No threat to India-Bangladesh ties from China, Jamaat-e-Islami: Awami League
A delegation of the Awami League of Bangladesh meet Bharatiya Janata Party leaders and said ties between India and Bangladesh will not be affected due to China or Jamaat-e-Islami
The importance of Bangladesh’s upcoming general elections in maintaining regional stability was among the issues that figured in discussions between a visiting Awami League delegation and Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) leaders, people familiar with the matter said on Tuesday.
The Awami League government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been facing pressure from the West, especially the US, to hold free and fair elections at a time when the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) has stepped up protests demanding that the polls be held under a caretaker administration. The Hasina government has reached out to the Indian side to intervene with the West on this issue.
During an interaction with a small group of journalists, the Awami League delegation said that the ties between Dhaka and New Delhi are bound by cultural and geographical links, and cannot be undermined by the presence of China or extremist organisations within Bangladesh, such as the Jamaat-e-Islami.
“China is our development partner but their doing business in Bangladesh shouldn’t worry India. We are cautious about Chinese companies doing business, after all some of the companies also operate in India. Bangladesh values its ties with India,” said Muhammad Abdur Razzaque, the leader of the delegation and the agriculture minister
Razzaque, who was a company commander in the 1971 war that led to the creation of Bangladesh, said the Indian side had appreciated that no weapons were supplied from the neighbouring country to India’s northeastern states under the Hasina government. Both sides are sharing intelligence and jointly tackling militant and radical groups, he said.
The people of Bangladesh haven’t forgotten that India, and not China, had lent support to their quest for liberation, he added. “Bangabandhu (Sheikh Mujibur Rahman) had sought help from China, but they did not support us.”
In recent years, China’s involvement in major infrastructure and economic projects in Bangladesh has triggered concerns in India.
Another member of the delegation, who did not want to be named, said that though China has been liberal in offering aid and grants for projects, the Bangladesh government has in recent times put a stop to some projects that did not merit priority. The person cited the example of a project to build television stations in all the divisions of Bangladesh.
Allaying fears that Bangladesh could be used for anti-India activities, Razzaque said there has been growing concern within his country about radical Islamists gaining ground. Asserting that a secular sentiment is prevalent among the people at large, Razzaque said the influence of radical Islamists from West Asia and Pakistan is particularly concerning.
The Awami League delegation, which is visiting at the invitation of the BJP, met commerce minister Piyush Goyal on Tuesday. According to a statement from the Bangladesh high commission, Goyal expressed optimism about political stability and progress in Bangladesh, and said that India has always been sincere about maintaining excellent bilateral relations.
He said the Indian government is actively considering the lifting of all restrictions on essential goods for the greater benefit of the two countries, and to ensure that the Bangladesh government “may get a predictable flow of essential commodities” in times of needs. The Indian side is also giving priority to importing essential items from Bangladesh, he was quoted as saying.
Goyal and the delegation discussed political issues of mutual interest, and he assured the Awami League leaders that India wants a politically stable Bangladesh. India is “always sympathetic” to Bangladesh’s issues and has handled them with special consideration, he said.
The delegation, which includes information minister Hasan Mahmud, also met India’s G20 coordinator and former foreign secretary Harsha Shringla. Under India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy, Bangladesh is first among all the neighbours, Shringla said.
The delegation includes party organising secretary Sujit Roy Nandi and women MPs Aroma Dutta and Marina Jahan.