The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Bangla minister on Delhi mission

New Delhi, Feb. 6: Bangladesh foreign minister Mohammed Morshed Khan is arriving here on Monday to iron the creases in its relations with India even as the crisis over the snake charmers stranded on zero-line ended this morning after Delhi made it clear to Dhaka it will not accept the “Bangladeshi nationals”.

Morshed will lead a high-level delegation that will include senior officials of the Bangladeshi interior ministry and agencies involved in border management. His main talks on the two-day trip will be with Indian foreign minister Yashwant Sinha. The two sides will try to iron out differences over illegal immigration to India and how future crises can be averted.

The end of the week-long impasse over the 213 snake-charmers on the border followed a late night phone call made by Morshed to Sinha. India made it apparent during the telephone talk that though it wanted to break the standoff at the earliest it was in no mood to give in to Dhaka’s propaganda that the nomads were Indians.

Though Sinha was extremely courteous with Morshed, he did not hide the fact that Delhi was firm on its stated position — it would not allow any “illegal migrant” in, especially since the Bangladeshi government seemed to be playing an active role in pushing them across.

Sinha’s insistence that Bangladesh should respond to India’s proposal for an immediate flag meeting between the inspectors-general of the Border Security Force and the Bangladesh Rifles broke the deadlock.

A meeting at the I-G level would mean the two sides would have to jointly verify the nationality of the snake-charmers and their families, stranded on the zero-line in Cooch Behar since January 31. Over the past few days, suggestions of a joint verification had been turned down by the BDR.

Delhi, which held firm from Day I, was confident that it had enough evidence to prove that the stranded people on the border were Bangladeshi nationals. Having realised that the situation was fast slipping out of its grasp, Dhaka blinked first.

For a fig-leaf, it continued to insist that India had taken back the hapless group. But having seen the snake-charmers and their families melt into the night across the border into Bangladesh, it was a claim Delhi could live with.

Morshed had first conveyed his desire to visit Delhi through high commissioner Tufail Karim Haidar. Over phone, he told Sinha he was keen to visit Delhi at the earliest.

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