Sheikh Hasina’s government in Bangladesh has maintained a tight leash on religious extremism, said Mohammed Abdur Razzaque, Agriculture Minister of Bangladesh. He was speaking to The Hindu over the telephone from Dhaka. He led an Awami League delegation visit to India from August 6-9 which he described as satisfactory. He said the hospitality displayed by the Bharatiya Janata Party showed the convergence of views between the two sides.
“In 2005 religious extremists carried out hundreds of bomb attacks across Bangladesh in a single day to showcase their strength. But now they are not in a position to do that kind of harm. Religious extremism is not unique to Bangladesh and it is a known challenge but under PM Sheikh Hasina’s government these forces could not stage a return,” said Mr. Razzaque speaking to The Hindu. Mr Razzaque and his colleague Information Minister Hasan Mahmood held a press conference in Dhaka on Thursday after returning from Delhi and informed the media about the discussions held with BJP leadership and Indian Ministers.
Apart from the two senior ministers the Awami League delegation also included Merina Jahan, Awami Dal MP, Aroma Dutta MP, and Organising Secretary of Awami League Sujit Roy Nandi. During the visit, the delegation met with External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar, Commerce and Industry Minister Piyush Goyal and G20 Coordinator, former Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla and BJP President J P Nadda who welcomed them in his residence. “BJP has a historic relation with the Awami League and we want to carry forward our relations by strengthening party level contacts in the days to come,” the delegation said recollecting Mr Nadda’s comment.
The visit of the Awami League delegation is notable as it came months before Bangladesh heads to the general election which has drawn attention from the United States, European Union and other international stakeholders who have called for the election to be fair and transparent. India has however maintained silence on the internal political situation in Bangladesh which has increasingly become confrontational as the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party has been demanding that the election should be held under a caretaker government. Mr Razzaque however said that the BNP’s position is not surprising.
“Since 2004, BNP has criticised Bangladesh’s elections and their current position is part of that. But the upcoming election will be held as per our constitutional provisions,” said Mr Razzaque who briefed Prime Minister Hasina earlier in the morning about the visit to India.