AL believes India will stand by it during polls

Awami League presidium member Abdur Razzaque speaks at a press briefing on the party delegation's recent India visit at the Awami League office in the capital's Dhanmondi on 10 August, 2023Prothom Alo

The ruling Awami League (AL) delegation has returned with a notion that the party will get India’s support in the upcoming general elections. During the three-day visit to India, the AL delegation held meetings with several top leaders of Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), including party president JP Nadda.

The five-member delegation, headed by AL presidium member and agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque, visited India from 6 August to 9 August at the invitation of the BJP. Awami League held a press conference about the trip at its Dhanmondi office in the capital Thursday. Agriculture minister Abdur Razzaque said at the press briefing that during the three-day visit, they learned that India wants political stability in Bangladesh.

According to the sources in the party, the leaders of the ruling party in India and senior officials of the Indian government have stressed on political stability in Bangladesh. In that context, the pressure from the US, including the new US visa policy and sanctions on Rapid Action Battalion (RAB), also came up in the discussions during the three-day visit. The Indian leaders have said that they are working on these issues in their own way. The impact will be visible gradually.

Speaking to Prothom Alo on condition of anonymity, a member of the AL delegation said a top leader of India said the impact of the country’s diplomatic efforts were already visible to some extent. In addition to that, the Indian leaders have also said that they believe that prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s leadership is stronger than any other politician in Bangladesh.

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The source in the AL delegation further said, during meetings with leaders at different levels, including BJP president JP Nadda, Bangladesh’s growing relationship with China also came up. The Awami League leaders tried to convince them that Bangladesh’s relations with China are completely economic, just like the existing bilateral relationships between India and China. On the other hand, the relationship between Bangladesh and India is multifaceted.

The AL delegation further told them that it was possible to prevent the rise of Jamaat-e-Islami, different Islamic groups and communal forces as the Awami League is in power. The Pakistani influence in the subcontinent will grow again if the Awami League is not in power, which will be a threat to India’s security.

EC to hold the polls, India has no role

Asked about India’s role in Bangladesh’s general election, Abdur Razzaque said, “The Election Commission will conduct the elections and the government will cooperate with them. India has no part in this. They didn’t comment in this regard. Besides, the connectivity between the two countries is quite deep. They are well aware about what’s going on in Bangladesh.”

The agriculture minister further said, “China is always a big headache for India. This is the reason tension arises very often on the border between the two countries. We said our foreign policy is friendship towards all and malice towards none and we strictly adhere to this policy. However, our relations with India are written in blood. And, it is not comparable to any other relation.”

Our relation with India is written in blood. And, it is not comparable to any other relation
Abdur Razzaque, Agriculture minister

In response to a question regarding India’s attitude towards Jamaat-e-Islami in the next parliamentary election, Abdur Razzaque said, “It’s the responsibility of the state. We didn’t discuss this issue. The intelligence of both countries has regular contacts and they share information to prevent militancy and terrorism in the two countries.

AL joint general secretary and information minister Hasan Mahmud said, “The persons, whom we met during the India visit, firmly believe that the election will be held as per the constitution of Bangladesh. They understand the demands (made by the opposition) are useless. They think a free, fair and neutral election will be held in Bangladesh in accordance with the constitution. We also have discussed militant threats. They are aware that there is a cross-border connection between the militants.”

We went to India at BJP’s invitation. The US envoy has expressed his wish to visit the Awami League office. But BNP goes to different places by themselves
Hasan Mahmud, Agriculture minister

Abdur Razzaque said, “The BNP is always dependent on foreign forces. But now they realise that there is no benefit in it. The people of Bangladesh will decide who will control the politics in future.”

Information minister Hasan Mahmud said, “BNP has a love for foreign interventions. Their lobbying has not stopped. However, they have realised that there is no benefit in this.”

“We went to India at BJP’s invitation. The US envoy has expressed his wish to visit the Awami League office. But BNP goes to different places on theor own accord,” he added.

What transpired during the India visit

At the beginning of the press conference, Abdur Razzaque said, “India is our ally. They helped us with money and weapons during the liberation war. The relationship between the two countries have seen many ups and downs after the liberation war. And now, the relationship between the two countries are at a new height.”

BJP president JP Nadda, during the meeting with the AL delegation, said his party was interested to work with the Awami League to maintain stability and to fight terrorism in the region like the past

He further said, “Bangladesh is progressing unbelievably under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. In the past, Bangladeshi soil was used to supply 10 truckloads of weapons to the separatists in India. However, Bangladesh will not let anyone use even an inch of land of Bangladesh against neighbouring countries now. The BJP is satisfied with such initiatives from prime minister Sheikh Hasina.”

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It was said in the press conference that the AL delegation reached Delhi on 6 August. They met BJP president JP Nadda at his residence the next day.

Nadda, during the meeting, said his party was interested to work with the Awami League to maintain stability and to fight terrorism in the region like the past.

The delegation met with BJP general secretary Vinod Tad at the party’s central office later that day. Later, in the afternoon, the delegation met Indian foreign minister S Jaishankar at his office in the parliament.

S Jaishankar told the delegation that, “The cordial relationship between the two countries has reached a greater height than ever before during the tenure of prime minister Narendra Modi and prime minister Sheikh Hasina.”

On 8 August, they held a meeting with Indian Rajya Sabha (upper house) leader and commerce minister Piyush Goyal. At the meeting, the Indian minister assured the delegation that they will actively consider making sure that Bangladesh is not harmed by the ban on food grain export by the Indian government. He also sought assistance from the delegation to ensure more imports from Bangladesh. He also requested for the list of exportable products of Bangladesh at the time.

The delegation also met chief coordinator for India's G20 presidency in 2023 and former Indian ambassador to Bangladesh, Harsh Vardhan Shringla. He mentioned the invitation for Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina to take part in the upcoming G20 Summit to be held in India from 9 September to 10 September.

Apart from that, the AL delegation met with the BJP’s women and youth wing and a delegation of Indian media.

Members of the AL delegation Aroma Dutt, MP; Merina Jahan, MP and AL’s organising secretary Sujit Roy Nandi were also present during the press conference.