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Pulled up, Delhi pushes Dhaka

Nov. 10: The spark lit by deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani has touched off a diplomatic spat between India and Bangladesh with Dhaka today summoning the Indian envoy to lodge a formal protest and Delhi sticking to its guns.

Bangladesh foreign secretary Shamser Mobin Chowdhury today handed over a formal memo against Advani’s “totally baseless, motivated and irresponsible statements”.

Advani had said on Thursday that “after the change of government in Bangladesh, there has been an increase in the activities of al Qaida and ISI there”.

Served the protest, a nonchalant India asked Bangladesh to take “serious and immediate action” to stop misuse of its territory by terrorist and insurgent groups.

Official sources said in Delhi that India has asked Bangladesh to close down militant training camps and hand over insurgents taking shelter there.

Delhi has also handed over to Dhaka a list of 99 training camps there, pinpointing locations, and a list of 77 insurgents and nine criminals who have been arrested by the authorities there.

At the meeting with the Bangladesh foreign secretary, Indian high commissioner Manilal Tripathy demanded early repatriation of extremist leaders such as United Liberation Front of Asom leader Anup Chetia, PTI quoted sources at the high commission as saying.

Tripathy said Indian insurgent groups were receiving shelter and support from elements in Bangladesh, despite assurances by the Khaleda Zia government.

The high commissioner was summoned to the foreign office for the third time in 10 days.

The envoy defended Advani’s remarks on the alleged activities of the ISI and al Qaida in Bangladesh and described as regrettable and objectionable Dhaka’s reaction to them.

Advani’s remarks were made with full responsibility and based on reliable information, he was quoted as saying.

Reacting to the sharp response from Bangladesh on Friday, Advani had repeated his statement yesterday.

“I don’t know why they are reacting like this. I had just said there were reports about growing activities of al Qaida and ISI in Bangladesh after the change of the government,” he told reporters in Delhi on Saturday.

Tripathy assured Bangladesh India would not offer shelter to fugitives allegedly crossing over to India in the wake of an army action in Bangladesh.

As many as 23 people, including a political activist, have died in the Bangladesh army’s month-long crackdown against what it terms as rising “crime”.

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