US, India and Bangladesh extremism
Reportedly the US and India have agreed to work together with Bangladesh to counter extremism in this country. The US has made no secret of its worry about the current situation in Bangladesh to the extent that its foreign minister Kerry called our prime minister to express its anxiety. As of now Bangladesh is not on any war on terror arrangement either formally or informally although there had been efforts by the US to get our forces physically involved in its GWOT (Global War On Terrorism) by contributing troops to its forces in Afghanistan. I think good counsel had prevailed on our leaders in declining the offer.
There is a general inclination of viewing with a degree of circumspection attempts of 'jointry' of plans to address any problem in a third country. The matter is compounded further when one of the two happens to be the main protagonist of the current global war on terror and whose policy of fighting that war stemmed from the most injudicious, self-centered strategy that has accentuated rather than attenuated extremism, and whose policy has helped extremists spread their tentacles in countries which were not in their radar before the start of the GWOT. The outcome of the US GWOT has been that most of the major participants in the so called coalition against terror have been eventually targeted by the Al Qaeda and Talibans and now lately the IS.
Should Bangladesh feel energised by the news of the two virtual strategic allies to help overcome a problem it is now faced with, whose dimension or depth, apparently, it has not fully fathomed as yet?
Both India and the US have expressed their intention to work together with Dhaka to counter extremism, to be exact religious extremism, in this country. Apparently, such a plan was conceived during the visit of Nisha Biswal, the US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs, in Dhaka last week when notes must have been exchanged between her and the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka about the current activity of the extremists demonstrated through the very well planned killing missions, five in one month alone in the month of April. The Indian foreign secretary who is in town will perhaps broach the idea with his Bangladeshi counterpart. One is not sure what our reaction will be, but when we find ourselves in a situation quite unique to us without as yet any riposte, it will be worth hearing what the modus of support and help to Bangladesh might be.
This is not the first time that such intentions have been articulated, but previously that was done individually on a one-to-one approach. The new approach has not been officially stated and one is not sure whether the idea has been informally discussed with the government of Bangladesh; and even if the three countries 'are on the same page' with regard to facing extremism, one wonders whether all three have the same take on the matter particularly why that has manifested in the manner it has around the world, and more important, why it has manifested in Bangladesh at all.
One cannot overlook the reality that extremism or terrorism germinates in a particular country for reasons germane to that country, although external factors have influence in motivating extremist actions. Thus any counter action to neutralise the violent extremists must stem from the security and strategic planners of the country facing the problem. In this case the strategy should originate from the rationale factoring in of all the related issues by our planners.
Military power is often reckoned as the only means of subduing and neutralising the extremists. If that had been so Operation Iraqi Freedom would have seen Iraq's freedom both from the extremist and US occupation. And Operation Enduring Freedom would have seen an enduring free life for the people of Afghanistan, who at the moment are neither free from the Talibans and Al Qaeda nor the American presence.
It would be nice to know how the two countries wish to help us. India has been at the receiving end of state sponsored terrorism thrust upon it by its western neighbour. But there are other shades of extremism it is facing. The extremists, both religious and political, have established links across the border but our recent experience is different from theirs. We should be under no illusion that Bangladesh has not come under the radar of the IS and a denial mode can only be at the risk of the country's security. As for the US, it must realise that the general opinion of the people at large in this country as well as across the globe is that the US is responsible for much of the flux in the world today. What we suffer is the fallout of those conflicts. The sooner the US resolves those problems, the sooner will reasons for some of the extremist groups to exist cease to be relevant.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.