Nov. 7: For the first time in recent memory, a leading member of the Indian administration has lifted a finger of accusation at neighbouring Bangladesh as a shelter for terrorists.
Risking a possible diplomatic spat with Dhaka, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani was quoted by PTI as saying at Bhiwani in Haryana today: “After the change of government in Bangladesh, there has been an increase in the activities of al Qaida and ISI there.”
The statement could evoke an angry response from the Khaleda Zia regime in Dhaka, which recently had to fend off allegations made in an American news magazine that al Qaida activists had fled to Bangladesh by ship.
“Irrespective of foreign policy compulsions, one should not be supportive of terrorism anywhere in the world,” Advani said in a reference to Pakistan and its intelligence agency, the ISI.
He regretted that the international community had not recognised the ISI as a major source of terrorism and urged that it be treated the same way as the Taliban and al Qaida.
Advani’s description of the ISI as a terrorist outfit goes farther than the terminology thus far used by Delhi, but it is his attack on the Dhaka government that is being seen as more significant.
Asked whether Dhaka’s support for militants was covert or overt, he said: “Covert. All insurgent groups of the Northeast are getting refuge there.”
In the past, the government has accused the ISI of fomenting militancy in the Northeast and both Advani and chief minister Buddhadeb Bhattacharjee have expressed concern over its growing activities in Bengal. Many of these states share a border with Bangladesh.
At a meeting of the Bangladesh Rifles and India’s BSF last week, Delhi had raised the issue of insurgent camps operating from Bangladesh in the Northeast.
The BDR chief refuted the charge and the Indian side is now expected to give to Bangladesh a list of the camps and their locations.
Advani’s harsh words could well signal a change of thinking in Delhi, which has always treated Dhaka with a soft hand.