Despite its 160-million population, Bangladesh can find it hard to elbow its way onto the global stage. It’s in an area where India is cast in the lead as the dominant economy, Pakistan plays the intermittent villain, and Sri Lanka and Nepal feature in cameos as countries with uncertain futures. Yet, when US secretary of state Hillary Clinton touches down in Dhaka on Saturday—the highest-ranking American official to visit in a decade—she’ll encounter a country that can teach a lesson or two to all other regional actors.
The world’s third most populous Muslim-majority country stands out as a model of moderation. Unlike virtually every other country in the Muslim world, Islamists in Bangladesh are on the defensive. Seven people, including high-profile leaders of the Jamaat-e-Islami, South Asia’s most powerful Islamist group, face war crimes charges for their role in slaughtering Bangladeshi patriots, Muslim and Hindu alike, during the country’s 1971 war of independence against Pakistan.
Edited excerpts. Sadanand Dhume is a resident fellow at the American Enterprise Institute in Washington, and a columnist for WSJ.com. Comments are welcome at firstname.lastname@example.org
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