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Held, Hasina catches Delhi eye

New Delhi, July 16: A pre-dawn knock by a thousand-strong force sent Sheikh Hasina to a house-turned-jail in Dhaka today, landing Delhi in a dilemma on how to show concern for an old friend without antagonising a new ally.

In the first heat of response, Delhi seems to have put emotions before hard-nosed diplomacy, reacting sharply to the arrest of the former Prime Minister and offering the army-backed caretaker government in Dhaka lessons in democracy and due process of law.

“We are closely monitoring the internal developments in Bangladesh, including arrests of high-level politicians. In all such cases, it must be ensured that there is no violation of due process as established by law and that basic individual rights are fully respected,’’ Indian foreign ministry spokesman Navtej Sarna said here.

The statement is somewhat out of tune with the upswing in bilateral ties since the new regime took over in Bangladesh and took several steps that gladdened Delhi’s heart.

However, old ties die hard and Delhi could hardly sit quiet when Bangabandhu Mujibur Rahman’s daughter was produced before the chief metropolitan magistrate at 7.30am on the charge of extorting over Taka 2.99 crore (around Rs 1.8 crore) from a Bangladeshi businessman.

The huge contingent of security forces had started surrounding Hasina’s home soon after midnight.

Her arrest came days after she strongly criticised Fakhruddin Ahmed’s caretaker government and accused it of going beyond its designated role.

Indian foreign ministry officials have in the recent past been pleased about doing business with the new government in Dhaka, saying “Bangladesh is not Pakistan’’ and that Delhi can expect cooperation on all fronts, including that of curbing insurgency.

Army chief Moeen U. Ahmed is scheduled to arrive in Delhi in late August in what is to be an overt celebration of ties between the two sides.

But Delhi has now chosen to sermonise on the need for a “peaceful, stable and liberal democratic Bangladesh” and flagged milestones for a democratic roadmap. Sarna said “India has noted the roadmap’’ announced by the Bangladesh Election Commission on holding elections between October and December next year.

“We hope that this roadmap includes reconstitution of the Election Commission, electoral reforms, preparation of electoral rolls and delimitation of constituencies and leads to early restoration of democracy in Bangladesh,’’ he said.

“It is our expectation that the people of Bangladesh will be able to participate in a process leading up to a free, fair, credible and democratic election.’’

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