New Delhi, Jul 2: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's “off-the-record” comments —that were on the PM's website for over 30 hours — have led to a controversy impacting New Delhi's relations with Bangladesh, as it comes barely a week before External Affairs minister S M Krishna's visit to Dhaka, reports Indian Express.
Singh's statement, during his interaction with editors on Wednesday, that “at least 25 per cent” of Bangladesh's population is anti-Indian, was splashed in the Bangladesh media today.
At Wednesday's interaction, he told the editors, “But we must reckon that at least 25 per cent of the population of Bangladesh swear by the Jamiat-ul-Islami and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the ISI. So, the political landscape in Bangladesh can change at any time. We do not know what these terrorist elements, who have a hold on the Jamiat-e-Islami elements in Bangladesh, can be up to.”
This was posted on the PM's website on Wednesday night as part of the transcripts of Singh's meeting with the editors.
The PM's website finally corrected the transcript on Friday morning and edited out the entire paragraph on Bangladesh, including some of his positive observations.
Media advisor to the PM, Harish Khare, when contacted, said, “The Prime Minister's remark was off-the-record. We put it out by mistake. It has been corrected now.”
Though no official protest had been lodged by Dhaka till Friday night on the comments, sources said that the comments have put the Sheikh Hasina government “on the backfoot”.
This, officials privy to the India-Bangladesh talks said, has given “unnecessary ammunition to those elements in the Bangladesh society which have been marginalised for long.”
Sources also pointed out that the figure of 25 per cent of the population is a “complete distortion of facts”.
In the last Bangladesh parliamentary elections two-and-half years ago, Jamaat-e-Islami got barely 4 per cent of votes. And the highest voting share that Jamaat-e-Islami has got in the last 20 years has been 6 per cent.
With Krishna headed to Dhaka for a bilateral visit from July 6 to 8, sources said that these comments will adversely affect India's relations with Bangladesh.
The Sheikh Hasina government has helped India in the security frontiers, by cracking down hard in the insurgent groups.
Even PM acknowledged this in his comment—which has also been edited out: “With Bangladesh, we have good relations. Bangladesh government has gone out of its way to help us in apprehending the anti-Indian insurgent groups which were operating from Bangladesh for a long time.”
Sources said that Singh's comments—that has now been lapped up by the Bangladesh media and the Opposition party Khaleda Zia—is going to make it difficult for the Hasina government, which is perceived to be “pro-India.”
Singh, who said that he plans to go to Dhaka, had also said, “And that is why we have been generous in dealing with Bangladesh. We are not a rich country. But we offered it a line of credit of one billion dollars, when Sheikh Hasina came here...we are also looking at ways and means of some further unilateral concessions...we are also looking at ways and means of finding a practical and pragmatic solution to the sharing of Teesta waters.”