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Monday, December 4, 2023
Government and PoliticsHow disinformation is testing India-Bangladesh bonds

How disinformation is testing India-Bangladesh bonds

Amidst a challenging political climate, Bangladesh finds itself at a crossroads. The ruling secularist Awami League, under the statesmanship of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, is ascending to new heights with its focus on development, jobs creation, empowerment of women, and expanding opportunities for its citizens. Conversely, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), characterized by its ultra-Islamist stance, is actively engaging in a war of disinformation aimed at tarnishing the nation’s reputation and undermining democracy and the undisputed image of Sheikh Hasina in the international arena. This concerted effort is marked by a barrage of deceptive tactics, the spread of fake news, and a relentless drive to negate the government’s achievements.

Chandan Nandy, a notoriously controversial and infamous Indian journalist, has come under scrutiny, accused of affiliating with Pakistan’s espionage agency, the ISI. Nandy has been conscripted by the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to orchestrate a campaign of a series of fabricated news stories targeting Bangladesh’s Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina and other important figures in the government.

Chandan Nandy emerges as a figure of interest against a complex geopolitical backdrop, with his connections reaching into the diplomatic sphere through his father’s employment at the Indian High Commission in Bangladesh. This nexus of relationships extends to Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey, a known associate of Nandy in Bangladesh, who has been embroiled in controversy due to his alleged involvement in lobbying efforts against certain media personnel in the country.

Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey, identified as a full-time employee of Tarique Rahman, a fugitive, convicted terrorist and leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), has been implicated in a concerted effort to influence US policy against certain Bangladeshi media figures. Ansarey, who has reportedly managed press accreditation cards from the White House and the United Nations through false declarations, is part of a lobbying push advocating for a visa ban on approximately 100 media personalities in Bangladesh. This group, spearheaded by BNP lobbyists, accuses these individuals of functioning as “propaganda machines” for the ruling Awami League, thereby contributing to the party’s grip on power.

Chandan Nandy’s statement to Ekattor TV alleging that a “highly placed source in Washington” informed him of an order by Joe Biden to oust Sheikh Hasina has been proved as false and misleading. Such a claim, though unfounded, points to the complex web of disinformation that can permeate political discourse. It serves as a stark reminder of the potent effects that such deceptive assertions can have on the perception of international relations and internal political stability.

Bangladeshi newspaper Blitz has taken a critical stance against the international media’s portrayal of Sheikh Hasina, particularly in the narratives presented by The New York Times, The Economist, and lately TIME magazine. These publications have been accused of propagating a biased narrative that seeks to discredit the accomplishments of the Bangladeshi Prime Minister and her government. Blitz’s counter-narrative underscores the importance of independent media in providing a more nuanced and comprehensive view of global political dynamics, especially in the face of mainstream media’s overwhelming influence. It challenges the timing and intent behind these articles, emerging just months before Bangladesh’s national elections, and suggests a potential agenda to influence the electoral process.

The narrative surrounding Chandan Nandy took another turn when it was revealed that his claims of a Washington source plotting against Sheikh Hasina were unfounded and bogus. The supposed stratagem was, in fact, the creation of a trio dubbed the ‘three musketeers’—William B. Milam, John Danilovich, and Mushfiqul Fazal Ansarey. Ansarey, originating from the Sylhet Division in Bangladesh, shares his regional roots with Matiur Rahman Chowdhury of Manabzamin, who has been instrumental in disseminating Ansarey’s propaganda through the publication. Prothom Alo, another prominent newspaper, has also been implicated in this campaign of disinformation. Nandy, now entangled in this web of intrigue, appears to be driven by an agenda to serve the interests of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) while simultaneously undermining the India-Bangladesh bilateral relations.

Chandan Nandy, who is employed by the Ultra-Islamist BNP, with his notorious leanings towards Pakistan and against India, is attempting to jeopardize the delicate fabric of India-Bangladesh relations. His attempts, which are seen as hostile to Indian interests, are causing alarm among those who value the bilateral harmony that has been carefully cultivated over the years. Nandy’s actions are perceived as not just a threat to the diplomatic ties but also as a catalyst for potential discord between the two friendly neighbours. A highly placed source from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Islamabad has confided to this correspondent that Chandan Nandy is regarded as a very trusted friend of Islamabad.

Biden administration announced a new visa policy in May 2023 designed to restrict travel for individuals suspected of attempting to disrupt the democratic proceedings. The policy enables the US to impose visa bans on Bangladeshi nationals, including current and former officials, members of political parties, law enforcement, judiciary, and security services. Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) continues to campaign for a non-party caretaker government, asserting that no election under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s rule could be considered free.

