The violent Bangladeshi Rifles mutiny in early February did not shake the Government of India's confidence in Hasina, who is percieved to have handled the crisis effectively.
198952 3/26/2009 11:23 09NEWDELHI578 Embassy New Delhi CONFIDENTIAL "VZCZCXRO0487OO RUEHBI RUEHCI RUEHDBU RUEHLH RUEHPWDE RUEHNE #0578/01 0851123ZNY CCCCC ZZHO 261123Z MAR 09FM AMEMBASSY NEW DELHITO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC IMMEDIATE 5906INFO RUCNCLS/ALL SOUTH AND CENTRAL ASIA COLLECTIVERUEHBJ/AMEMBASSY BEIJING 7496RUEHRL/AMEMBASSY BERLIN 1214RUEHLO/AMEMBASSY LONDON 6116RUEHMO/AMEMBASSY MOSCOW 3228RUEHFR/AMEMBASSY PARIS 1591RUEHKO/AMEMBASSY TOKYO 6193RHEHAAA/WHITE HOUSE WASHDCRUEAIIA/CIA WASHDCRHEHNSC/NSC WASHDCRUEIDN/DNI WASHINGTON DCRHMFISS/HQ USCENTCOM MACDILL AFB FLRHHMUNA/HQ USPACOM HONOLULU HIRUEKJCS/JOINT STAFF WASHDC" "C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 NEW DELHI 000578
DEPT FOR SCA/INS, SCA/PB
E.O. 12958: DECL: 10/10/2018 TAGS: PGOV, PREL, IN, BG SUBJECT: INDIA WAITING TO SEE WHICH BANGLADESH WILL EMERGE
Classified By: Acting Political Counselor Les Viguerie for reasons 1.4 (B,D)
1. (C) SUMMARY: India - Bangladesh relations are healthy and close in the wake of the December election of Sheikh Hasina's Awami League government. The violent Bangladeshi Rifles mutiny in early February did not shake the Government of India's confidence in Hasina, who is percieved to have handled the crisis effectively. India has been careful to make it clear that it sees the mutiny as an internal matter, while standing by ready to assist if asked. This pressure-free approach is partly due to India's confidence in Hasina and partly a conscious effort to refrain from actions that might destabilize or cast doubt on the new government, which is viewed as favorable to India. Concerns remain that the mutiny was too well planned to have been a spontaneous back-lash over salaries and working conditions: there are suspicions in New Delhi that radical forces conspired to encourage the revolt. Embassy contacts are unanimous that the outcome of the investigation of the mutiny will be pivotal. Hasina will reassure Indian interlocutors to the extent that she carefully handles the next steps of this process. END SUMMARY.
2. (C) India welcomed the election of Sheikh Hasina in December of 2008. The Congress Party-led government of India has a close and personal relationship with Sheikh Hasina, who is widely considered to be pro-India. Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and Hasina are old friends. Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee made a goodwill visit to Bangladesh shortly after the elections and signed two agreements there: a trade agreement renewal and a new agreement dealing with direct investment between the neighbors. The bloody, two day revolt in February by the Bangladesh Rifles, a paramilitary border control force, came as a shock to Indian observers, who assumed Hasina's landslide election might provide some measure of stability.
GOI: Internal Matter
3. (C) External Affairs Minister Mukherjee made a statement immediately after the revolt was quelled saying that the Bangladesh Government was competent to handle the situation in the wake of the revolt. According to the press, Mukherjee said ""We want development and stability in all of our neighboring countries. Especially I wish success to the newly constituted government in Bangladesh,"" reiterating that ""(The mutiny) is the internal matter of Bangladesh."" A letter from Mukherjee to Hasina conveyed India's deepest condolences, called the mutiny an effort to destabilise a democratically elected government, offered ""whatever support and assistance Bangladesh may require at this juncture"" and restated India's conviction that Sheikh Hasina would be able to solve the problem on her own.
4. (C) According to MEA Deputy Secretary (Bangladesh, Sri Lanka, Maldives) Aseem R. Mahajan, despite the fact that India and Bangladesh share a long border with many transit points, there was very little disruption on the border during the mutiny and trade was minimally affected. India did not step up security along the border, he claimed. He told us that India's concern was to stabilize Hasina and to build confidence. Mahajan pointed out that India is concerned about the possible involvement of ""radical forces."" He related that many of the known culprits in the massacre were recruited under the previous Bangladesh Nationalist Party government and have Jamaat-e-Islami links.
Mutiny: Who Benefits?
5. (C) Retired Indian Ambassador to Bangladesh and Nepal Deb Mukharji feels that any discussion of the fallout of the mutiny will be speculative until the investigative committees NEW DELHI 00000578 002 OF 002 in Bangladesh submit their reports on the incident. He was eager to see whether the reports go beyond naming the main killers to identifying the planners and the masterminds. He pointed out that both the Jamaat-e-Islami and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party appear eager to insinuate an Indian connection to the mutiny on the grounds that India would benefit from a weakened Bangladeshi military. He observed that the initial offers of cooperation to Hasina by the BNP may be shifting.
6. (C) First Secretary (Political) Mohammad Monirul Islam of the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi (protect) says Bangladesh is grateful to India for ""taking the pressure off"" by consistently calling the mutiny an internal matter and making supportive statements. In any case, said Monir, India is preoccupied by looming national elections and international affairs are not a top priority for Indian politicians at the moment. Asked whether he thought outside forces may have helped to plan the attack, he postulated that only forces with an interest in weakening the current Bangladeshi government are reasonable suspects.
Life Goes On
7. (C) After a six month pause, maritime border talks between Dhaka and Delhi resumed March 17. The previous, eleventh round took place September 15, 2008, after a gap of three decades and ended in disagreement over the two country's conflicting claims on the Haribhanga River. The recent, twelfth round of discussions were at a technical level and aimed to meet India's 2009 deadlines and Bangladesh's 2011 deadlines for submission of maritime territorial claims regarding the boundary of the Bay of Bengal to the UN.
8. (SBU) COMMENT: Despite the turmoil in Dhaka, India seems to feel comfortable with Hasina's Awami League government, and Indian media has played up Dhaka's gratitude for India's supportive attitude in the aftermath of the mutiny. The India-Bangladesh relationship has had its ups and downs in recent years, but healthy relations will remain a priority for New Delhi if for no other reason than the long land border between the two countries dictates a good measure of realpolitik. The current upswing in relations and the political comfort level between the neighbors bodes well for India-Bangladesh relations after the upcoming Indian elections. END COMMENT.