- Dec 31, 2010
Sheikh Hasina’s China policy harmful for India and Bangladesh: Opposition leader Nitai Roy Chowdhury
Bangladesh opposition leader underlines that China's financing of various projects in the name of loans or grants is neither good for Sheikh Hasina’s government nor India.
Sahidul Hasan Khokon
Dhaka,UPDATED: Feb 1, 2023 20:27 IST
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Nitai Roy Chowdhury, Vice Chairman of Bangladesh Nationalist Party
By Sahidul Hasan Khokon: Advocate Nitai Roy Chowdhury, Vice Chairman of Bangladesh’s largest political party, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), underlined that China's financing of various projects in the name of loans or grants was neither good for the Sheikh Hasina government nor India. He stated that through this financing, China wanted to expand its political dominance in Bangladesh and the region. “Chinese debt in mega projects is becoming a bigger burden for the people of the country day by day. China will take over Bangladesh like Sri Lanka if there is any kind of misunderstanding,” he warned.
Chowdhury expressed these concerns in an exclusive interview to India Today. He spoke about Bangladesh's contemporary politics, economy, upcoming parliamentary elections and persecution of minority communities.
Chowdhury admitted that after the BNP-led coalition came to power in 2001, there were isolated incidents of attacks on minority Hindus in Bangladesh. However, he believed that the communal attacks in Bangladesh were mainly due to economic reasons. He alleged that Sheikh Hasina's party, Awami League, was involved in all the incidents of communal violence in Bangladesh.
Excerpts from the interview:
On Chinese debt to Bangladesh and Hasina govt policyBNP's top leader Chowdhury said that taking Chinese loans was an anachronistic thinking of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. Sheikh Hasina said that Bangladesh's relationship with China was economic. With India, it was political. But Chowdhury felt there was no reason to think that China was helping Bangladesh unconditionally. According to him, economic aid or trade is not guaranteed without political hegemony. “Countries that help economically underdeveloped or developing countries aim to gain political hegemony. China is lending to Bangladesh to expand its market.
Hasina government accepts it and says it is developing. But the basis of this development is foreign debt. The burden of this debt is weighing heavy on the shoulders of the people. There is no benefit to the people in this development.”
Advocate Nitai Roy Chowdhury said that BNP never considered India an enemy.
Chowdhury added that different countries of the world were developing with their own financing. But Bangladesh was taking the burden of debt in the name of various mega projects, which it couldn't afford at the moment, he said. “If there is any misunderstanding, our situation will be like Sri Lanka. As China has taken over Sri Lankan ports, the same will happen here,” he warned.
Chowdhury said that they will bleed Bangladesh if the country was unable to repay the debt.
On minority issues“By doing a case study, you will see that Sheikh Hasina's party Awami League is involved in all the communal violence that has happened in the country. Awami League is the biggest enemy of Hindus,” Chowdhury claimed. “When the state was divided on the basis of two-nation theory, Hindus were one nation, Muslims were one nation. Hindus have separate homes, Muslims have separate homes. So, Hindus thought that our homeland is India, Muslims' homeland is here. Then the Hindu zamindars left for India overnight. Most of them left except a few families. Then came the liberation war. During the war of liberation, the Razakars started looting Hindus. Then they became refugees and took refuge in India. When they left for India, they came back and saw that the Awami League leaders had seized all their land deposits. Large tea plantations, mills, land deposits.”
He added BNP was not created then. “Awami League leaders have occupied the houses of Hindus. BNP leaders did not occupy the houses of Hindus. Even against Jamaat-e-Islami, there was no complaint of encroaching on Hindu houses.”
On BNP's India standChowdhury said that BNP never considered India an enemy. “Bangladesh is at the belly of India. That is why India wants the well-being of Bangladesh in its interest. BNP understands this.” He said he believed in good relations with the government and people of India. "BNP realizes that the relationship should go deeper," he pointed out.
He added that Bangladesh needed India's cooperation for development and prosperity. “Ziaur Rahman's declared policy is friendship with all, enmity with none. We don't want enmity with anyone, we want friendship. India has some national interests here, Bangladesh also has some national interests. BNP is a responsible political party. The responsibility of the party is to protect the national interest, to protect the national economy.”
On next election in BangladeshThe most discussed issue in Bangladesh currently is the next parliamentary election. Chowdhury said, “We want a free, fair, participatory election. Now, the BNP is a big political party in Bangladesh. The BNP was in power five times. Now the vast majority of people in this country support this party.”
