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BNP’s covert games: Will India see through it?

India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is well aware of the relationship between Tareque Rahman and ULFA, and how the triangle - Tareque, ULFA, and ISI (Inter- Service Intelligence of Pakistan) - works in Bangladesh, writes Swadesh Roy for South Asia Monitor

Jul 17, 2017
By Swadesh Roy
 
Khaleda Zia, chairperson of the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is now in London and, reports indicate, she will meet with "Indian lobbyists".
 
She has gone ostensibly to be with her fugitive son Tareque Rahman, one of those accused in the Chittagong arms smuggling case, the shipment of which was destined for the separatist United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA). Another prime accused is Paresh Barua, chief of ULFA, who is also absconding. He reportedly travels across China, Myanmar, Thailand, and Pakistan.
 
The BNP is trying, through back channels, to reach an understanding with India, sending professionals to Delhi as their representatives. Some businessman- cum- politicians are trying to liaise with the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. They are trying to establish rapport with Gujarati businessmen, to reach out to the government of Prime Minister Narendra Modi. 
 
BNP leaders are also hoping to get an invitation for Khaleda Zia from the Indian government for a visit to New Delhi in November this year.
 
Khaleda is a septuagenarian; her health is not good; she can barely walk unaided. In spite of that, she insists on keeping a dynastic hold on the party. Her fugitive son Tareque, a patron of ULFA, will be the leader after her.
 
India’s National Security Advisor Ajit Doval is well aware of the relationship between Tareque and ULFA, and how the triangle - Tareque, ULFA, and ISI (Inter- Service Intelligence of Pakistan) - works in Bangladesh. He knows how India’s national security will be impacted if and when Tareque Rahman becomes BNP chief. This problem is not unknown to the Indian government and civil and military bureaucracy.
 
The question is, why is the BNP pleading for India’s aid to come to power?
What happens if Khaleda fails to meet Indian lobbyists in London? Will her mission fail?
 
Khaleda, a former prime minister, on her part claims her visit is just to spend time with her exiled son and his family.
 
However, nobody has disclosed that she also went to meet some important ISI personnel who have been maintaining Tarique for the past decade. Sources from London said Khaleda and other BNP leaders, along with ISI personnel, will plan their strategy for the next general election.
 
It is an open secret that the BNP is guided by the ISI. In Bangladesh, the design of the ISI before and during elections is well known.
 
They inject a huge amount of money inside Bangladesh, via some financial institutions and some Bangladeshi businessmen. They have created many Islamic terrorist organizations in Bangladesh. Some people work for anti-India insurgent groups inside and outside Bangladesh.
 
Since the election of 1991, all Islamic terrorist groups and Northeast Indian insurgent groups have worked together in favour of the BNP.
 
 In elections in 1991 and 1996, they were very active but not very visible; from the election of 2001 till the last election in 2014, they were very visible in the BNP’s favour because their roots are now deeply entrenched in politics and society, and even in the administration of Bangladesh.
 
Their operations are basically violent. Before elections, they mount multiple terrorist attacks, kill some prominent progressive political leaders, after which the BNP provides them political cover. They try to destabilize the law and order situation and use money and arms in the election.
 
In 2001, the caretaker government formed to conduct the election was controlled by the ISI. The BNP won a landslide victory. Terrorists began to persecute people from the minority Hindu community. After 1946 and 1971, it was the worst era of religious persecution in Bangladesh. They also attacked, killed and harassed progressive, liberal people.
 
Before the election of 2001, the BNP gave many commitments to India, and said they were India’s real friends, but reneged on their word and the situation soon unravelled.
 
Today, it may be a repetition of that BNP game. Khaleda has gone to London to plan for the election of 2018 with her fugitive son and main ISI collaborator. It is to remove the public gaze from this covert mission that the BNP is making overtures to India.
 
(The author, an award-winning journalist, is Executive Editor. The Daily Janakantha, Bangladesh. He can be reached at swadeshroy@gmail.com)

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