In a special gesture, reflective of a shared hostility towards Pakistan, during his recent visit to Bangladesh, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, received from his host Sheikh Hasina’s government “Bangladesh Liberation War Honour” on behalf of former BJP prime minister Atal Behari Vajpayee for his “active role” in BD’s ‘independence’ struggle. Explaining the ‘active role’ Modi recalled how he himself had gone to Delhi in 1971 to participate as a volunteer in the Bharatiya Jana Sangh (the far right BJP’s predecessor party) ‘Satyagraha’ movement to garner support for the Mukti Bahini. Proudly claiming credit for the break-up of Pakistan, he said, establishment of Bangladesh was a desire of every Indian; and further that Indian soldiers fought side by side with the Mukti Bahini to help realise the dream of Bangladesh.
Notably, Sheikh Hasina first served as the Bangladesh PM from June 1996 to July 2001; and has been in office again since January 9. It is rather odd that she should have waited for nearly two decades to honour Vajpayee, who is now 90, for something he did more than four decades ago. Her problem though is domestic politics. She still needs to use old issues to deal with the opposition. She has been pursuing legal cases against prominent Jamaat-i-Islami leaders for their alleged crimes during the ’71 conflict in support of the then legitimate government, and recently sent them to the gallows. Sheikh Hasina has also been resorting to strong arm tactics against her arch rival, Khalida Zia, Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief and two-time former prime minister friendly with Pakistan. The Indian Prime Minister, of course, has his own problems with this country. It is interesting how boastfully he recalled the role his country, and he personally, had played in the break-up of Pakistan, setting a precedent India surely would not like Pakistan to follow in any of the more than a dozen insurgencies raging in different parts of that country.
More important, of course, is the case of Kashmir which is a UN-recognised dispute that needs to be resolved according to the wishes of the Kashmiri people. Since the 1989 uprising in the Valley tens of thousands of Kashmiris have been killed by the Indian security forces. International human rights organisations’ reports speak of worst human rights violations, including use of rape as a weapon of war and custodial killings. Pakistan, a party to the conflict as per the unfinished agenda of Partition, is duty-bound to extend moral and diplomatic support to the Kashmiri people in their struggle for independence. It goes without saying that there is no similarity between the case of former East Pakistan and Kashmir (the former was an internal strife while the latter is an international dispute). Still, going by Modi’s gleeful acceptance of “Bangladesh Independence Award” and brags about Indian soldiers fighting side by side with the Mukti Bahini, against Pakistani forces, Pakistan would be perfectly within its rights if it arms, trains and sends fighters into Kashmir to help them break free from Indian rule. It would be useful, nonetheless, if PM Modi explains as to why it should be so wrong for Pakistan to follow his country’s example. After all, responsible nations are expected to follow principles, and good precedents.
The text appeared in the Editorial of Business Recorder today.