“No major political party participated in the 2014 election and MPs were elected unopposed in 154 seats. People didn’t vote in 154 constituencies. Our Constitution states that Members of Parliament will be elected by direct vote of the people. Now, if the people do not vote, then the state loses its sovereign power. Article 1 of our Constitution states that the Unitary Independence Sovereign Republic of Bangladesh shall be known as the People's Republic of Bangladesh. The People's Republic is the people's republic. Where is the sovereignty of this country?”
“Article 7 states that all the powers of the state are vested in the people. The people exercise sovereign power by voting alone. So a government cannot be called a government of the People's Republic of Bangladesh where people are unable to exercise their franchise. Half of the votes were cast the night before the election in 2018. The next day, they rigged the rest and occupied all the seats. A big political party like the BNP got only 5 seats. It's not believable. However, we now want elections where people can vote, elections that are truly competitive and transparent. This is not only the BNP's demand but that of all opposition parties. Everyone is saying that elections should be held under a neutral government,” he pointed out.
On convicted Khaleda-Tareq and the future of BNP leadershipRecently, the BNP floated a proposal regarding the election structure, political structure and constitutional reform of the country. It has been said that the BNP would not bring any corrupt or convicted person to political office or government. Khaleda Zia and Tariq Rahman, who are now chairperson and acting chairman of the BNP, respectively, were both convicted by court. When asked if the BNP would take a decision in their case, Chowdhury said the BNP was a corruption-free political party. He added that the founder of the party, martyred President Ziaur Rahman, was completely honest. “Khaleda Zia and Tareq Rahman have been framed to exact political revenge. The people of Bangladesh don’t believe it.” He added that the BNP would not compromise with corruption and no convicted or corrupt person would be in the BNP leadership.
“The BNP has no leadership crisis. There will never be a crisis. The BNP is a democratic political party and believes in participatory elections. If the BNP gets a majority in the election, Tarek Rahman will decide how the leader will be elected,” Chowdhury said.
Jamaat-BNP equationAlthough not in an alliance, Jamaat is with the BNP on various issues; they agree with the demands of the BNP. What is Jamaat's relation with BNP now? How was Jamaat Awami League related?
Chowdhury said that Bangladesh became independent on the basis of four principles of a secular state: socialism, democracy, secularism and Bangladeshi nationalism. “The state of Bangladesh was run on the basis of these four fundamental principles. Islamic conference was held in Waisi, Pakistan after Independence. Sheikh went there as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh. After he came back, Jamaat gave amnesty to all those who collaborated with Pakistanis. In recent years, when the BNP was in power, the Awami League, Jamaat and the Jatiya Party moved together. Also when the Awami League was in power, the BNP, Jamaat and the Jatiya Party were together.”
“A list of freedom fighters has been compiled many times. It is difficult to say how many on the list are genuine freedom fighters. But there was no list of Razakar. There are many Razakars who have become freedom fighters. For example, we have a friend who was once the leader of the Awami League and the leader of the Chhatra League. He is now the leader of the BNP, Fazlur Rahman. He said in a meeting that there are five freedom fighters in this Cabinet who are not genuine freedom fighters. And many of them came from the Razakar family and the Jamaat family. So this is how mixed it has been, and it is more so in the Awami League. There is no question of ideology match with Jamaat,” he said.
On anti-India politicsOn several anti-Indian political parties in Bangladesh, Chowdhury said that they would always exist in Bangladesh. “India has no reason to worry. Ever since the Second World War, a large part of the world has spoken against the US. It did not hinder the development of America. All developed countries, including the US, have spoken a lot against China. It did not hinder China's development, he explained.
“It doesn't matter if some parties speak against India. India also understands this. Indian politicians are very refined. Their intellectuals are very mature. They don't care so much about what a group says or doesn't say. What matters is who India wants to have relations with. With the people of Bangladesh or with a party? India should associate with the party that enjoys the support of more people. India should maintain people-to-people relations. Doing things that benefit the people of India and the people of Bangladesh,” he added.
Sheikh Hasina’s China policy harmful for India and Bangladesh: Opposition leader Nitai Roy Chowdhury
He underlines that China's financing in the name of loans or grants to various projects in Bangladesh is not good for India or Sheikh Hasina’s government.