We have excellent ties with India: Bangladesh

April 5th, 2008 - 3:16 pm ICT by admin  

Brussels, April 5 (IANS) Bangladesh has stressed there can be no reversal to “excellent” bilateral ties with India. “Both (Indian Foreign Minister) Pranab Mukherjee and I have worked very hard to put our relations on a trajectory from where there should be no reversal,” Foreign Minister Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury told EuAsiaNews here Friday.

“We are continuing to negotiate on all issues of mutual interest but at the political levels we have excellent relationship,” Chowdhury said.

Chowdhury noted that Bangladesh Friday purchased about 500,000 tonnes of rice from India “at a price which we believe to be a friendship price”.

Earlier, speaking at the prestigious Belgian think-tank, Chowdhury said elections in Bangladesh would be held before the end of December this year.

“It is our primary goal, indeed our constitutional obligation, to hold free, fair and credible elections. The response from all political parties and the public has been very positive,” said Chowdhury, currently on a visit to Brussels for talks with EU officials.

Over 50 million voters have been registered and the voters’ cards, the most sophisticated in the world, would also serve as national identity cards, he said.

“So far everything is on track. What is left, however, is a dialogue with the political parties,” Chowdhury said adding the caretaker government intends to begin the political dialogue within two weeks.

“What in Kenya and Pakistan cost so many lives, we want to achieve without bombs going off and shots being fired. This can be achieved through negotiations and dialogue,” he told the large audience of diplomats, members of the European Parliament, academics and journalists.

Chowdhury said the state of emergency proclaimed in January 2007 in Bangladesh would not be lifted before the elections.

“The state of emergency is necessary for the government to remain in office. That is the technical, legal necessity, otherwise the government can, under the constitution, only remain in office for three months,” Chowdhury said.

He, however, declined to say if detained former prime ministers Sheikh Hasina and Begum Khaleda Zia would be freed before the polls, as requested by their parties, but noted that arrested leaders would play a role in the political dialogue.

Delivering a speech on “Democracy in Bangladesh: a way forward,” Chowhdury, who has had a long distinguished diplomatic career, condemned extremism and terrorism as “the twin dark forces of our time”.

Chowdhury also met EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana Friday and discussed the current situations in Bangladesh and the region and EU-Bangladesh relations.

Solana said he hopes Bangladesh will continue to strive for priority political reforms and commended the government for the progress achieved so far.

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