A senior Minister in the Sheikh Hasina government has alleged that the previous Bangladesh government led by Khaleda Zia arranged a meeting between the former Pakistani President, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf, and United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia in Dhaka.

Local Government Minister Syed Ashraful Islam, who is also general secretary of the ruling Awami League, made the claim on Friday at a roundtable on Ms. Hasina’s coming visit to India.

“Pervez Musharraf had a one-and-a-half-hour meeting with the detained ULFA leader, Anup Chetia, at his hotel room during a visit when the BNP [and the Jamaat-e-Islami] were in power,” he told the roundtable held at the National Press Club here on Friday.

General (retired) Musharraf visited Bangladesh in July, 2002. ULFA secretary-general Chetia has been under detention in a Bangladesh jail since his arrest in 1998.

Indian media reported last month that the Bangladesh government had deported the secessionist outfit’s chairman Arabinda Rajkhowa and Raju Barua, deputy commander of ULFA’s armed wing, to India. But Dhaka has denied it.

The Minister said Ms. Hasina’s visit to India from January 10 would be political. The main objective of the visit was to build trust between the two neighbours.

The Minister told the roundtable that the relationship between Dhaka and New Delhi had not been “normal” in the last seven years. Rather, it had been superficial.

Mr. Ashraf said the Musharraf-Chetia meeting and 10 ten truckload of weapons seized in Bangladesh had affected the relationship. He said the weapons seized in Chittagong and the 30 million bullets seized in Bogra were meant for use by Indian separatists.

He blamed the previous BNP government and its allies for the worsening of relations with India.

The Minister said the government wanted to develop road and rail communications with China as well as India.

“We had a discussion on trade, bilateral and political as well as strategic relationships with China,” he said, adding that the Prime Minister would also visit China and the Chinese Vice-President would visit Bangladesh.

The country needed to increase trade with its neighbours and, to do so, construction of a deep-sea port was needed, he said. The deep-sea port in Chittagong would not be possible without China’s support.

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