BNP’s employed Indian “journalist” Chandan Nandy’s fake news platform, NENews, has been a vehicle for inconsistent narratives, with his statements shifting unpredictably. Initially, he claimed that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina would resign on November 3rd. Subsequently, he altered his assertion, suggesting her resignation would follow the announcement of the election schedule. The latest in this series of fluctuating statements is the unsubstantiated claim that US President Joe Biden will orchestrate her ousting. Of course, every statement is proved to be a blatant lie.

Recently the detective branch of the Bangladesh Police arrested seven leaders of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), who were hiding at the Westin Dhaka hotel on November 3rd. Stephen E. Biegun, identified as a representative of Boeing, has been reportedly residing at the same hotel for an extended period without clear business purposes. Allegations have surfaced suggesting that Biegun is acting on behalf of US and Pakistani intelligence establishments, the CIA and ISI respectively, with the intent to fund activities against Bangladesh and the Awami League. Furthermore, there are claims that his presence in Dhaka is linked to potential financing of terrorist activities targeting development projects backed by India, China, and Russia.

Who is Stephen E. Biegun?

Stephen E. Biegun is a notable figure in diplomatic and business circles, primarily known for his role in government service. Beigun served as the United States Deputy Secretary of State from December 2019 to January 2021. Prior to that, he was the United States Special Representative for North Korea from August 2018 to January 2021, where he led negotiations with North Korea in an effort to denuclearize the Korean Peninsula.

Deputy Secretary of State Stephen E. Biegun (Photo Credit: US Embassy in Dhaka, Bangladesh)

Before his government service, Biegun had a long career in international affairs in both the private and public sectors. He held various positions, including vice president of international governmental affairs at Ford Motor Company. His public service includes working as a staff member for foreign relations committees in the House of Representatives and the US Senate, and he was also a national security advisor to Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.

Boeing’s discontent with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reportedly stems from Bangladesh’s decision to engage with French Airbus, Boeing’s European rival, for the acquisition of several aircraft. French President Emmanuel Macron himself finalized the deal between Bangladesh and Airbus. This move signifies a consequential business shift for Bangladesh, favouring Airbus over the American aerospace giant. Such agreements can have substantial implications for the aviation industry and national economies, often influencing diplomatic relations. The choice of Airbus over Boeing could be seen as a strategic economic and political decision by Bangladesh, reflecting the complexities of international trade and diplomacy.

Under the critical scenario where major business conglomerates like Boeing and Airbus are embroiled in a high-stakes competition, and with the Biden Administration allegedly backing the ultra-Islamist BNP in Bangladesh, Chandan Nandy’s fake news website emerges as a significant propaganda vessel of BNP’s anti-India agenda. Operating from an unknown location in India, the platform’s lack of editorial transparency casts doubts on its legitimacy and raises questions about its role in the wider geopolitical narrative.

Amidst the unfolding geopolitical drama, Chandan Nandy is purportedly orchestrating a one-man operation possibly from Delhi, managing the dubious fake news website “NENews”. This platform, shrouded in mystery, has failed to register on the radar of credible journalistic entities. Nava Thakuria, a senior journalist from the Guwahati Press Club, has discredited the existence of both the site and Chandan Nandy as a journalist in the region, casting further doubt on the legitimacy of the operations and the content being disseminated under the guise of news.

Adding to the scepticism, Anirudha Bhakat, the bureau chief of Republic TV in the North East, has also confirmed the absence of existence of NENews in the region, or indeed anywhere in India.

Dhruba Jyoti Deka, Editor-in-chief of Times of Assam, has made grave allegations against Chandan Nandy, stating, “Chandan Nandy is a fraud, womanizer, alcoholic, a filthy gambler. He writes for anyone who pays. Chandan Nandy is not any journalist but a prostitute. He also maintains relations with militants in Jammu and Kashmir on behalf of Islamabad. He is stealing information from MOFA New Delhi and passing on to Pakistani ISI“. These serious accusations paint a picture of a man deeply entangled in unethical activities, far removed from the principles of journalism.

In a climate where certain international players, including the Biden administration and a prominent aeroplane manufacturer, alongside some global governments, seem to favour removing Sheikh Hasina, Chandan Nandy’s dissemination of fake news adds fuel to the fire. His relentless peddling of misinformation seeks to demonize the significant strides made by Hasina for Bangladesh, casting a shadow over her leadership. At this critical juncture, India’s role as Bangladesh’s closest ally and neighbour becomes increasingly pivotal. It is imperative for India to bolster the ties that bind the two nations, advocating for stability and truth in an era rife with deceptive narratives. Nandy’s actions, if unchecked, risk not only the integrity of journalism but also the robust relationship that has long been a cornerstone of regional diplomacy in South Asia.

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