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Publication Date : 23-09-2013
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the UN has assumed a new significance, as she will meet Indian Premier Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the UN General Assembly and brief him about her government’s stance on holding the polls without a caretaker government.
The half-an-hour meeting on September 28 is likely to focus on how the AL-led government wants to hold the election and resolve the current political crisis, said sources in the government and the ruling Awami League.
The two leaders would also discuss bilateral issues such as Teesta water sharing and land boundary, they said.
Hasina hopes to use the Indian influence on the US with which her government’s relations are now fraught with tensions, said ruling party insiders.
She wants to convince the US that the AL has been working sincerely to check terrorism and Islamist militancy, and has been a patron of liberalism, they said.
The prime minister was initially against the idea of attending the UN General Assembly, as she had little indication that she would get an appointment with top leaders like US President Barack Obama or Manmohan Singh.
Earlier this month, senior AL leaders Tofail Ahmed and Amir Hossain Amu were hastily dispatched to New Delhi to set the meeting with Manmohan, said the sources.
Hasina decided to go to the UN only when Manmohan agreed to hold the meeting, said sources in the AL. One or two of her family members might attend the meeting with the Indian premier, they said.
The inclusion of senior AL leaders like Amu and Tofail in her delegation indicates the significance of the bilateral meeting.
Apart from the two AL leaders, Workers Party President Rashed Khan Menon and Jatiya Party leader Anisul Islam Mahmud, and some other key leaders of the AL-led alliance are expected to attend the meeting.
The AL-led government expects it would give the world an impression that the ruling party has full support from all its allies on the issue of holding the election without a caretaker government.
When Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visited Bangladesh in March, he had conveyed the message that India wants to see unity within the AL, not divisiveness that the AL chief created by sidelining some veteran leaders.
Hasina wants to convince the Indian leadership that elections under a caretaker government cannot be a solution in a democracy, and that political parties have to earn the trust sooner or later for holding elections.
The sources said she would assert her position that the elections would be held in line with the current constitutional framework, and scope is there for holding dialogue with the opposition on the issue.
The meeting takes place at a time when the AL-led government’s relations with the US have cooled to some extent over a number of issues, as exemplified by the cancellation of GSP facilities.
At the same time, the government is under pressure from the UN as well as the international community to hold dialogue with the opposition to find a way for holding the next polls with participation of all political parties.
The government hasn’t yet responded either to a UN call or a letter from the US Secretary of State for holding dialogue with the opposition to end the stalemate over the issue of a polls-time government.
Sources said there was little possibility that the prime minister would meet any high-level US officials.
But some of the AL leaders might hold meetings with mid-level US officials, who would then brief the US administration about the government’s views on the elections, they said.