Slamming the previous Congress-led UPA government for its support to Bangladesh’s ruling Awami League headed by Sheikh Hasina, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia said the relationship between New Delhi and Dhaka should address the interests of the people of the two countries and not “any particular party” or “any individual”.
In an exclusive interview to The Indian Express on Sunday night — her first face-to-face interview to an Indian newspaper in five years — Zia, who has served as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh twice, said Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s “focus on building relations with the people in the neighbouring countries, and not just with any particular political party, is a significant change”.
Asked if she felt that the UPA government had not kept its promise to Bangladesh, she said, “That is the perception of the people of Bangladesh. Actually it is the failure, or a lack of will, of our government to protect the interests of the people of Bangladesh on the unresolved issues that turned out to be the bigger problem.”
Responding to a question on whether the UPA government’s links with the Awami League had augured badly for Bangladesh, she said, “Again, this is the perception here. The people of Bangladesh sincerely desire good and friendly relations with India, one that is broad based and inclusive. This relationship should address the interests of the people of the two countries, not any particular political party or any individual.”
Zia, who boycotted the January elections alleging that they were not being held fairly under the Hasina regime, said, “We are hopeful that Modi — with a full majority — will be able to do what the previous governments could not.”
Talking about her meeting with External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj last week, she said, “Sushma was receptive to our concerns on the unsettled bilateral issues like the sharing of the waters of our common rivers, especially the Teesta, border killings and the Land Boundary Agreement.”
Stating that Modi’s invitation to SAARC leaders for his swearing-in ceremony was a “welcome initiative” which “demonstrated his far sightedness”, she said, “It is also a recognition of SAARC as the best means to enhance regional cooperation in South Asia.” Stating that she received an invitation from Modi when they spoke on the phone, she said she was not planning to visit anytime soon.