Friday, June 17, 2005

BANGLADESH: State of denial



Bangladesh could export some of its large natural gas reserves to India, but nationalist sentiment and deteriorating relations between the neighbours makes this politically unpalatable. After September 11th, Bangladesh has been accused of harbouring Islamic terrorists: the chaotic political scene both undermines democracy and encourages extremism. The most densely populated of the world's big countries, Bangladesh is also among the most sparsely covered by the international press. This is in part the government's choice: it makes it hard for foreign journalists to visit. When they do, it tends not to like what they write, especially recent suggestions that Bangladesh is witnessing a rise in Islamic extremism, and becoming a haven for international terrorists. The government is right that claims of “Talibanisation” are exaggerated. Bangladesh remains a relatively liberal and tolerant place. But it is becoming less so, and that is a concern.


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