BNP to try ‘mending fences’ with BJP

Salman Tareque Sakil
Published : 15:50, May 25, 2019 | Updated : 18:47, May 25, 2019

BJP-BNPThe BNP is mulling over 'mending fences' with India after Narendra Modi’s Bhartiya Janta Party (BJP) cinched a major win in the Indian election.
Leaders working with BNP’s foreign policy said that with Modi poised to take the prime minister’s office second time in a row, the party’s top leadership will find new ways to make relations amicable with the neighbours; a feat they’d been trying to achieve since before the Dec 30 national polls.
BNP officially congratulated Modi on his massive win on Friday (May 24) and acting chief Tarique Rahman’s letter is also supposed to reach within a couple of days.
BNP’s diplomatic ties started deteriorating with a few incidents since 2001 during the BNP-Jamaat-e-Islami regime.
During the 2014 election, the Modi-regime supported the ruling Awami League (AL) quite openly and relations with BNP remained strained.
BNP leaders say that the party hoped to remedy the situation well before the Dec 30 polls. In fact, a delegation comprising of the party’s National Standing Committee member Amir Khasru Mahmud Chowdhury, Vice President Abdul Awal Mintu and a few others visited India in June of last year where they met with several Indian think tanks.
“The Bangladeshi people want the relationship to be between Bangladesh and India,” Khasru, who also serves as BNP’s foreign wing chief told Bangla Tribune.
“The relationship will be based on mutual respect which will make regional ties stronger. India-Bangladesh ties are extremely important,” he added.
Reliable sources at the party said BNP had previously failed to mend relations with the neighbours but with Modi’s renewed premiership, they were now prepared to launch fresh attempts.
They said that BNP will officially write to BJP congratulating them on Saturday (May 25).
BNP leaders and foreign affairs experts said although BJP as “far-right” party won two consecutive elections, India’s foreign ministry’s viewpoint is unlikely to change.
Several leaders said that BNP will take a clear stand after the Indian prime minister’s first speech.
Enam Ahmed Chowdhury, who used to be BNP’s foreign affairs committee chief but switched to Awami League before the national polls said that India’s foreign policy remains consistent regardless of which government comes to power.
“Their policies don’t really change much even if the government changes. India’s foreign policy is controlled by the foreign office,” he told Bangla Tribune on Friday (May 24) evening.
He added that India will treat BNP as just another political party in neighbouring Bangladesh.
BNP Vice Chairman Shamsuzzaman Dudu said that they are waiting for BJP to take oath before taking a clear stand.
“Our goal is to observe how much the neighbours are working in favour of democracy,” he said.
He said that BNP is apprehensive about how much a “communal coalition” will be in favour of democracy.
Responding to queries on the matter, Enam Ahmed Chowdhury said that it was a matter of concern how “extreme nationalist parties were gaining power not only in India but in countries such as America and Australia.”
“This doesn’t bode well. I noticed for the first time India that questions were raised in regard to the election commission’s partiality and EVM.”
Talks of mending relationship with neighbouring India have surfaced quite a few times in the BNP leadership over the last few years.
This also came up during the party’s national council, announcement of vision 2030 and now imprisoned party chief Khaleda Zia’s speech.
Khaleda has said that as Bangladesh would never be used against its neighbours. The party, mainly started moving away from its anti-India stand at the end of 2012.
Amir Khasru had said that there has been a lot of incidents where there is a scope for playing the game but in the interest of both the countries, they have to let it go and move forward.
“We have to move forward for the people above all and maintain our individualism,” he said.
The BNP chief’s media wing member Shairul Kabir Khan said that during Khaleda’s India visit during 2012 she had expressed to then president and prime minister Pranav Mukherjee and Dr Manmohan Singh and other top leaders that Bangladeshi grounds will never be used against India.
She, however, didn’t meet with Mukherjee during his visit to Dhaka in 2013 due to the ongoing Jamaat strike.
Amir Khasru, during a media briefing on Friday (May 24) said that the best thing about India was that the people have been able to vote for their leaders.
“The Bangladeshi people couldn’t do it. The positive thing about India is that the people have been able to choose their representatives. They have been able to strengthen democracy by exercising their voting rights,” he said.
BNP’s Foreign Affairs Secretary Muhammad Nawshad Zamir echoed, saying that democracy is active in India and exchange of power is done peacefully.
“Bangladesh was always beside India even during the BNP regime. For a safe and peaceful Asia, we will obviously cooperate with our neighbours,” he said.
Zamir said that controversial issues such as border killing and Teesta water treaty could’ve been resolved through bilateral talks but “It was unfortunate that the current government had failed to do so.”
BNP’s foreign affairs committee will soon meet regarding the Indian election result and will observe if the neighbours change their viewpoint regarding future relations will Bangladesh.
The party’s allies including Oikya Front chief and Gano Forum convener Dr Kamal Hossain, Jamaat Amir Mokbul Ahmed have congratulated BJP on its landslide victory.