12:00 AM, November 04, 2012 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, November 04, 2012

BNP's India politics at a crossroads

Hardliners show no change of heart; liberals want a change

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Rezaul Karim

While the mainstream BNP welcomes Khaleda Zia's latest steps to reverse its long-held anti-India stance, hardliners are yet to believe the big neighbour can be friendlier to the party.
As Khaleda during her just-concluded India visit said she would never support insurgents or terrorists and her party did not oppose transit, some top party leaders told the press the anti-India policy was a “mistake”.
However, there is still a stream within the party that believes the country's experience with India did not inspire the party into trusting a neighbour which had always tried to bully Bangladesh with its big brotherly attitude.
They say her statements would adversely affect their politics and it might have a negative impact on the party at the next general elections.
But this section is not willing to go on record as opposing Khaleda's latest stance just yet. Those in the group say they have to at first talk with the chairperson to hear from her about her position on India.
Several senior as well as many mid-level leaders in Dhaka have given their mixed reaction over the party chief's India visit that concluded yesterday, especially her interaction with the New Delhi leadership.
Liberal BNP leaders said the visit along with efforts to come out of anti-Indian politics was a bold step as such politics had become obsolete.
Talking to The Daily Star on Wednesday, former foreign minister M Morshed Khan said it would be foolish to bank on anti-India politics just to please a section of the country's people, as people in general very well understood the importance of good relations with India.
“Those days of anti-India politics are gone and it would be a mistake if anyone still maintains that stance.”
But hardliners say late president Ziaur Rahman founded the BNP through challenging Indian hegemony and people who strongly opposed India joined the party. The party's main strength is anti-India politics, they added.
They say the people who are new in the BNP and believe in shortcuts think the party can go to power by winning Indian trust, and they have apparently misguided the party chief into saying many things during this tour.
“Those who are the mainstream BNP can't be pro-India … the BNP was born with anti-India sentiment as the majority of people in the country are anti-India,” said a senior leader of the party, expressing apprehension that the BNP might lose mass support and true foreign friends if its “new policy to please India” continued.
It would not be wise for the BNP to keep faith in India or expect anything from it because, ultimately, New Delhi will help the Awami League win a second term in office.
Another BNP leader said although media reports suggest Khaleda Zia went to Delhi only to give commitments to India, he was confident that the party chief would not overnight change her mind and policy towards India.
Many mid-ranking BNP leaders think the visit is part of a conspiracy because her statements in India will weaken the BNP and its mainstream supporters and activists will be unhappy because they are part of the BNP for its anti-India stance.
Asked whether the unity of the 18-party alliance, a combine of extreme right-wing political parties, would be affected by this visit, a top BNP leader said, “Our unity with the Jamaat or other rightwing parties are not based on principles.”
This is a strategic alliance and the allies play no role in BNP policy making, the party leader said.
On Khaleda's commitment regarding anti-India militants and insurgency groups, he said the BNP had never said it instigated the activities of separatists or militants. So her statement in this context was not new.

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