Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's remark that Bangladesh's political atmosphere might see a sudden change sparked criticism here with some terming it ‘unnecessary' and ‘irrelevant.'
Opposition BNP leader and former foreign minister Morshed Khan said such remarks would not help bilateral relations. “I think, he has been misguided and given wrong information by different agencies or some interested quarters.”
Bangladesh media gave elaborate coverage to Dr. Singh's interaction with editors of some Indian newspapers in New Delhi on Wednesday, when he said the political landscape in Bangladesh could change any time.
Dr. Singh also said: “At least 25 per cent of the population of Bangladesh swear by the Jamiat-ul-Islami [sic] and they are very anti-Indian, and they were in the clutches, many times, of the ISI…
“The political landscape in Bangladesh can change at any time. We do not know what these terrorist elements, who have a hold on the Jamiat-e-Islami [sic] elements in Bangladesh, can be up to.”
Leaders of the BNP and the Jamaat-e-Islami viewed these remarks as “a discouraging note.”
That the fundamentalist Jamaat, which has two seats in Parliament and never secured mass support in the past elections, has reasons to feel happy with this comment that 25 per cent of the Bangladesh population supported it, said a secular intellectual.
False, says Jamaat
The Jamaat-e-Islami has condemned Dr. Singh's remarks for linking it with Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence agency.
“The comment that the Jamaat-e-Islami is anti-Indian, and acts in accordance with the advice of the ISI is false, baseless and it does not go with the status of the premier,” said its acting secretary-general ATM Azharul Islam in a statement.
“Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami wants good relation with all countries. It wants good ties with big neighbour India as well. We want this relation on the basis of sovereign equality not giving up our own interest,” the statement added.
Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury has termed Dr. Singh's comment on a sudden change in the political atmosphere “irrelevant.”
Speaking to BBC Radio, she, however, said the Indian Prime Minister's Office and Foreign Ministry could explain the whole thing better as Bangladesh had no details about the comments, except media reports.
The former Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka, Dev Mukharjee, has also ruled out the possibility of any sudden change in the political atmosphere.
He also termed such remarks “unfortunate.”
Remarks removed from PMO's website
Bangladesh's online newspaper bdnews24.com reported on Saturday that the transcript of Dr. Singh's comments had been removed from his official website.
The Prime Minister's Office (PMO) also posted a ‘corrected' transcript on its website after deleting the remarks that startled many in Delhi and Dhaka.