NEW DELHI: Is the Modi government helping Bangladesh’s Sheikh Hasina to muzzle her opponents? For those who don’t follow Bangladesh politics, the present Bangladesh government, in the face of very stiff and violent opposition, is cracking down on Islamic hardliners, struggling to keep her country ‘secular’.
The narrative is that Begum Khaleda Zia of the BNP depends heavily on these hardliners who form her support base. The Begum is facing trial for a number of issues in Bangladesh.
Bangladesh’s internal rivalry between ruling Awami League and opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) played out in India (July 11), when New Delhi apparently on a request from Dhaka deported British lawyer Alexander Carlile, who is Khaleda Zia’s legal adviser.
According to an invitation issued to the media, Lord Carlile was scheduled to address a press conference on Thursday afternoon in a five star hotel regarding the developments in Bangladesh.
According to media sources, Carlile was issued a Business Visa by India’s London High Commission. The development set alarm bells ringing with the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary, Shahidul Haque summoning India’s acting High Commissioner, Dr Adarsh Swaika and requested that the visa be cancelled.
India acted swiftly and cancelled his visa. “Lord Alexander Carlile, a British national, arrived in New Delhi on July 11, without having obtained the appropriate Indian visa. His intended activity in India was incompatible with the purpose of his visit as mentioned in his visa application. It was therefore decided to deny him entry into India upon arrival,” An official spokesman of the MEA said in a statement late last night.
Meanwhile, official spokesman Raveesh Kumar on Thursday clarified that there was two- three elements to the entire episode. “He did not have a valid visa and it was not compatible with he intended to do in India,” he said.
Lord Carlile applied for a Business Visa and what kind of business is this,” asked the spokesman.
There was discrepancy in his visa application and motivation of his visit was clear from the very beginning. He came with a return boarding pass, the spokesman said.
“Motivation is a bit suspect. He was trying to create some kind of problem between India and Bangladesh and some misunderstanding between India and the opposition party in Bangladesh,” said Kumar.
“We do meet opposition leaders in Bangladesh and when Indian leaders visit the country. We do engage with all sections of Bangladeshi spectrum,” he said.
“You want to do something which you could have done from London itself. The intent is doubtful. You must respect the law of the land,” said the official spokesman.
Meanwhile, rejecting the MEA’s assertions, the House of Lords member said he had a valid business e visa granted several days ago by the India government. “I told them in the visa application that I was coming for meetings as a lawyer and as the UK’s chairman of the Commonwealth right’s initiative. They knew perfectly well why I was coming,” he told newsmen via video conference.
He said he was coming to Delhi for two reasons – to attend a press briefing as a leading lawyer in the team representing Zia and to meet colleagues in a Commonwealth body that deals with human rights. “When I embarked for India at Heathrow airport yesterday, my visa was checked through the automatic system on two occasions.
When I arrived in Delhi later and switched my phone on, I was informed that my visa had been revoked,” Carlile said. “The authorities at Delhi airport were very polite and helped me to return to the UK by another flight. However, the Indian authorities have given me no true reason for revoking my visa,” he said.
He also alleged that the Bangladesh government had not allowed him to visit the country as he was Zia’s lawyer. Carlile claimed there was “no admissible evidence” against the former prime minister on any of the charges brought against her.
There are several cases pending against Zia, including that of bribery and corruption. Her party, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, claims that the cases are politically motivated to keep its party chief out of the national elections scheduled for December.
The Bangladesh press put it like this:
It was reported earlier that he is unlikely to get entry into India as the country ‘does not want to see any harm’ in its ongoing friendly relations with Bangladesh.
Indian High Commission in Dhaka made a strong recommendation to New Delhi seeking non-entry of Lord Carlile who reportedly also sided with war criminals in the past, a diplomatic source in New Delhi said.
He was supposed to visit New Delhi and deliver speech through a press conference at Foreign Correspondents Club on July 13 which was cancelled.
Diplomatic sources said Carlile wants to criticise Bangladesh’s court verdicts and might make statement against the Bangladesh government using India’s land.