Bangladesh's main opposition leader Khaleda Zia has abruptly cancelled her proposed meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee, casting a shadow on his first foreign visit which began in Dhaka on Sunday.
As per the original itinerary of the President, the Chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) was to have called on Mukherjee at his hotel suite on tomorrow afternoon but the revised official programme given to the media today does not include the meeting.
BNP sources said the party conveyed to Indian government about Zia's inability to meet Mukherjee a couple of days ago.
Zia's Political Advisor Shamser Mobin Chowdhury is understood to have cited to Indian officials security reasons for her calling off the meeting with Mukherjee in view of a two-day general strike called by BNP's ally Jamaat-e-Islami to press for a halt to trial of fundamentalist leaders for war crimes during Bangladesh's liberation war in 1971.
The two-day strike called by Jamaat coincides with Mukherjee's visit as does another shutdown announced by the BNP on the last day of his visit on March 5.
Interestingly, Zia had met Mukherjee in November last year when she had gone to New Delhi on a nine-day visit.
Zia's calling off of her meeting with Mukherjee came after India had, during her visit to New Delhi, made it clear that it was ready to do business with any party in power Bangladesh and there was no reason to conclude that New Delhi was close to any party particularly party, meaning Awami League led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, arch political rival of the BNP chief.
During her stay in New Delhi last year, Zia had made all the right noises in an apparent bid to reach out to India by promising that her party, if voted back to power, would not allow Bangladesh territory to be used by insurgents and terrorists to target India.
Although BNP has traditionally held a stridently anti-India stand, Zia had, during her India visit, vowed to make a "new beginning" in ties with India.
In recent days, Zia has raised eyebrows in secular political quarters in Bangladesh by dubbing the police crackdown on rampaging Jamaat activists as a "genocide" and her party has called a countrywide strike to protest alleged atrocities against Jamaat.