In a recent interview given to ANI, Lt. Gen. Sinha, a former Vice Chief of Army Staff, who has written extensively on the issue of illegal migration in India's north eastern states, said it is in New Delhi's and the rest of the international community's interest to extend support to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
"She is perhaps the only Muslim leader, in a Muslim country, who has taken such a bold and strong stand against Islamists," said Lt. Gen. Sinha.
When a reference was made to the ongoing war crimes trial against perpetrators of atrocities committed during the 1971 War for Independence in what was then known as East Pakistan, and Sheikh Hasina's handling of it, Lt. Gen. Sinha said: "Everything, I mean, look at the way she has handled things. Soon after she took over (in 2009 for a second term), the mutiny of the East Pakistan Rifles (also known as Bangladesh Rifles and now known as Border Guards Bangladesh) took place. It was a very major thing. She hasn't succumbed and, these Jihadis, have created a lot of trouble."
"She is holding on, and not only is this in India's interest, but also in the global interest. I feel all support should be given to Sheikh Hasina," he added.
During the course of his interview, he was particularly critical of the United States and its encouragement of Islamists. He said Washington, in a way, has to be blamed for fanning fundamentalism in Asia and the Middle East.
"After all, the so-called super power of yesterday, which is now declining, the U.S.A., has created this problem. They encouraged Islamists and 9/11 happened, and, still they haven't woken up. And today, they are trying to get out of Afghanistan, save their honour and do anything. They can stoop to doing anything," Lt. Gen. Sinha said.
Agreeing with the view that improving ties between India and Bangladesh hinged on New Delhi showing the political will to share waters of the River Teesta and inking a mutually acceptable land border agreement, Lt. Gen. Sinha also said that a lack of political will was to be blamed for India never fencing or delaying the fencing of its borders with Bangladesh.
He said the existence of a porous and open border was primarily responsible for impoverished Bangladeshis illegally immigrating into the northeastern regions of India.
Recalling his stint as an army commander in the western and eastern sectors, Lt. Gen. Sinha said: "I have been involved in (fencing) both."
He said that first as an army commander and later on as a governor in Kashmir, it was natural and a no-brainer that India's western border with Pakistan had to be fenced, whereas the idea of the need to fence the country's eastern border with Bangladesh took some time to evolve.
He described the border in Kashmir to be a far more difficult terrain to fence than the border in Assam.
"The entire (western) border was fenced in a year, plus year and a half. Now, I was governor there, and we fenced it, 700 kilometers on the mountains in a year plus, where every bit of stone had to be carried on mules, and we completed it. And, in Assam, the so-called riverine border, I have traveled almost every kilometer of that border. The total distance is only 269 kilometers," Lt. Gen. Sinha said.
The former governor said it was incorrect to believe historically or otherwise, that neighbouring countries in the eastern sector were not hostile, and therefore, there was no need to seal the border, as opposed to having the political will and the strategic need to fence the border in the western sector because the enemy was historically well known and established.
"No, you see that's the point. Initially, we had a hostile neighbour till 1971. When Mujibur Rehman came, for a short period, we didn't have a hostile neighbour. But that period is very small," he said, adding that, "Even from (19)47 onwards, we should have taken this initiative, which we didn't do."
He believes that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was hamstrung during her first term in office, as she didn't have a clear majority.
But during her second term, with a clear majority, she has not only emerged as a very friendly neighbour to India, but also, successfully and firmly sealed Bangladesh's borders with Myanmar to prevent the cross border movement of Rohingya Muslims.
When asked whether there is consensus in the Indian political leadership about strategic matters, about foreign policies, Lt. Gen. Sinha said: "There is no attempt to develop a consensus. You have a cabal of power in this (Indian) democracy which has a dynastic rule, a feudal set up and a weak government, which cannot enforce the will of the government."
He said he did not agree with the view that the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) is not willing to play ball with the government on the land border agreement (LBA).
"I don't think the BJP is holding it. It's the weakness of the central government. There is a policy paralysis and they can't execute. You are being dictated to by chief ministers on matters of foreign policies," he said.
He asked: "They are turning the Constitution upside down. A Mamata Banerjee says no to Teesta and Delhi cannot do anything. What sort of a government is this?
When asked whether he felt that in the next couple of months, the UPA Government would be able to deliver the Teesta water share and LBA to Bangladesh, Lt. Gen. Sinha said: "I have my grave doubts."
Categorically stating that the Manmohan Singh-led government is only interested in remaining in power, and that national interest did not matter to it, he said it would be unrealistic to expect a major foreign policy initiative at this stage, or in the next couple of months, as, "We (India and Bangladesh) are all in election mode."
"And, as far as the UPA Government is concerned, they are only trying to survive by hook or crook, in any manner. And, they are incapable of doing it (launching a foreign policy initiative)," he concluded.
--ANI (Posted on 12-08-2013)