Event ReportsPublished on Sep 17, 2018
India, Bangladesh should develop coordinated voice on issues of global importance

Sufism is the only antidote to counter the rising influence of radicalism in Islam, observed a senior leader from Bangladesh during an interaction with the visiting delegation of  Zaker Party, Bangladesh at Observer Research Foundation on 5 September 2018.

The delegation of the Zaker Party, a Sufi political party, was led by the party’s chairman Peerjada Alhaj Khwaja Mostafa Amir Faisal Mujaddedi. In the meeting, a wide variety of issues were discussed, including the state of politics in Bangladesh, threats from the rising radicalisation and terrorism, the common cultural heritage of south, challenges in the global order and the India and Bangladesh relations.  To set the mode of the discussion,   Peerjada Alhaj Khwaja Mostafa Amir Faisal Mujaddedi and the party’s vice chairman Siam Amir Faisal made initial remarks which were followed by free and frank interaction amongst the participants. The meeting was chaired by Prof. Harsh Pant, Head of ORF’s strategic studies.

The meeting discussed in detail the state of India-Bangladesh relations. Participants agreed that the bilateral relationship was on a positive trajectory. Expressing optimism about the potential of the relationship, participants stressed on the need for maintaining the momentum in the relationship.

Analysing the challenges to the bilateral relationship, the participants emphasised the importance of negotiations and dialogue in all for a -- both at the government levels and amongst the civil societies of the two countries.

Referring to the ongoing trade war and the arms race in the global scenario and its implications for South Asia, a participant emphasised on the need for unity among the South Asian countries in dealing with these challenges. The participant opined that India and Bangladesh could be a role model and they should develop a coordinated voice on issues of global importance.

Pointing to the growing influence of radicalism, terrorism and extremism in South Asia, especially in Bangladesh, participants urged the countries of the region to be alert to the challenges. Assessing the factors leading to the rise of radicalism, a participant opined that misinterpretation of religion was a major cause for the spread of this menace.

The participant noted that for centuries people in South Asia lived in peace and harmony. The religion that the radicals are preaching is against the beliefs of the people of South Asia. The radicals are influenced by some external factors having vested interests. Emphasising the importance of cooperation among the South Asian countries, the speaker cautioned that failure to arrest the growth of radicalism might hinder the future prosperity of the region.

Urging unity among the South Asian countries against radicalism and terrorism, the participant, however, expressed remorse that some of the counties in the region, like Pakistan, failed to realise the impending threat.  The participant said that friendship among all countries is a way forward.

Expressing concern about the rising terrorism and radicalism in Bangladesh, another participant informed that the radicals attacked all signs of liberalism in Bangladesh, including Sufi shrines, sculptures and bloggers. The participant also informed that the government of Bangladesh has taken strict measures in countering terrorists and radicals. The participant, however, observed that the steps were not sufficient since the government mostly relied on military action. A participant suggested that there is a need for imparting true teachings of the religion to tackle the surge in radical values.  The participant prescribed Sufism, which talks about liberal values, as a wayforward.

The participant was anguished over some of the liberal political parties forging alliances with some religious parties like Jamaat-e-Islami, which supports the radicals. To the participant, such an alliance strengthens the hands of the radicals.  Further, the participant opined that the people of Bangladesh do not like the radicals and Jamaat-e-Islami’s low percentage of the vote in the elections is a major indicator of the people’s dislike.  The participant informed that the Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s (BNP) credibility has been hampered because of its alliance with Jamaat-e-Islami.

Discussing the state of politics in Bangladesh and the upcoming parliamentary elections, participants expressed the need for an inclusive election. A participant observed that the BNP, the main opposition party, must participate in the coming elections.  The participant added the BNP’s boycott of the parliamentary elections in 2014 was a blunder.

The participant appreciated the ruling Awami League for the development in Bangladesh.  The participant stressed the need for strengthening democratic institutions in the country.  The occurrence of military coup during the founding years of the country was put forward by the participant as a major reason for the weak institutions in Bangladesh.  The participant argued that the BNP must participate in the upcoming election to strengthen institutions in Bangladesh. Again, the participant expressed fear that  the BNP’s absence from the parliamentary politics for a long time might lead to a vacuum and this might provide an opportunity for the radicals to fill in the gap. The participant urged all believers of liberal ideologies and values to be united to counter the radicals.

Apart from the delegation members of the Zaker party, the discussion was attended by the faculty of ORF, senior journalists, security analysts and academics.

This report was prepared by Dr. Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, Senior Fellow, Observer Research Foundation

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