert Bangladesh's tranquil. Presently, there is a wave of religious fundamentalist activities across Bangladesh with a controversy over a Mujib sculpture and France linked protests on perceived Islamophobia. Other than a particular bigot outfit Jamaat-e-Islami, and some other extremist outfits are thought to be patronised by Pakistan even just before BD independence and also when Hasina was out of power. That merits a thorough watch. Given Hasina's hold on power, any wooing by Pakistan should be strictly bilateral. Any move to inflict Indian interests should be met with an iron hand coupled with muscular diplomacy.
The writer is a retired IPS officer, a security analyst and a former National Security Advisor to the Prime Minister of Mauritius. Views expressed are personal