Judging by the track record, the domestic reaction to BNP leader Begum Khaleda Zia’s assurance to stop support to militancy during her visit to India was not, perhaps, unexpected.
The visit, during which the opposition leader tried to restore New Delhi’s confidence in her party — long accused of harbouring anti-Indian separatists and militants — has both raised eyebrows and been seen as an indication of a change of mind. The assurance was communicated to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid during Ms. Khaleda Zia’s visit.
On Ms. Khaleda Zia’s assurance that neither she nor her party would allow Bangladesh’s soil to be used by terrorists and separatists to harm Indian interests, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said it was an admission that anti-Indian insurgents were patronised during the tenure of the BNP-Jamaat alliance. Ms. Moni, however, said the government was “delighted” that Ms. Khaleda Zia had admitted her mistake.
The Foreign Minister asked the former Premier to apologise for her government’s support to militancy as this had tarnished Bangladesh’s image. Ms. Moni alleged that the opposition leader had patronised terrorism whenever in power.
Information Minister Hasanul Huq Inu, who leads pro-socialist JSD, an ally of the ruling Awami League, said her assurance on insurgency was a “political bluff” as she had been patronising it as a political strategy. However, secretary-general of the H.M. Ershad-led Jatiya Party, Ruhul Amin Hawlader, welcomed her statement as a “positive move” but said the commitment must be proved through action.
A strong reaction came from Minister for Environment and Forest Dr. Hasan Mahmud, who accused Ms. Khaleda Zia of having links with Shiv Sena. “We have learned that Khaleda Zia had a secret meeting with the Shiv Sena,” said the Minister. “If the Shiv Sena unleashes repressions on the Indian Muslims, that will stir an anti-Indian sentiment in Bangladesh, which can be capitalised during next general elections. BNP has a dual policy, they have a policy of appeasement of India, while in power, but use anti-Indian card when in opposition.”
He also accused BNP of backing separatist groups like the ULFA while in power.
The BNP, which claimed the tour a successful one, has sharply rebutted the Minister’s comments.