Time for India and Bangladesh to work together
For years India has always looked west to Pakistan when bombs exploded in its cities, powerless to influence its old foe.
Isn’t it time for some serious diplomacy, to improve relations with Bangladesh and work together to combat violent Islamist extremism?
While homegrown Indian Islamists may have carried out the attack in Jaipur, and a previously unknown group calling itself the Indian Mujahideen has claimed responsibility, initial investigations have also thrown up a possible link to Bangladesh .
Police have released a sketch of a man in his mid-20s who was seen near the site of one of the bombings, who was apparently speaking Bengali. Dozens of Bangladeshi migrant workers have also been rounded up for questioning.
Police say they also see similarities between these blasts and others in Uttar Pradesh and Hyderabad last year, which were blamed on Indian Muslims backed by the Bangladeshi group Harkat-ul-Jihad al Islami.
HuJi, whose name means the Movement of Islamic Holy War, was first established in Pakistan to fight in the jihad against the Soviets in Afghanistan, and then moved into Kashmir.
Its Bangladeshi wing was reportedly set up in 1992 with direct assistance from Osama bin Laden. And its leader signed a 1998 fatwa sponsored by bin Laden that declared American citizens “legitimate targets for attack”.
Bangladesh has its own problems with HuJI. It blames the group for a grenade attack on a rally held by former Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in 2004 in which 23 people were killed.
Dhaka’s government banned Harkat in 2005 and has arrested its leader Mufti Hannan.
Yet last September, when India drew links between HuJI and the Hyderabad bomb attacks, Bangladesh reacted angrily. The Indian media, it said, were “trying to portray Bangladesh as a hotbed of terrorism”.
“It has become a habit of Indian officials to blame Bangladesh for every terrorist action in India,” a foreign ministry official told Reuters.
In its latest report on terrorism, the U.S. State Department said India’s counterterrorism efforts “were hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems”.
Bangladesh was also trying to address the root causes of violent extremism within its borders, but the U.S. added that “mistrust between Bangladesh and India stymied potential counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries”.
Whether or not there was a Bangladeshi link to Jaipur, there is cause for concern in India about extremists in its eastern neighbour. Isn’t it time for a concerted effort to break down that “mistrust” and work with Dhaka to fight this menace?