Time for India and Bangladesh to work together

May 16, 2008

For years India has always looked west to Pakistan when bombs exploded in its cities, powerless to influence its old foe.

A rapid action force soldier looks out from his truck during a curfew in Jaipur May 15, 2008. REUTERS/Punit ParanjpeNow, it is talking peace with Pakistan, and casting aspersions eastwards to Bangladesh, a country it helped establish and should have much more leverage over.

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its latest report on terrorism, the U.S. State Department said India’s counterterrorism efforts “were hampered by its outdated and overburdened law enforcement and legal systems”.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?

6 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I really don’t think its feasible for India and Bangladesh to work together. The ruling party in Bangladesh and the country as a whole are moving towards increased fundamentalism. And there are millions of Bangladeshi infiltrators in India who find it extremely easy to cross into West Bengal as the corrupt Communist Party (Marxist) there has promoted their illegal entry into the country. I was almost killed by a Bangladeshi gang member during a trip to India in 1985, and my mother’s second cousin was recently murdered by a Bangladeshi gang outside a train station, just for a few rupees. Its these organized Bangladeshi criminals, in my opinion, who are slowly moving towards fundamentalism and are a major security threat to India. One of my friends in India informed me that Bangladeshi gangs have already started to fight long-entrenched local gangs in the major Indian cities and are now targeting wealthy Hindu families for kidnappings. In my opinion the Bangladeshi migrants are a much greater threat to India than Pakistani-trained insurgents.

Posted by david | Report as abusive

The common thing that threatens the world security and peace is terrorism. It may come in any form or for any cause but it has one thing that binds it together. When we look at the statistics of those who join terrorist networks around the world, we can find out the fact that most of its members are from low income countries which are not politically or economically stable. When people feel discontent about their life and lost all their hopes to secure a better future, they choose to become terrorist. These kind of people can be easily brainwashed or misled by others for their own benefits. The fundamental needs of these people must be taken care of. The education system must be strengthen to increase the level of understanding about human values. Right religious teaching should be taught to each and everyone. If animals can love humans and vice versa why not a human can’t love another human? Apart from that, the government must take steps to increase the standard of livings in their country. When a country become competitive economically it can lead it’s citizens to a better way of life. I belief that if India and bangladesh can work together as it was one India before 1947 then it can achieve this.

Posted by Scorpion Storm | Report as abusive

What happened in Jaipur is despicable but I don’t understand how the Indian authorities can just come out and say its linked to Bangladesh without any evidence. This is insulting and would make the regular Bangladeshi who is not a fundamentalist to feel like he or she is under attack and would naturally lead ill feelings towards India, which is not anyone wants. So what I am saying is that blanket accusations are not helpful and we should look at constructive ways of tackling this problem.

As for what David is saying, well, its all hearsay and illogical. Commuist Party is corrupt but what other party isn’t? How are they promoting fundamentalist muslim Bangladeshis entrance to West Bengal and more importantly WHY would they?

I am sorry to hear you were almost killed in 1985 but how did you know that he was a Bangladeshi gang member? Did he happen to exchange pleasantries with you as he was trying to almost kill you? And who is to say you couldn’t be attacked by some ethnic thug or are all the thugs in India Bangladeshis? I am just making the point that what you are asserting aren’t logical conclusions even if your stories were true. Finally, I highly doubt thugs, whether Bangladeshi,Punjabi, Tamil or what have you cares much about religeon one way or another.

Posted by M Chaudhury | Report as abusive

As a Bangladeshi, I will always be grateful to Indians for their role in 1971. Personally, I believe Bangladesh could have been India’s best friend if India didn’t build
‘Farakka’ dam that blocked the major river in Bangladesh just after liberation. It is an environmental disaster for Bangladesh.
We, Bangladeshies also hate terrorists because they are killing innocent people in the name of religion. Bngladesh also faced terrorist-attacks before. India and Bangladesh still can work together if they start to trust each other. And I think, there are no alternatives.

Posted by Soulfly | Report as abusive

it is indeed a problem of bangladeshis illegally entering into india. they need not be extreme or radical when they enter india but such people could be easily exploited to become extremists. this holds good for any other muslim who is indian. i have a bangla roomie, from him i dont seem to see the dam issue is the largest. bangladesh itself is suffering a lot from corruption and they are in the process of redeeming themselves thru the interim president. overall average bangladeshi people are struggling hard to make ends meet. but the corruption is rampant because of politicians. India also feels lot of roughness with BDR provoking us often. these are not good signs for anything to mend friendship

Posted by vivek | Report as abusive

Look, Bangladesh handeles terrorism cases better than any country in the region. When Bangladesh was attacked by fundamentals, it took the crinals to justice and hanged them (some HUJI top leaders are also being trialed). Some of the stupids in India say that Bangladesh govt. is a fundamental islamist govt. They should know that People of BD have never elected a right wing religious party like INDIANS (as they elected hindu nationalist BJP) to power.So get your info. right first before commenting. And BANGLADESH also have the best record in communal relationship in the region (way better than india as we never had any incidents like gujrat) and it is termed as the MOST PEACEFUL NATION in the region according to WORLD PEACE INDEX.