THE comments made recently by two key figures of the Awami League-led ruling alliance — Workers’ Party of Bangladesh president Rashed Khan Menon and Jatiya Party chairman HM Ershad — about the actions and attitudes of the advisers to the prime minister vis-à-vis Bangladesh’s dealings with India, uncannily identical as they are, bring into focus, yet again, the question of these advisers’ accountability in particular and the government’s India policy in general. On Sunday, according to a report published in New Age on Monday, when addressing the House, Menon said the ‘way the advisers talk’ seemed to suggest that ‘they are no advisers to the [Bangladesh] prime minister; rather, they are advisers to the Indian prime minister, Manmohan Singh. The very next day, according to a report published in New Age on Tuesday, when addressing a street rally as part of his party’s long march from Dhaka to Feni, Ershad, a key ally of the AL-led government, said that ‘these advisers are not for Bangladesh, they are people of India’ and that ‘they do not talk for Bangladesh, they talk for India’, adding that ‘there is no need to have such advisers.’ The statements of Menon and Ershad seem to encapsulate increasing public displeasure with the advisers on the one hand and the government’s dealings with India on the other.
Notably, on more occasions than one in the past three years or so, the international affairs adviser, Gowher Rizvi, and the economic adviser, Mashiur Rahman, have made statements on issues related to the Bangladesh-India relations that have not gone down well with the people at large, especially the politically conscious sections of society. For example, at the height of the controversy over transit to India, Mashiur said in March 2011 imposing charges for shipment of Indian goods through Bangladesh would be ‘uncivilised’.
Similarly, in the midst of intense public anger over India’s decision to go ahead with the construction of the Tipaimukh Dam on the trans-boundary river Barak, which, according to experts and environmentalists in both Bangladesh and India, would wreak havoc on the life and livelihood of the people on either side of the border, Rizvi commented that Bangladesh could benefit from the hydroelectric project. Such conclusions have naturally raised questions as to where the allegiance of these advisers lies.
Most importantly, such identical conclusions from ideologically and politically disparate sources within the ruling alliance should be an eye-opener for the incumbents as to how the people in general view its India policy and how unhappy they have become. Hence, besides reining in the advisers, the incumbents need to seriously rethink its policy towards India.