The President spoke for resolving differences with Bangladesh through inclusive dialogue

India is hopeful, President Pranab Mukherjee said late on Tuesday evening, that “internal political differences” in Bangladesh “can be resolved through dialogue and that the rights of all communities will be fully respected”.

The President, speaking on board a special aircraft at the conclusion of a highly successful trip to India’s eastern neighbour, said he had told all the political leaders he met there about “the need for an inclusive political protest, and the maintenance of communal peace and harmony”, and pointed out that “a democratic, secular and progressive Bangladesh is clearly in India’s interest”.

For Bangladesh, which is witnessing political turmoil, attacks on religious minorities and the inspiring Shahbag movement, Mr. Mukherjee’s visit is being seen in that country as an endorsement of the beleaguered ruling Awami League government.

Little wonder, the President, literally — and metaphorically — the son-in-law of Bangladesh, was received with the warmth reserved for a jamai (son-in-law), as he addressed a range of functions, from his convocation address at Dhaka university to visiting Rabindranath Tagore’s ancestral home at Shelaidaha. The trip ended on a personal note as he journeyed to the home of his in-laws for the first time since he got married in 1957. When asked how he was received at Narail, he beamed and said, “They received me like a new bridegroom!”

Indeed, on his first trip abroad after he assumed office as President, the political became personal, and the personal became political.

If Mr. Mukherjee constantly emphasised the cultural heritage he shared with the people of Bangladesh as India’s first Bengali President, his long association with all the top leaders there helped him reconnect very quickly. Mr. Mukherjee mentioned that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina ribbed him saying that this year she would have to send him a gift on Jamaishosti (a Bengali celebration to honour a son-in law).

While Mr. Mukherjee refused to comment on Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia cancelling her appointment with him, or, indeed, on the Shahbag movement, directly, his opening statement made the Indian position very clear.

The youth of Bangladesh “are committed to democracy, tolerance, an inclusive social order, free media and building a modern and progressive state. They seek to consolidate… democracy and keep alive the spirit of the liberation struggle. We wish them well in this great endeavour”, he said.

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