Former Prime Minister and currently leader of the opposition in Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia and her entire team surely looks to be totally satisfied and delighted over the outcome of their ongoing India tour, where the chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) met important political figures, including Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh and opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, while large number of bilateral issues were discussed. The BNP chief assured India that her party won’t allow any anti-India separatist groups in using the Bangladeshi soil, once her party goes into power. There is clear sign of Indian leader’s willingness in improving their relations, with the goal of minimizing the gap, which had been prevailing between India and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party. It may be mentioned here that, even in the recent past, BNP was considered to be a party much inclined towards Pakistan and it had been maintaining a strong anti-Indian posture, which had led people believing, Bangladesh Awami League (the current ruling party in Bangladesh) is the only choice of India, with which New Delhi has built a relations based on trust since the war of independence of Bangladesh. But the current trip of the Bangladeshi opposition leader at the invitation of the Indian government has definitely cleared New Delhi’s position, where the political pundits in both sides of the border are now convinced believing that India is more interested in relations with Bangladesh and all the political players in that country instead of depending on a single political force.
Bangladesh Nationalist Party certainly got positive response from the political elites in India, including the ruling party during Khaleda Zia’s meetings with Dr. Manmohan Singh, Sushma Swaraj, Salman Khurshid and senior BJP leaders like Lal Krishna Advani. Prime Minister Manmohan Singh repeatedly assured the BNP leader that India does not want to build its relations with a certain party in Bangladesh. Surely Dr. Singh clearly pointed to Bangladesh Awami League, which had been possibly thinking of the “exclusive friend” of Indian policymakers even in the recent past.
During his meeting with the Bangladeshi leader of the opposition, the newly appointed minister for External Affairs (Foreign Ministry) Salman Khurshid said, Bangladesh is vital for India.
But, Bangladeshi opposition leader was particularly touched at the warmest gesture of the Indian opposition leader Sushma Swaraj, when her daughter Bansuri Swaraj personally served food to Khaleda Zia and members of her entourage. Such gesture of Oxford educated Bansuri Swaraj who also is a barrister has won the hearts of the entire team of the Bangladeshi opposition leader.
While the visit of the Bangladeshi opposition leader has opened the prospect of new vista of cooperation between the two neighboring nations, the elites of the ruling Bangladesh Awami League are clearly uncomfortable if not unhappy at India’s warm gesture showed to Khaleda Zia. They also are silently furious seeing Indian policymakers are already considering the BNP as the next party in power in Bangladesh. The first-ever critical statement centering the India tour of the Bangladeshi opposition leader came from the foreign minister Dipu Moni, who termed the visit as “non-significant”.
Criticizing Khaleda Zia’s meetings with Sushma Swaraj, LK Advani and other leaders of the opposition, Bangladeshi minister Hasan Mahmud, who also is one of the top policymakers of the ruling party said, the Bangladeshi opposition leader met extremists in Indian politics with the ulterior motive of riding in power through unconstitutional ways. Such defamatory statement by the Bangladeshi sitting minister on the Indian politicians and opposition leaders has already drawn criticism both in Dhaka and New Delhi.
President of the youth front of the ruling party in Bangladesh, Omar Faruq Chowdhury has also criticized the visit of Bangladeshi opposition leader to India stating, India will not accept Khaleda Zia and her party as a good partner. Similarly, senior leader of Bangladesh Awami League Amir Hossain Amu made negative remarks on this visit.
From the statements of the leaders of the ruling party in Bangladesh, it is easily assumed that they already are feeling nervous seeing the fruitful meetings of Khaleda Zia with Indian policymakers and senior leadership, although it is rumored in New Delhi that Indian President Pranab Mukherjee called off his October 28 pre-set meeting with the Bangladeshi opposition leader at the request of the ruling party leadership in Bangladesh. Similarly, Indian National Congress leader Sonia Gandhi is hesitant in finalizing any meeting with Khaleda Zia. But, political circle in New Delhi are not pessimistic even if Pranab Mukherjee or Sonia Gandhi won’t finally see the Bangladeshi opposition leader, as the tenure of the current government has already come to the end and Khaleda Zia certainly has already met the leaders of those parties, which would form government in India within less than a year.