BNP leader calls for cooperation to curb terror, check insurgent groups

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Monday assured the former Bangladesh Prime Minister, Begum Khaleda Zia, that New Delhi was committed to taking Dhaka along as it pursued the economic growth path and would not take any steps detrimental to her country’s interests.

Ms. Zia, leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is here on a week-long visit as part of India’s broader outreach with Bangladeshi polity. Prominent political figures who have visited the country recently to minimise the India factor in Bangladesh’s politics before elections late next year include the former President, Lt. Gen. (retd.) H.M. Ershad; general secretary of the ruling Awami League Sayed Ashraful Islam and representatives of the media and the civil society.

The BNP leader appreciated the initiatives to liberalise trade due to which Bangladesh’s garment exports to India had gone up. Work is on to facilitate transfer of electricity and beef up infrastructure. Both countries are working on a proposal to set up a second power grid interconnection.

Ms. Zia was categorical that Bangladesh should be mindful of India’s concerns over terrorism and insurgent groups and wanted to see both countries cooperate on these issues. She, however, expressed reservations over the firings on the border that had led to killing of Bangladeshi civilians, and sought more transparency on dams being built on the rivers common to both countries.

During the 30-minute meeting, according to official sources, Dr. Singh mentioned that India was proactive in taking measures to reassure Bangladesh on the Tipaimukh dam and border issues.

On the stalled Teesta water sharing agreement and the inability of the United Progressive Alliance government to push through the land exchange agreement, Dr. Singh said the government was trying to achieve political consensus on both issues and assured that India was aware of the importance of operationalising the both pacts for a closer relationship.

The nine-member BNP delegation includes party’s standing committee member Tariqul Islam, advisers Riaz Rahman, Sabih Uddin Ahmed and Shamser Mobin Chowdhury and the former MP, Khaleda Rabbani.

Ms. Zia is scheduled to visit Ajmer Sharif to offer prayers at the shrine of Sufi saint Khwaja Moinuddin Chishti.