Delhi broadens engagement with political parties in Dhaka, invites Jatiyo Party delegation

This invitation takes significance ahead of the G-20 summit when India will host Bangladesh PM, Sheikh Hasina

Updated - August 21, 2023 10:02 am IST

Published - August 21, 2023 05:22 am IST - NEW DELHI

Days after hosting a high-level delegation from the ruling Awami League of Bangladesh, India has broadened engagement with the political spectrum of Dhaka and has invited a team from the Jatiyo Party led by Chairperson Ghulam Muhammed Quader who has called for an “all-party dialogue to ensure a free and fair polling” in Bangladesh. The arrival of the Jatiyo Party’s team is significant as India plans to host Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the G-20 summit where Bangladesh has been invited as a “guest country”.

The current political situation in Bangladesh has been centred on the main Opposition — the Bangladesh Nationalist Party — and its demand for holding the election under a caretaker government. The government of PM Hasina has been insisting that the upcoming election be held on time and without a caretaker formation as the option was closed in 2011 through a parliamentary act.

In a telephonic interview with The Hindu, Mr. Quader created equidistance both from PM Hasina’s government as well as the BNP and said, “It is very important for the government to come forward seeking a dialogue with all political parties. We want all sides should sit down and discuss a way out to ensure a free and fair election.”

Mr. Quader, however, did not approve of the demand from BNP for a caretaker government and said, “They have been insisting for a caretaker government but have not clarified what exactly should the caretaker formation look like.” He appeared to support a third alternative — a compromise formula — that can address the hard positions and told The Hindu, “We have a formula in mind and we will place it on the table when an all party dialogue takes place.”

The visit adds to the ongoing exchanges involving multiple comments from the U.S. and Indian interlocutors over the past fortnight.

Last week, two U.S. Congressmen Rich McCormick and Ed Case visited Bangladesh and met with Foreign Minister A.K. Abdul Momen as well as representatives of BNP and Jatiyo Party. “Of the two congressmen, the senior one [Mr. Case] clearly told us that they want to see such an election which will be held in a neutral and democratic manner and the world will regard that as free and fair,” Jatiyo Party MP Rana Mohammad Sohel told Dhaka’s Daily Star after the meeting.

Both Congressmen were hosted at the Observer Research Foundation (ORF) here on August 17 where they attended a “closed-door discussion”. A day prior, ORF held a meeting with Clifford Smith, Washington Project Director, Middle East Forum, USA, where he hinted at the difficulty that the U.S. is facing in making up its mind regarding the evolving situation in Bangladesh. Mr Smith presented a detailed account of the Bangladesh Jamaat-E-Islami’s activities in the Bangladesh diaspora in the U.S. and said that at one point, the student wing of Jamaat was “the most violent in the world”.

Mr. Smith, however, pointed out that Hasina’s anti-terror outfit, RAB has not done enough to crack down on the religious fundamentalists. These remarks from the U.S., were met with reiteration of the mainstream Indian position by Joint Secretary at Bangladesh and Myanmar Division of the Ministry of External Affairs Smita Pant. O August 15, she paid tribute to the memories of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and said, “Killers of Sheikh Mujib could not wipe out his ideas.”

On Saturday, Indian High Commissioner to Dhaka Pranay Verma paid his tribute to Sheikh Mujib and said India is a “steadfast partner” of Bangladesh.

The ongoing exchanges are clearly broadening with the arrival of Jatiyo Party here with some Dhaka sources indicating that similar “windows” are also open at other relevant quarters. Apart from these, the government-to-government discussion will deepen as both PM Modi and PM Hasina will fly to Johannesburg for the BRICS summit where Bangladesh is among several economies that are seeking BRICS membership.

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