The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Pak acts on Dhaka push

New Delhi, March 17: Pakistan's high commissioner to Dhaka Manzar Shafique has been recalled, after siding with India when Bangladeshi foreign minister Morshed Khan was lambasting Delhi for its 'big brotherly' attitude.

Bangladesh has also indicated that it wants Dietrich Andreas and Neils Severine Munk, the ambassadors to Germany and Denmark, out for their 'interference' in its internal affairs.

Around October last year, Khan slammed India at a function in Dhaka, where Indian high commissioner Veena Sikri was present. The Pakistani high commissioner told his Indian colleague that had he been in her place, he would have walked out. Shafique's comment was loud enough for the Bangladeshi foreign minister to overhear. Khan lodged a strong protest with the Pakistan government and sought the envoy's recall.

Islamabad tried to downplay the incident. Although it recalled Shafique earlier this month, Pakistan argued that the move had nothing to do with Khan's protest but came after an 'internal assessment' by the foreign ministry in Islamabad. However, it failed to give any convincing answer as to why Shafique, who had been posted in Dhaka from Baghdad only a year ago, was recalled in such a hurry.

As Khan and his supporters are trying to claim credit for the move, the ruling coalition government led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP) has made it clear that it will not tolerate any unwarranted criticism or 'interference from outsiders' on the country's 'internal affairs'.

Sources said the German and Danish ambassadors earned the government's wrath after they played a key role in keeping Bangladesh out of the international donors' conference in Washington last month for its failure to provide proper governance.

The Danes had been the most vocal in their protest and had even withheld a $250 million grant.

Two years ago, the Danish government charged a BNP minister with asking for bribe to allowing a project.

The Indian establishment, which has been keeping a close watch on the developments in Dhaka, is trying to assess why Bangladesh is acting tough. 'Can Dhaka really get away by taking on the European Union' a senior Indian foreign ministry official asked. Over 50 per cent of Bangladesh's economy is dependent on foreign aid and, therefore, it is not prudent for the government to get into a confrontation with these countries.

A section in South Block believes that by flaring its muscles at 'smaller countries', Bangladesh is, perhaps, trying to send a signal to India that it, too, should keep out of Dhaka's affairs if it wants to improve relations.

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