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Saturday, November 3, 2012

[] Wait and see: Indian envoys in Dhaka on outcome of Khaleda's visit

Wait and see: Say two ex-Indian envoys in Dhaka on outcome of Khaleda's visit

The taste of the pudding is in its eating. The old saying is
applicable to BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia's remarks made during her
interactions with Indian leaders here, according to two former Indian
High Commissioners to Bangladesh.

If the briefing by BNP Vice-Chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury is
anything to go by, Khaleda had, during her luncheon meetings with
Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Foreign Minister Salman
Khurshid, conveyed to them that she wanted to make a "new beginning"
in relations with India.

The former Bangladesh premier, known for her strident anti-India
stance, sought to address issues of India's concerns relating to
security, connectivity and illegal migration, and indicated her
willingness to accept India's participation in building a deep sea
port at Sonadia. While in Delhi, she made all the right noises.

However, the big question is whether Khaleda or her party will be able
to follow through on the words and warmth expressed in the Indian
capital during her visit.

Bangladesh observers here would like to see if this is a genuine
change of heart on the part of the BNP or just another instance of

According to Veena Sikri, a former Indian High Commissioner to
Bangladesh, it remains to be seen whether the BNP or its chief will
express the same sentiments on Khaleda Zia's return to Bangladesh or
will walk the talk if they come back to back.

Sikri told The Daily Star that the BNP had said the same things when
it was in power from 2001 and 2006, but "things on the ground were
completely different from their words at that time".

She, however, said Khaleda's visit to Delhi was a "useful exercise"
and it should be seen in the context of India's readiness to engage
all shades of opinion in the democratic polity of Bangladesh.

The former Indian diplomat pointed to serious incidents during the
BNP's last period of rule (2001-06), such as the massive arms haul in
Chittagong in April, 2004 which were meant for the north eastern
Indian insurgent outfit ULFA, the 2004 serial bomb attacks across
Bangladesh and the deadly August 21 grenade attack on an Awami League
rally in Dhaka, all of which showed how Bangladesh had become a happy
hunting ground for extremist elements.

Sikri said it remained to be seen if Khaleda's remarks made to Indian
leaders would be reflected in the BNP's manifesto for the 2013
parliamentary elections, and what action would be made on the ground
to match those remarks.

"Trust but verify" is the message from Dr Muchkund Dubey, another
former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh and India's ex-Foreign
Secretary, when he was asked to comment on Khaleda's remarks made in

Dubey told The Daily Star that while India had to take at face value
Khaleda Zia's remarks made in Delhi, "it must verify on the ground if
her words are matched by her actions in Bangladesh".

He said it was, however, "quite right" for the Indian government to
invite Khaleda and have talks with her "because in a democratic
system, there should be relationship with all mainstream political
parties. It is the right thing done by India".

The former envoy said it should not be India's strategy to help this
party or that party in Bangladesh as "this is totally misguided and


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