The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Dhaka salve in Delhi baggage to Colombo

New Delhi, Dec. 6: Attempts will be made to improve relations between India and Bangladesh when foreign minister Yashwant Sinha meets his Dhaka counterpart in Sri Lanka at a regional economic cooperation meeting in this month.

Ties between the two sides soured considerably after India publicly accused Bangladesh of doing nothing to stem the growth of Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence and Northeast insurgents in the country.

The Indian leadership’s allegation that these activities had increased after the Bangladesh National Party came to power further raised Dhaka’s hackles.

This will be the first meeting between the two sides at the foreign ministerial level since relations were wrecked following Delhi’s accusation.

Earlier this week, South Block summoned Bangladesh high commissioner Toufil Karim Haidar and sent a demarche through him to Dhaka, expressing Delhi’s disappointment over the BNP government’s lack of response to its concerns regarding ISI activities and the presence of Northeast insurgents in Bangladesh.

Sinha is scheduled to visit Colombo for the Bangladesh-India-Myanmar-Sri Lanka-Thailand Economic Cooperation meeting on December 20. There are murmurs in South Block about a meeting on the sidelines between Sinha and the Bangladeshi foreign minister.

Sources said that though the foreign minister will repeat Delhi’s concern, he will also make it clear to his Bangladeshi counterpart that India’s charges were not aimed at damaging bilateral relations between the neighbours.

Sinha will argue that Delhi had to publicly express its concern because of Bangladesh’s decision to deny India’s charge. He will also point out that when India had similar problems with Bhutan or Nepal, attempts were made by these countries to take note of the concerns, instead of playing them down by refuting the charges.

“It is the denial by Dhaka that has caused much of the problem,” a senior official in South Block said.

The foreign minister’s visit to Dhaka a few months ago had raised hopes of improved and stronger ties between the two countries.

Sinha had made it clear during his talks with BNP leaders that India might be the “Big Brother”, but it certainly does not possess the attitude of one. He had argued by virtue of sheer geographical size, market and economy, India is much bigger than its neighbours.

However, it should not be expected to be apologetic for these realities.

Sinha was quick to add that this does not mean that India is not sensitive to the concerns of others. It is willing to address the concerns of its neighbours, but in return, India expects them to show the same sincerity while addressing its concerns, the foreign minister said.

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