President Pranab Mukherjee on Monday sent a strong message to Bangladesh urging it to nurture democracy and democratic values as violence continued during the Jamaat-e-Islami sponsored two-day hartal and the BNP led by Khaleda Zia appeared to harden its stand vis-à-vis the Awami League.
A minor cocktail cracker explosion very near to the hotel where Mukherjee is staying diverted attention for a few hours but clearly,the emphasis on continuation of democratic principles by the Indian side was the loud message to some of the top political leadership of Bangladesh,including General (retd) H M Ershad of the Jatiya Party who met Mukherjee on Sunday and Monday.
Mindful of the adverse impact on the ongoing visit,the Indian side was quick to give out a statement dismissing the explosion incident as a normal occurrence during hartals.
According to sources familiar with the discussions,Gen Ershad was of the view that legitimacy of elections,which are due this year-end,would be there only if Sheikh Hasina stepped down and appointed someone else as caretaker prime minister. Mukherjee,however,pointed him that caretaker governments do not have any powers in a democracy and Union Cabinet cannot meet once it was dissolved.
The President gave the Indian example,saying that even during the Kargil war,it was only a committee of senior ministers who took decisions and not the Union Cabinet. According to the sources,Gen Ershad however seemed unconvinced.
The stress on democracy resonated earlier in Mukherjees speech at the University of Dhaka after being conferred an honorary doctorate of law. If today,Bangladesh has embraced democracy,it is largely due to the values and principles which its people held dear when they fought for their independence in 1971, he said.
He also said the destinies of India and Bangladesh are interwoven just like are history and our geography.
Later in the evening,as he accepted another award the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour he underlined that India had an abiding interest in the all-round development of Bangladesh.
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