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Hasina invite snub to Dhaka

New Delhi, Nov. 12: After accusing the Bangladesh National Party government in Dhaka of failure to check the growing terror network in the country, India has decided to rub salt on its wounds.

Bangladeshi Prime Minister Begum Khaleda Zia’s predecessor and arch rival Sheikh Hasina is arriving here next weekend on an invitation from Delhi.

Ostensibly, it is a private visit as Hasina is scheduled to deliver a lecture at a seminar of the Indian Council for South Asia Cooperation at the Habitat Centre on November 26. But several meetings with Indian leaders, including Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee and deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani, are on the cards during her stay here.

Officials in South Block pointed out that the proposed meetings have not been finalised and even if they took place, they should be seen as “courtesy calls”.

But the “courtesy calls” come in the wake of Advani accusing Bangladesh of sheltering terrorists. The deputy Prime Minister drove the point home at a function recently when he said the activities of al Qaida and Pakistan’s ISI have grown since Zia’s BNP came to power in Bangladesh. Advani’s remarks started a fresh spat between the two countries.

Hasina is seen as pro-India and her rivalry with Zia is well known. The fact that Delhi has decided to invite Hasina and not the Bangladeshi Prime Minister is a clear indication that it was not willing to patch up with Dhaka at this juncture. Not, at least, till Bangladesh took serious and effective steps to address India’s security concerns.

At the official level, however, the India-Bangladesh Joint Working Group on security is scheduled to meet either at the end of this month or in early December. But, at the political level, Delhi has given out a clear signal that it wants to keep up the pressure on Bangladesh.

The recent stress on the issue is an attempt to signal that India’s fight against terrorism was not Pakistan-centric and it was serious in fighting the menace from wherever it originated.

The immediate provocation for the spat seems to have come from the steps taken by the BNP government, indicating its pronounced tilt towards Pakistan.

At the recent meeting of the Commonwealth Ministerial Action Group in London, Bangladesh pushed for Pakistan’s return to the Commonwealth fold. But India succeeded in getting the other members of the group to strongly recommend that the suspension be kept in force till the country returns to democracy.

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