New Delhi, Jan 20 (IANS) The Bangladesh Army, which has earlier seized power, has proved its loyalty to democracy by foiling a coup attempt aimed at ousting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, experts in Bangladesh and India said Friday.
The army moved decisively by arresting two former army officers who had plotted the coup in which about a dozen military personnel were said to be involved.
Veena Sikri, a former Indian high commissioner to Dhaka, said the Bangladesh Army’s action was significant as it showed it was “loyal to the (Awami League) government”.
South Asia expert Ashok K. Behuria concurred, saying it was comforting to know the army did not want to “disturb democracy”.
Dhaka University’s Imtiaz Ahmed insisted that reports that the coup plotters were anti-India were an inference as they were Islamists. He also underlined that the Bangladesh Army was committed to democracy.
The army said Thursday it had thwarted the attempt by over a dozen retired and serving officers with “fanatical religious views” to topple the government.
Sections of the military, apparently influenced by hardline Islamist views, have always looked at Awami League governments with suspicion due to the party’s commitment to secularism and friendship with India.
According to Sikri, who was high commissioner in Dhaka in 2003-06, the coup attempt took place nearly two weeks ago but it was announced now with an eye on parliamentary elections two years away.
Sikri told IANS that Hasina was a staunch nationalist who had taken strong action against Islamist groups.
Imtiaz Ahmed told IANS from Dhaka that the coup attempt was “very low profile”. He added: “The matter was professionally handled very early. But that was not something that created panic here.”
The professor too noted that the “army is behind democracy”.
The military first seized power in Dhaka after massacring the country’s founder father Sheikh Mujibur Rehman and his family in August 1975.
General Ziaur Rahman ruled Bangladesh from 1977 till he was assassinated in 1981. General H.M. Ershad was president from 1982 to 1990.
Sheikh Hasina, however, says that her country has faced 18 to 19 attempts by the military to seize power since 1975.
In a significant move, the announcement of the failed coup attempt was made only after Sheikh Hasina returned home from India where she visited Agartala, which served as a major guerrilla base during the 1971 war of independence from Pakistan.
Behuria, from the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), said: “It is comforting to know that the army acted (against those plotting the coup). They don’t want to disturb democracy.”
He said it was “a matter of concern as far as India is concerned”.