12:00 AM, June 09, 2018 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:57 AM, June 09, 2018

Eyes on General Election

BNP in talks with Indian think-tanks

A three-member BNP delegation is now in India and holding talks with the country's leading think-tanks over different issues, including the parliamentary elections of Bangladesh likely in December.

The team, led by the party's standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury, has held meetings with Observer Research Foundation (ORF), Vivekananda International Foundation (VIF) and Rajiv Gandhi Foundation (RGF) in the last couple of days.

The other two delegation members are BNP Vice Chairman Abdul Awal Mintoo and International Affairs Secretary Humayun Kabir.

"During the meetings, they [the think-tanks] wanted to know about democracy, election and rule of law. They already were aware of the absence of democracy and good governance [in Bangladesh]. Yet, they wanted to hear from us and we briefed them,” Khosru told The Daily Star over the phone yesterday.

He, however, said his team, which went to India a few days ago and is scheduled to return tomorrow, was not holding talks with any political party.

ORF is one of the leading think-tanks of India. Its members include former diplomats, bureaucrats, economists and analysts. Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, a distinguished fellow of ORF and also a former Indian high commissioner in Dhaka, was present during the meeting between the think-tank and the BNP team, said sources in the party. 

"The three-member BNP delegation held an interactive session with our distinguished fellows and senior fellows on Thursday at our office. The discussion lasted for about more than an hour," Joyeeta Bhattacharjee, senior fellow of ORF, told this newspaper over the phone.

Sources in the BNP said the delegation also discussed the next parliamentary polls, democracy and rule of law in Bangladesh.

Yesterday morning, the BNP team also met senior officials of New Delhi-based and pro-Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS) VIF for around two hours, party leaders said.

Contacted, Kamal Singh, executive assistant of VIF, said a Bangladeshi delegation met several senior officials of the public policy think-tank. He, however, refrained from giving details of the meeting.

The delegation has also held a meeting with the Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (IDSA), an autonomous body dedicated to objective research and policy relevant studies on all aspects of defence and security.

Meanwhile, Indian newspaper The Hindu yesterday reported that the leaders of the BNP appealed to the Narendra Modi government to support a free and fair process during the elections due in December.

"It is important for the Bangladeshi people to see their big neighbour play such a constructive role, and not back any one party in the elections,” the Hindu quoted Khosru as saying.

He also told the Hindu that, “If democracy prevails in Bangladesh, then whoever wins, it is a win for India.”

Contacted, Humayun Kabir told The Daily Star last night that in their separate interactions with the Indian think-tanks, they discussed the latest political situation and the extrajudicial killings taking place amid the ongoing anti-narcotics crackdown in Bangladesh.

The BNP team and the think-tanks also exchanged views on the party's future policies towards India and the Indo-Bangla relations, he said.

He also said the delegation went to India on the advice of BNP acting chairman Tarique Rahman, now in London. Tarique is “sincerely interested” in improving BNP's ties with India, he said, adding, “That's why he asked the team to go to India”.

Asked what role the BNP would want India to play in the run-up to the upcoming general polls, Kabir said, “We don't want any help from India. However, as the largest democracy in the world India should uphold the universal value of democracy and humanity in a neighbouring country.”