India has conveyed to Bangladesh that it hopes to witness "a free and fair election" in the country and that it would work with "any government the people decide to elect".
The assertion by visiting Indian Minister of State for External Affairs E Ahamed on Tuesday came as Bangladesh prepares to elect a new Jatiya Sangsad (National Assembly), probably early next year.
Speaking at a luncheon hosted by the India-Bangladesh Friendship Organisation Tuesday, Ahamed stressed that a stable and secular Bangladesh was in the interest of not only India but also the entire region.
"There is already an intense debate in Bangladesh on the coming election. I must admit that there is also a keen interest in India... We hope that the next general election will be truly free and fair," the Daily Star quoted him as saying.
Ahamed said: "We look forward to working with whichever government the people of Bangladesh decide to elect."
Each election in Bangladesh carries an "India factor" with candidates, parties and alliances taking a stand that is pro- or anti- India, be it pronounced or subtle.
The usual target of criticism is alleged Indian "interference" and effort to establish "hegemony."
Past elections have witnessed campaigns that carry a lot of innuendoes. But even without elections, India is painted as a villain, be it the frequent agitations by ill-paid garment workers or explosions that have rocked the country in the last one year.
Ahamed is not the first visiting minister to express views about the Bangladesh political scene in that the envoys stationed here too have time and again stressed the need for a free and fair poll leading to a stable and secular Bangladesh.
Indeed, they have gone beyond this, expressing critical views about poor governance, lack of accountability and corruption that has hurt socio-economic development.
He said the people in India attach the highest importance to India-Bangladesh relations. "This sentiment is shared by all, cutting across party lines," the Daily Star quoted him as saying.
India has had strong reservations about the role of Islamist organisations in Bangladesh since any persecution of the minorities there has a spillover effect in terms of forced migration and reactions in Indian states alongside Bangladesh.
Ahamed stressed that terrorism posed the greatest danger to the peaceful and stable existence of nation-states in today's world. "It is the open and democratic societies that are most vulnerable to the threat posed by extremism and terrorism," Ahamed remarked.
He said the recent bombings in Mumbai and Srinagar have once again shown the kind of destruction such elements can cause and the extent to which these elements can go to impose their views and beliefs.
"We believe Bangladesh should and can set an example to others. It is in our mutual interest to cooperate and work to curb the rise of fundamentalist and extremist beliefs," he noted.
Prof AK Azad Chowdhury, president of the Bangladesh Bharat Maitri Samiti, Justice KM Sobhan, president of the Bangladesh Bharat Sampriti Parishad, Maj-Gen (retd) KM Shafiullah, a former Bangladesh Army chief, and Veena Sikri, the Indian high commissioner, were among those present at the function.
The function being an unofficial one meant to forge goodwill, he did not dwell at length on disputes over various outstanding issues.
As neighbours it is natural that differences will arise but these can be resolved only through dialogue and understanding, he said.
"Once we are committed to meaningfully working together we can hope to work for resolution of complex issues," he said.