Khaleda Zia to meet PM Modi marking shift in anti-India stand

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, Dhaka
  • Updated: Jun 07, 2015 15:51 IST

Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chief Khaleda Zia is set to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday afternoon, signifying a shift in the main Bangladeshi opposition party's approach towards India.

The former Bangladesh prime minister, known for her strident anti-India posturing, welcomed Modi's visit and even thanked him for ratifying the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement which paved the way for swap of more than 160 enclaves between the two countries.

This marked a significant departure from her stand in 2010, when she accused her arch-rival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, of "selling out to India" after Dhaka clinched its biggest ever trade deal with New Delhi.

The BNP leader also refrained from meeting President Pranab Mukherjee when he visited Bangladesh in March 2013. It was Mukherjee’s first visit to a foreign country after becoming President.

Even way back in the 1990s, during Sheikh Hasina’s first term as Prime Minister, Zia expressed strong reservations when the two countries signed a pact for sharing the waters of the Ganga and the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Treaty.

When Zia, the widow of President Ziaur Rahman, was the Prime Minister, there was little or no cooperation between the two countries on the crucial issue of security and border management. There were also allegations that her regime turned a blind eye to or tacitly backed militants from India’s northeastern states who were sheltering in Bangladesh.

When Hasina became Prime Minister she addressed India's concerns “steadfastly", as foreign secretary S Jaishankar put it, leading to a remarkable improvement in bilateral ties.

Before leaving for New Delhi, Modi will also meet Leader of Opposition Raushan Ershad of the Jatiya Party and representatives of the Communist Party of Bangladesh.

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