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India hopes Bangladesh̢۪s polls to be peaceful, acceptable

Staff Correspondent

Visiting Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, accompanied by Indian high commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran, addresses a press conference in the capital on Wednesday. — New Age photo 
Visiting Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh, accompanied by Indian high commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran, addresses a press conference in the capital on Wednesday. — New Age photo

Visiting Indian foreign secretary Sujatha Singh on Wednesday said New Delhi hoped that Bangladesh’s coming election would be free, fair and peaceful and find wide acceptability.
She met with top political leaders—prime minister and Awami League president Sheikh Hasina, opposition leader Khaleda Zia and Jatiya Party chairperson HM Ershad and discussed, among other things, the current  political crisis over the general
election set for January 5. 
‘This is an important time for Bangladesh. Elections are an intrinsic part of the democratic process. People of Bangladesh, like anywhere in the world, deserve the right to choose their elected representatives freely and fairly,’ she said in a written statement at a meeting with editors.
Sujatha said that Delhi wanted its relations with Dhaka to be broad-based and inclusive.
She said that the opposition had an important role to play in any democracy.
‘Democracy also means the ability to resolve differences through dialogue and peaceful means, without recourse to violence. We are concerned over the ongoing violence and hope that wisdom and maturity will prevail,’ she said.
Sujatha paid a courtesy call on Sheikh Hasina at her office.
‘I conveyed to the prime minister the high importance which India attaches to having good relations with Bangladesh and to peace and stability in Bangladesh,’ she said.
In the statement, she said that India, therefore, cannot remain indifferent to or unaffected by developments in each other’s countries.
Sujatha arrived in Dhaka Wednesday morning on a two-day visit at the invitation of her Bangladesh counterpart M Shahidul Haque as a nationwide  blockade called by the opposition is in progress demanding inclusive national election under a non-party administration. . 
The one-party election announced by the Election Commission drew widespread protests. 
‘India hopes that the forthcoming elections will strengthen democratic institutions, practices, and processes in Bangladesh,’ she said in the statement.
Sujatha also called on the leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia at her Gulshan residence. 
In one-hour meeting, they expressed identical views over political stability in Bangladesh, according to BNP.
Later, briefing reporters BNP vice-chairman Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury said, Khaleda Zia told the Indian secretary political
stability in Bangladesh was important for the region’s political stability and socio-economic progress.
Shamsher said Sujatha told Khaleda that India had worked with BNP government in the past and could work in the future.
Jatiya Party Chairman H M Ershad said that the Indian Foreign Secretary expressed concern over the rise of Jamaatif JP boycotts election and the other party came to state power.  
The less than an hour meeting between  Ershad and Sujatha took place at Ershad’s Baridhara residence. 
`Sujata told me that if I boycott the election another party may win and then there is possibility of rise of Jamaat. Do you want the rise of Jamaat?,’ the JP chairman quoted Sujatha as telling him.
‘In reply, I told her that I also don’t want the rise of Jamaat but if it happens I would not be responsible rather Awami League would be liable for it,’ Ershad said.
The Indian secretary met foreign minister Abul Hasan Mahmud Ali at his office shortly after her arrival. 

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