Cover interview: Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury
Political polarisation: The deep polarisation of politics that exists in Bangladesh is the result of actions by the Awami League. Take the trial of war criminals: if anybody should have a view on that it should be me, a decorated freedom fighter. Those who have committed excesses must be brought to justice, but the Awami League is politicising the matter. The current campaign is clearly meant to target our political party and its leaders. International experts have expressed the opinion that the present legislation related to the trials does not meet international standards, and will lead to a miscarriage of justice.
India and the BNP: It’s up to India how it defines its role in the world, but first it needs to develop friendships in the Southasian neighbourhood. And for India to achieve what it wants in Bangladesh, it must address both the BNP and the Awami League. When Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee came here in the summer of 2010, he met the Awami League and ignored the BNP leaders. India must meet all sides of the political divide, and dialogue with respect. It must address the central problems, which are boundary issues and sharing of the common rivers. New Delhi must abandon the barbed-wire fencing it is putting up. Why is there so much firing on the border, and the killing of innocent Bangladeshis?
The communiqué: As for the communiqué, I will accept it when it is made public. In a democratic country, a citizen has the right to know what the government has committed to with the neighbour. No documentation has been made public, either by the Foreign Ministry or the Prime Minister’s Office.
Water: There is empirical evidence of the harm that has been done to the people of Bangladesh by the Farakka Barrage. The chars [sandbanks] have grown, and navigability is down. Farakka has hurt the national psyche deeply, and now we are worried about the Tipaimukh project.
Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury is an injured veteran of Bangladesh’s Liberation War, who served as foreign secretary during 2001-05 and retired as ambassador to the United States in 2007. He is presently vice-chairman of the BNP and head of its international department.