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On Board Air India One: President Pranab Mukherjee yesterday said a “democratic, secular and progressive” Bangladesh was in India’s interest and India had conveyed the need to maintain communal peace and harmony at a time the neighbouring country is rocked by clashes that have seen over 70 deaths.
Mukherjee said he was “impressed by the vibrancy” of the country’s people.
“A democratic, secular and progressive Bangladesh is clearly in India’s interest,” the president said in a statement on his way back from his three-day maiden visit to Bangladesh.
“In this context, we conveyed to all our interlocutors the need for an inclusive political process; and the maintenance of communal peace and harmony.”
He said India was hopeful that internal political differences in Bangladesh can be resolved through dialogue “and that the rights of all communities would be fully respected”.
Mukherjee was referring to the clashes in Bangladesh between the Jamaat-e-Islami and the authorities since last Thursday. The Jamaat, a key ally of the opposition Bangladesh National Party, called a hartal or strike on March 3 and 4, during the Indian president’s state visit.
Mukherjee yesterday declined comment on the apparent snub by Bangladesh opposition leader Khaleda Zia, who called off her scheduled meeting with him during his three-day state visit to Bangladesh.
“The FS (Foreign Secretary) Ranjan Mathai has already spoken on it. I have nothing more to add,” he told reporters in reply to a query on what he though about Zia calling off the meeting.
Zia, chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) and former prime minister, had cited security concerns due to a strike called by the Jamaat-e-Islami for cancelling the meeting.
Earlier, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni had compared the violence unleashed by the Jamaat to that by pro-Pakistani elements in 1971. She had said the Islamists were attacking temples and burning the homes of minorities in Bangladesh.
Mukherjee said he was returning from Bangladesh “with the hope and confidence that India and Bangladesh can together build a better future for our people, and that our relations can serve as an example for the rest of South Asia”.
“My visit has served to reinforce the special importance that the government and people of India attach to developing the best possible relations with an important and large neighbour like Bangladesh.
“We believe that a strong, stable and rapidly developing Bangladesh is in the interest of not only its people but in the interest of the entire region. I, therefore, assured the government and people of Bangladesh that India will be a willing, long-term development partner,”
“Like India, they have a large population of youth. They are committed to democracy, tolerance, an inclusive social order, free media and building a modern and progressive state,” he said.
“They seek to consolidate the institutes of democracy and keep alive the spirit of their liberation struggle. We wish them well in this great endeavour,” he added.
He also stressed on the need to enhance people to people exchanges.