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Bangla bashing, round II

New Delhi, Nov. 27: External affairs minister Yashwant Sinha today said the Pakistani high commission in Dhaka has become the “nerve-centre” of ISI activities in promoting terrorism and insurgency in India.

He told Parliament: “Some al Qaida elements have taken shelter in Bangladesh... Though foreign media has also reported several such instances, our own sources have confirmed many of these reports.”

Sinha is the second top Indian leader to make such an allegation. Earlier this month, deputy Prime Minister L.K. Advani had triggered a diplomatic controversy by stating publicly that ISI activities had escalated after Khaleda Zia assumed power in Bangladesh.

He had also spoken of al Qaida presence in that country. Both charges were hotly denied by Dhaka.

A large number of unauthorised madarsas have sprung up along the Indo-Bangla border, he said. Sinha echoed a long-held Indian view, voiced by Advani too, that major Northeast insurgent groups have established training camps in Bangladesh.

Sinha’s statement came in response to queries from Trinamul Congress leader Mamata Banerjee who said “Bengal is the gateway” for insurgents from the Northeast, Nepal and Bhutan.

He said Delhi had taken up the issue with Dhaka from time to time and the Indian high commissioner in Dhaka had conveyed India’s “strong concern over shelter being obtained on Bangladesh territory by people inimical to India’s interests”.

The Bangladesh government has assured “us” that it would not allow its territory to be used for such activities.

“The Bangladesh foreign minister has intimated that instructions have been issued not to allow the presence of Indian insurgents or their free movement across the border,” the minister said.

The fresh burst of accusations from India comes when former Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is touring the country.

In Delhi today, she steered clear of charges that her country had become a safe haven for al Qaida terrorists and the ISI.

“We have seen such reports in newspapers. But independently, we don’t have any information about them. Maybe the question should be directed to the Bangladesh government,” Hasina said.

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