Indian PM pulled up over Bangladesh commentJuly 5th, 2011 - 4:16 pm ICT by IANS
Dhaka, July 5 (IANS) Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s reported comment that a quarter of Bangladesh’s population is anti-India cannot be seen as “an innocent remark”, a Bangladeshi daily said Tuesday.
The prime minister made the “off the record” remark to a group of Indian editors but it got loaded on the government website by mistake - and taken off amid embarrassment.
Ahead of Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna’s July 6 trip to Dhaka, the New Age said in an editorial: “Given Manmohan’s reputation as an intellectual and scholar, there is no reason to treat his comments as merely an innocent remark.”
The editorial said the timing of the comment was important.
Besides Krishna, Indian Water Resources Minister Salman Khurshid is likely to visit Dhaka soon. United Progressive Alliance (UPA) chairperson Sonia Gandhi is expected to arrive here July 25. Manmohan Singh himself is likely to visit Dhaka by September.
“Given the context, it is difficult to believe that the apparently ‘off-the-record’ comments had been mistakenly inserted in the transcripts of the meeting, as asserted by Indian High Commission in Dhaka.
“Instead, it would not be a stretch to presume that the comments arrived at the right time to exert an influence on the number of agreements that are likely to be signed during these visits.”
In his “off-the-record” chat with editors, Manmohan Singh spoke candidly about his assessment of the situation in Bangladesh.
He said that at least 25 percent of the population “swear by the Jamaat-e-Islami and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the ISI”, the Pakistani spy agency.
The daily described as ominous and a pressure tactic Manmohan Singh’s comment that Bangladesh’s political landscape can change anytime.
This can “hardly be interpreted as anything but a means to put pressure and create a sense of vulnerability on the government in power, in Bangladesh, prior to negotiations in which the Indian government are expected to seek a number of concessions from the Bangladesh government,” it said.
Given Bangladesh government’s “visibly shaky relations in recent months with the US government” following the ouster of Nobel Laureate Muhammad Yunus as Grameen Bank chief, “Manmohan’s comments could serve as a double-edged sword to impress upon the US the apparent threat of fundamentalist forces in Bangladesh”.
The editorial said: “If a significant part of the population the country is indeed anti-Indian, it is because of such comments and expression of intent of top officials of the Indian government, time and again, which not only cast aspersions on the ordinary millions of the country, disrespect their mandates and insult Bangladesh’s sovereignty, but also reflect a tendency to wrestle out undue concessions in negotiations, through any means.
“The Indian policymakers must realise that if they truly want to build friendly relations between the neighbouring countries, as indeed it should be, than it should take effective steps to resolve the numerous unresolved issues… between the two countries and make negotiations beneficial to both sides,” it added.
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