The good news from Dhaka is that the Bangladesh army has foiled an attempted putsch by a band of retired and serving officers with fanatical religious views. The bad news is that such a coup was in the works at all. That the coup is against a government that has been bold in its confrontation with sources of religious extremism,and gone the extra mile to build a solid partnership with India,should indeed have been expected in Delhi. The latest turn of events in Dhaka should remind India of its enormous stakes in the stability of a democratic Bangladesh. They also serve as a timely warning to the Congress in Delhi and the Trinamool in Kolkata against letting petty domestic politics destroy the opportunity to build good neighbourly relations with Bangladesh.
For months,whispers about conspiracies to topple the Awami League government have been making the rounds in Dhaka. The deep divisions within the Bangla political class,a history of army coups,and the significant strength of extremist organisations have meant that Dhakas democratic structures are fragile. These structural weaknesses have been compounded by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasinas courageous moves to restore to the republic the progressive values and secular traditions that inspired the liberation of Bangladesh in 1971 and rebuild strong strategic ties with India.
India is right in saying that it does not take sides in the internal conflicts of Bangladesh. But Delhi would be unwise to ignore the difference between the Awami League and its opponents on matters of ideology and political values. Whether it wants or not,India is a factor in the domestic politics of Bangladesh. Delhi knows that its failure to deliver on the Teesta river waters accord during PM Manmohan Singhs visit thanks to last-minute objections by Mamata Banerjee disappointed the people of Bangladesh,undermined the credibility of Hasinas visionary India policy,and emboldened her opponents at home and abroad to strike at her. Irrespective of their other growing differences,Delhi and Kolkata must work together to transform the relations with Bangladesh. If Hasinas opponents organise a successful coup next time around,West Bengal and India will both be counting the costs for a long time to come.