Khaleda calls off meeting with Mukherjee

March 04, 2013 - 1:00:12 am

President Pranab Mukherjee (right) meets Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in Dhaka, yesterday. 

Dhaka: Bangladeshi opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia, who was to call on visiting Indian President Pranab Mukherjee here, has cancelled the meet citing security concerns amid a strike called by the Jamaat-e-Islami.

Zia had agreed to the meeting with Mukherjee, which was fixed much in advance.

“We had fixed a time for her to call on our president well in advance, and it had been in our programme for some time. The president was looking forward to meeting Zia,” said Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai, briefing mediapersons.

“The programme was accepted and we were looking forward to it... The reason was given in an email, citing the ‘hartal’ (shutdown) called between March 3 and 5. They said that experience shows that such hartals often turn violent thereby causing safety and security concerns on the movement of people and, therefore, the proposed meeting with the president would not be possible,” Mathai said, adding that he did not wish to comment further.

Asked if it could be termed as a breach of diplomatic protocol, Mathai said: “We were looking forward to the interaction”, and added that External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid had met her on February 17 when he was in Dhaka.

Zia, chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), had called on Mukherjee when she visited India last October. She was scheduled to call on the Indian president today.

Mukherjee, while a minister, had met Zia during his visits to Bangladesh.

The Jamaat-e-Islami, a constituent of the opposition alliance headed by BNP, has called a two-day strike on March 3 and 4, to protest the conviction of JI leader Delwar Hossain Sayedee for the 1971 war crimes, including rape and genocide.

Nearly 60 people have been killed so far, including 14 yesterday, in clashes between police and Jamaat supporters, including its student wing, Islami 

Chhatra Shibir.

The BNP has called a strike on March 5, the last day of the president’s visit.

Mukherjee arrived in Bangladesh to a red-carpet welcome and 21-gun salute on his first trip abroad as India’s head of state.

He was received by President Zillur Rahman at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport.

The Indian president is accompanied by his wife Suvra Mukherjee and an official delegation, including Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury, Mathai and 

four MPs. IANS