Security cage on border
Wednesday, 27 February 2008

Army Chief's visit to India

The unelected government of Fakhruddin Ahmed has visibly swallowed the Indian proposal of constructing a 'security cage' on both sides of the border to resume direct passenger train service between Dhaka and Kolkata – a humiliating proposal that the previous government had refused to accept. Though the people of Bangladesh have always been in favour of maintaining close contact with the people of India, with whom they share common history and culture in many areas, they rightly felt uncomfortable with the Indian idea of passing the trains through a 'box-type' cage to be constructed on the 'no man's land, which, the Indian negotiators believe, would deter illegal immigration, if there is any humiliating. Subsequently, the agreement of the direct train service, initiated in July 2001 and almost finalised in July 2007, did not materialise. Suddenly, Fakhruddin's cabinet approved the Indian proposal on Monday! Notably, India has direct train services with its arch rival Pakistan, but the trains do not pass through any cages. What, however, is especially noteworthy is that the cabinet approval of the Indian proposal came the day General Moeen U Ahmed, chief of our armed forces, which propelled Fakhruddin to power, began his extraordinary visit to New Delhi, the capital of India. The visit appears extraordinary because the general, who is believed to have been the prime backer of the otherwise unpopular government of Fakhruddin Ahmed, is scheduled to hold talks with a couple of Indian cabinet members including foreign minister Pranab Mukharjee, and also the chief minister of the Indian state of West Bengal, Buddhadev Bhattacharya. This is alarming. In ordinary visits, our general is not supposed to have official talks with foreign politicians, particularly when the two countries involved have quite a good number of disputed issues to be resolved through political negotiations. That the visit is an extraordinary one is also reflected in the political enthusiasm of the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka, who had reportedly visited prior to the general's departure for Delhi, Khandaker Delwar Hossain, the secretary general of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party and Zillur Rahman, the acting president of the Awami League. None of the parties involved clearly told our people as to what transpired in those meetings, creating a lot of concerns in the public mind as regards what issues would come up during general Moeen's discussions with Indian policy makers. The concern has further deepened after our government's approval of the Indian proposal to construct the controversial security cage on no man's land immediately before the visit. Are the unelected incumbents passing any message to the Indian political establishment? We do not know.  However, what we know is that the hegemonic powers, regional or global, usually like weak governments in the neighbourhood as the hegemon finds it easy to settle disputed issues with the weak to the former's advantage. And the weakest government is the one which is not elected by the people, as is the case in Bangladesh today. The weak governments, if ambitious to cling to power without people's mandate for long, usually seek cooperation of the hegemonic powers, and at times they succeed in it, albeit at the cost of national interests.

Comments Add New
Write comment
Name:
Email:
  We don't publish your mail. See privacy policy.
Title:
Please input the anti-spam code that you can read in the image.