New Delhi reaches out to Bangladesh opposition leader

Dhaka, April 24 (Inditop) India and Bangladesh have agreed to hold “discussions at all levels” to consolidate bilateral ties, the Indian envoy said here after a meeting with opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia.

Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty’s two-hour meeting with Zia Thursday was an apparent bid to set records straight in bilateral ties after recent criticism from a section of the media and political circles.

The inability of Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to call on Zia during his brief and hectic visit here in February was criticised by the media.

Indian Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon’s visit earlier this month, which was widely reported here as “a surprise visit”, also came in for flak.

New Delhi has been criticised for “springing surprises” and for displaying proximity to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government as against that of Zia, who served two terms as the prime minister (1991-96 and 2001-06).

New Age newspaper had pointed out in an editorial earlier this week that Mukherjee had “failed” to meet Zia, but had made it a point to meet Hasina when the latter was the leader of the opposition.

Speaking at the joint briefing with Zia’s foreign affairs advisor Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, Chakravarty said: “The leader of the opposition has an important role to play in parliament.”

Both sides also hoped that “parliament should be active so that all can give and listen to one’s opinion”.

Chakravarty said there was “nothing secret and everybody knew about Menon’s visit and it was a formal visit”, United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency reported.

His two-hour meeting with Zia, attended by aides on both sides, was on bilateral ties and developments in the ‘neighbourhood’ – Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nepal and Sri Lanka, besides Myanmar with which Bangladesh has intermittent border problems.

Both sides also expressed a unanimous opinion that the relationship between the two neighbouring countries “should be very cooperative” and the relations would further improve if the outstanding problems between them were resolved, The Daily Star said Friday.

Chowdhury told newspersons that India and its people believe that if a “stable and strong society builds up in Bangladesh, it would be good for all”.

The high commissioner expressed sorrow over the killings of 81 people, including 55 Bangladesh Army officers, at the Bangladesh Rifles (BDR) headquarters in February.

He said what they discussed encompassed what is happening in India and Bangladesh and in its surroundings. He termed his meeting with Khaleda “excellent and productive talks”.