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India not to ‘broker’ Dhaka deal

- Sujatha: Would like to see maximum participation

Dhaka, Dec. 4 (PTI): India today said it will not “broker any deal or mediate” between Bangladesh’s feuding parties, but it wants the successful completion of the country’s troubled election process.

Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, who today met top Bangladeshi leaders, said she was not “here to broker any deal or mediate” among rival parties.

“But I told them India wants the successful completion of the election process,” she said at an interaction with a small group of Bangladeshi journalists after meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Begum Khaleda Zia.

Asked if India wants to see inclusive polls with the participation of all major parties, Singh said: “Yes, in any election, participation of maximum number of parties is expected. We would like to see the election here with participation of as many as parties as possible.”

In an apparent reference to the BNP’s decision to boycott the polls, she added: “The Opposition has an important role to play in any democracy, and Bangladesh is no different.”

A face-off between the Awami League and the BNP has triggered widespread violence that has claimed over 50 lives.

An 18-party Opposition alliance has enforced several nationwide blockades to press for the postponement of the polls. The BNP today issued a fresh ultimatum to instal a “non-party” caretaker government by tomorrow, failing which it would launch further protests.

Singh said: “This is an important time for Bangladesh. Elections are an intrinsic part of the democratic process... Political parties are the pillars of democracy. As a fellow democracy, India hopes that the forthcoming elections will strengthen democratic institutions, practices and processes in Bangladesh.”

India hopes the elections will respond to the aspirations of Bangladeshi people and will be free, fair, impartial and peaceful and find wide acceptability, she said.

The BNP has boycotted the polls by not fielding any candidates and former President H.M. Ershad’s Jatiya Party, a former ally of the Awami League, has announced it will also not participate in the elections.

Singh, who arrived in Dhaka earlier today on a two-day visit, also met Ershad but declined to disclose the outcome of her talks.

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