Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s claim of a conspiracy to carve a Christian state out of Bangladesh and Myanmar creates flutter in global politics

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By Our Correspondent

NEW DELHI – Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent claim that a conspiracy is being hatched to carve out a Christian state like East Timor in South Asia, taking parts from Bangladesh and Myanmar, has created a flutter in the international politics. Sheikh Hasina’s affirmation that a “White man” had met her with an offer as part of this plot gives an indication of the involvement of Western nations in the scheme of things.

The Bangladesh PM has also claimed that she was offered a hassle-free re-election in the January 7 polls if she allowed a foreign country to build an airbase in her country’s territory. Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Awami League president, made these revelations while delivering her introductory speech at the 14-party grand alliance meeting at Gono Bhaban, her official residence, in Dhaka last week, on May 23.

It was the alliance’s first meeting with the Awami League president after the national elections. The Prime Minister said she faces challenges both at home and abroad and the conspiracy is afoot. “Like East Timor, they will carve out a Christian country taking parts of Bangladesh [Chattogram] and Myanmar with a base in the Bay of Bengal,” she said.

Sheikh Hasina pointed out that the business activities have been going through the Bay of Bengal and the Indian Ocean since ancient times. “Many have their eyes on this place. There is no controversy here, no conflict. I won’t let that happen. This is also one of my crimes in their eyes,” she said. About the proposal for airbase, the Prime Minister said: “The offer came from a White man.”

“It may appear that it is aimed at only one country, but it is not. I know where else they intend to go,” Sheikh Hasina said and added that this is why the Awami League government is always in trouble. “There will be more trouble. But don’t worry about it,” she said, while alleging the Bangladesh Nationalist Party led by Khaleda Zia had conspired to prevent the elections.

Sheikh Hasina also mentioned that she had made the same reply as she did in 2001 when the U.S. offered to sell the country’s gas to India. Bangladesh is the 16th biggest producer of natural gas in the world. She also said that if inflation could be reduced now, people would be relieved, as the production was sufficient and there was no shortage of essential commodities.

The Bangladesh PM said the foreign exchange reserves of several countries were decreasing, including Bangladesh. “There is no need to worry about the reserves if there is food stock in times of emergency,” she said.

After delivering her introductory speech, Sheikh Hasina held a closed-door meeting with the partners of the alliance where she said conspiracies were being hatched to topple the government and she might have to face the same consequence her father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman faced. However, conspiracies did not bother her and she would never bow down to pressure, she affirmed.

Sheikha Hasina also said at the meeting that Bangladesh will not purchase anything from countries which impose sanctions on it. When the leaders of the Awami League’s partner parties asked whether the alliance was relevant, she replied in the affirmative.

A section of Awami League leaders questioned whether the partner parties were popular, even though the 14-party alliance was formed amid political necessity, not on the consideration that the parties would attract more votes. Some other leaders of the alliance said while Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had dreamt of economic freedom for the people, Bangladesh was still not free from corruption and fundamentalism.

Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was assassinated on August 15, 1975 along with most of his family members except for his two daughters, including Sheikh Hasina who was staying abroad at that time.

There was a rumour in Dhaka stating that the United States of America was demanding St. Martin Island in exchange for the favour of the ruling Awami League government. Later, during a press conference, Matthew Miller, spokesperson for the U.S. Department of State, asserted that the U.S. had never engaged in any discussions regarding taking control of St Martin’s Island or had any intention to do so.

Christian missionaries as well as Western non-government organisations have been working in the border areas in Bangladesh, India and Myanmar, such as Teknaf, Khagrachhari, Rangamati, Mizoram, Meghalaya, Arakan Province, etc., amid allegations that they want to convert the Muslims, Buddhists and ethnic minorities into Christianity and were preparing grounds for creation of a Christian state.

However, the Christian organisations of Bangladesh have expressed surprise and shock after Sheikh Hasina’s politically significant claim, which is set to reverberate in the international diplomatic circles for quite some time. “We, the Christians of Bangladesh, and their leaders – the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of Bangladesh (CBCB) and the United Forum of Churches (UFCB) – are surprised and worried,” said a joint statement of Christian groups.

“In today’s globalised and secularised world, the idea of a Christian state is absurd,” said the statement signed by Archbishop Bejoy N. D’Cruze of Dhaka, the president of CBCB and UFCB. D’ Cruze said Christians always support efforts to safeguard the sovereignty of Bangladesh and pointed out that Christians fought for the independence of the country from Pakistan in 1971 and made vital contributions to nation-building.

Evidently, Sheikh Hasina’s controversial remarks and claim will make an impact on the domestic politics and relations between different communities within Bangladesh as well. The political and security analysts, who have been caught off guard, are keeping a close watch on further developments, including Dhaka’s diplomatic interactions with Washington and London and the continuing insurgency in Bandarban, situated in Chittagong Hill Tracts of south-eastern Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina’s remarks might have also been meant to target the U.S. government, which had put a huge pressure on the ruling Awami League to hold free and fair elections earlier this year. The Awami League won the elections by a landslide, defying diplomatic pressure from the U.S. and Western governments, including a restrictive visa policy for undermining the election process.

The U.S. government has also sanctioned several top officials of the anti-terror agency Rapid Action Battalion (RAB) for violation of human rights. Besides, the U.S. State Department imposed visa sanctions on former Army chief General (retired) Aziz Ahmed and his family members for their alleged involvement in corruption cases. All of these factors point to Sheikh Hasina’s displeasure with the policies of the U.S. directed at her country.

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