Zia objects as Dhaka prepares to talk to Delhi


Dhaka : As Bangladesh prepares to resume talks with India on a host of issues, opposition leader Khaleda Zia has warned the Sheikh Hasina government against signing any “deal against national interests”.

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“After assuming office, the government seems to be eager to sign deals on issues of national interest and national resources. Do not do anything which forces us to take to the streets. No deal against national interests would be tolerated,” New Age newspaper quoted her as telling a rally at Hatikumrul in Sirajganj.

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee is due to arrive here Feb 8 and the two-day talks are billed as the first high-level diplomatic visit to Dhaka since Hasina swept the polls and took office Jan 6. Hasina is considered close to India.

Reflecting on the current thinking in Dhaka, the newspaper said the Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government in New Delhi was “hopeful of getting a positive response” from the Hasina government.

Zia, however, stepped up pressure and vowed to take to the streets if such agreements were signed.

Media reports Sunday said the government was as yet undecided on the key issue of allowing transit facilities to help connect the bottled-up northeastern region with the rest of India.

Much preparation is underway and position papers are being prepared by the ministries concerned.

Quoting various officials, the newspaper said the final decision would be taken at the political level.

India has made multiple proposals over a long period to seek transit facilities covering both land and waterways, for movement of goods from Kolkata to its northeastern region.

Successive governments in Dhaka have sought to seek ‘gains’ in return for providing transit, while some quarters have also viewed it as a security issue.

Officials in Dhaka, however, told the newspaper that “Bangladesh could not allow India any transit, despite New Delhi’s pressure, for certain factors such as lack of infrastructure and logistics, absence of in-depth assessment of possible gains from such an ‘economic issue’ and its impact on internal security”.

Besides seeking transit facilities, Mukherjee will focus on strong cooperation on counter-terrorism.

Dhaka has proposed a South Asian Task Force on terrorism and Delhi has conveyed that it would like to discuss the issue in detail during Mukherjee’s visit.