Is this acceptable for an independent country? Does the truth that the foreign minister has laid bare bring dignity for a country that achieved independence through sacrifice and suffering of innumerable lives? What is the nature of Bangladesh-India relations during the tenure of th incumbent government?
Requesting India to help the incumbent government to stay in power, the foreign minister, in his speech, reminded India about a few things. He said there is no need to spend extra (money) at the border in India. Apart from this, 2.8 million people from Bangladesh visit India every year. Several hundred thousand Indians work in Bangladesh. He and the government remain silent even if there is anti-Bangladesh propaganda (in India). Is it comfortable for Bangladesh if this is the deal to stay in power?
There are some other questions. Why does the government keep mum if there is anti-Bangladesh propaganda as the foreign minister said?
There are some other questions. Why does the government keep mum if there is anti-Bangladesh propaganda as the foreign minister said? What kind of complacency of a Bangladesh minister is this – that India doesn’t need to spend extra (money) at a border where the people of Bangladesh are being shot dead, where there is electrified barbed wire fencing? What message is he actually giving us? India will keep Awami League in power and in exchange Awami League will protect the interests of India? Is that it?
India supported Bangladesh unequivocally during the liberation war. But there was no condition of India’s mastery or guardianship over Bangladesh and providing monopoly benefits to the country for this. the government of Bangabandhu clarified this by making India withdraw its army, demanding equity-based share of water of common rivers and taking part in the OIC (Organisation of Islamic Countries) conference in Pakistan in 1974. The constitution that was passed under his leadership spoke about people’s votes to come and stay in power. He won the parliament elections in 1973 by the vote of the people, not through the support of India. He never sought help of other country this way. He even said at a discussion at the Bangladesh Gana Parishad that he would welcome the opposition with joy if he loses the election.
That’s why the foreign minister’s speech is anti-constitutional and goes against the spirit of the liberation war. He could have sought technical or technological help from India for election management. But he in no way can seek India’s intervention to stay in power. The speech of foreign minister Momen is also extremely disgraceful for the people of Bangladesh. This is an extreme level of disregard and not recognising the voting rights of the people of Bangladesh.
There are provisions on joint accountability of the ministers in our constitution. It is our bad luck that there is no longer the true people’s representative parliament in the country that could demand the accountability
The speech of the foreign minister is a matter of concern. But more concerning is whether this is his speech or personal views. Netizens reactions to the report shows many people believe in his speech the foreign minister reflected the incumbent government’s policies and views to stay in power.
Following the speech of Mr. Abdul Momen, Obaidul Quader said this was his personal view. Mr. Quader issued such defensive statements before too whenever any cabinet member said something unwarranted. But we could not understand how the request of the foreign minister to the government of India, where he went on a state visit, become personal? It is not the individual Momen made the requests there; rather the foreign minister said this – can we believe that Mr. Quader does not have the acumen to realise this?
Besides, such speeches are not new or sudden for the foreign minister. Earlier, he said something unimaginable - that Bangladesh-India relations are like that of husband and wife. The constitution of Bangladesh does not approve any such relations. It talks about friendship based on mutual respect. Earlier, while visiting the US, he requested the expatriate Indians there to play a role to withdraw sanctions the US imposed against Rapid Action Battalion (RAB). There is no scope of playing any role for the citizens of other countries in bilateral issues like that of Bangladesh and the US. Before saying something like that as the foreign minister of Bangladesh at a gathering of Indian expatriates he should have remembered that Bangladesh is a sovereign country.
There is no way that the foreign minister’s speeches are his own. The responsibility of the foreign minister’s opinions are of the whole cabinet, that is, the incumbent government. There are provisions on joint accountability of the ministers in our constitution. It is our bad luck that there is no longer the true people’s representative parliament in the country that could demand the accountability.
Even then the foreign minister and all of those who are in the government must remember that the ownership of the country is not of any government or the Jatiya Sangsad. The people are the owners of the country. Without paying respect to the voting and fundamental rights of the people of this land, seeking help from another country to stay in power and asking it to do “whatever is required” to stay in power is nothing but insolence.
The people of Bangladesh did not fight for its independence to give opportunity to any minister of any government to show this audacity and insolence. Our original constitution that was composed under the leadership of Bangabandhu did not allow anyone this.
* Asif Nazrul is a professor of law department at Dhaka University and a former bureau member of South Asians for Human Rights
** The analysis, originally published in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Shameem Reza