Bangladesh politicians back transit facility to India

July 16th, 2008 - 3:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Dhaka, July 16 (IANS) Bangladesh’s politicians have endorsed giving land transit facility to India, even as the government said the scheme needed scrutiny and it would not discuss the issue at foreign secretary level talks between the two countries scheduled Thursday. The okay from senior politicians of all major parties came in the presence of US ambassador James Moriarty who met them over tea Tuesday to discuss Bangladesh’s domestic situation and its relations with the South Asian neighbours.

“On India’s proposal for transit, the US ambassador and all the leaders and lawyers unanimously said Bangladesh should give transit to neighbouring countries, especially India,” The Daily Star newspaper said Wednesday.

Without mentioning India, a leader of Jamaat-e-Islami attending the envoy’s reception, proposed giving transit to Myanmar and Nepal as well.

The participants of the meeting said Bangladesh should be linked to the proposed Asian Highway to become a part of the global communication network and for economic benefits, other media reports said.

This, again, is an issue on which Bangladesh has expressed reservations in the past fearing that the super highway would give India free access through its territory.

The political stand on providing land transit and facility at Chittagong port has fluctuated depending upon who is in power. The parties in opposition have warned the government of the day against any “sell-out” to India, making it a political issue.

Although representative of jailed former prime minister Khaleda Zia’s Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) did not oppose this at the US envoy’s meeting, the party secretary general Khandaker Delwar Hossain last week threatened an agitation if the present caretaker government made any concession to India.

The envoy’s reception, part of the proactive stance the US has been adopting in Bangladesh, along with Britain and the European Union, came on the eve of Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain’s departure to New Delhi for bilateral talks.

No decision on India’s long-pending proposal will be taken at the foreign secretary-level talks beginning in New Delhi Thursday, Hossain said.

“Nothing to be worried, no decision will be taken at this point in time,” Untied News of Bangladesh (UNB) quoted Hossain as saying.

India has been pressing for a decision for long on an issue that it sees as essentially economic, meant to access its isolated north-eastern region.

But Bangladesh has linked the transit issue with similar access to Nepal and Bhutan.

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