Indian Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh told senior journalists in Dhaka on Wednesday that “the world’s eye is on Bangladesh … we keep discussing with our strategic partners” (the developing scenario in the country). It is a perfectly meaningful statement couched in apt diplomatic phraseology.
In a latest tailspin though, Bangladesh is bleeping red alert on the international radar screen. The opposition BNP has announced another 72-hour blockade adding to the 203-hour long siege programme already suffered countrywide with hemorrhage on a scale never seen before in independent Bangladesh. We grit our teeth in rage over the fact that punishing programmes are holding the people hostage without any respite or relief in the horizon. They are left with no wits about them and are at their stamina’s end.
In a derisive spurning of a chorus of dissuading voices at home and abroad, the opposition continues with its linear violence-prone programmes. On the other hand, the ruling party unilaterally pushes ahead with its election timetable. But Ershad has put a spanner in its works and the so-called negotiations behind the curtain are apparently drawing a blank, too. Meanwhile, as long as the arrested BNP leaders are not released, an atmosphere conducive to a dialogue is to be ruled out in the fast shrinking time at our disposal.
Actually, both the parties are locked in a vicious mind game. They can only come out of it if the BNP abjures violence and the interim government eschews use of force. The ruling party cannot afford to plough a lonely furrow if it hopes to take the people along with them.
We have allowed ourselves to be so insensitive about ourselves that lately the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pallay has virtually reprimanded Bangladesh leadership saying: “In other situations, we have seen cases of political or election related violence where the perpetrators of such acts — including political leadership — have faced prosecution (under the Rome accord).” Although the statement is indirect, the human rights violation implication cannot be trifled with even introspectively.
The UN system as a whole under the leadership of Ban-ki Moon has spurred on some dynamism to disentangle the locked horns of the BNP and the AL. His special envoy Oscar Fernandez Taranco having made two visits to Dhaka on a persuasion mission earlier on is likely paying his third one as of now in an apparently last ditch attempt at bringing the parties together on to a convergence point. The development partners of Bangladesh are supportive of the UN mission.
At any rate, what is making rounds in the speculative realm is a reference to UN supervised elections in Nepal, Afghanistan, Iraq, Sudan and Timor. Taranco has in his team a representative from the Electoral Assistance Group (EAD), a specialised wing of the UNO, whatever meaning it may hold to the present context of Bangladesh! But the thought of a UN supervised election should be an unqualified embarrassment to the whole spectrum of political leadership in Bangladesh.
The international diplomacy is up and about in addressing the volatility of Bangladesh’s political situation. It is driven by a set of clear-cut transparent concerns and goals to facilitate a satisfactory outcome for the battle-weary nation. The first thing to realise is the wonder factor, which is to say that world powers are baffled as to why a problem so eminently solvable is being so stubbornly unresolved in Bangladesh. Compared with the intractable issues in various flashpoints in the world it is a puny issue.
There are weighty reasons for our development partners and bilateral friends why they are evincing a keen interest in Bangladesh’s future. They genuinely want a stable and prosperous Bangladesh having a secure future. They have a concern over ideological extremism preying on the vulnerable segments of a Muslim majority country. Then there are Bangladeshi Diasporas to care for as a complement to their economies. They have stakes in trade, investment, connectivity and geopolitics insofar as Bangladesh is a bridgehead between South and East Asia. It has a huge potential in maritime resources. With an untapped and untrained youth force Bangladesh is a demographic asset not just for itself but for its partners in the region and worldwide.
Bangladesh is a global player in textiles and has a reasonable share in the world market which can grow exponentially with some long stretches of political or systemic stabilities in place.
There is a constitutional avenue in a live parliament and an experienced political leadership which can draw on a track record of resolving political contentions at various turning points of our national history. If this is any new exigency we are facing then also it cannot be beyond the genius and capacity of Bangladesh to solve it creatively in the best national interest.
The writer is Associate Editor, The Daily Star.