NEW DELHI: After a bit of uncertainty, India confirmed on Friday that former Bangladesh Prime Minister and Opposition BNP leader Khaleda Zia would be meeting Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Sunday.
There had always been a bit of uncertainty that Khaleda would meet the PM, especially since she had backed out of a similar scheduled meeting with President Pranab Mukherjee. She had, however, met External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj during her visit to Dhaka last year.
The confirmation was given by Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar, who said that, besides the Bangladeshi leadership,the PM will meet Khaleda, Leader of Opposition Raushan Ershad and Left leaders. The main Opposition BNP, which has been out of Dhaka’s Parliament since its boycott of the last polls, had been mainly protesting against the Awami League-led coalition Government from the streets.
Following the passage of the Constitutional Amendment Bill in Parliament, which will allow the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement, the BNP, which is otherwise known for its anti-India stance, had even made a public statement welcoming it. In fact, earlier on Friday, Jaishankar said it was difficult to overstate the importance of finally getting the Land Boundary Bill ratified. The instruments of ratification will be exchanged tomorrow (Saturday) in the presence of both Indian and Bangladesh Prime Ministers, along with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
He said the passage of LBA with Bangladesh by Parliament has generated lot of goodwill and confidence and will help better border management. Prime Minister Modi’s visit is historic and the reason is the centre piece--the conclusion of the LBA with Bangladesh, which has the longest land boundary with India. “This is the achievement with which the Prime Minister will go to Bangladesh and we will have the instruments of ratification exchanged. It is really not ordinarily achieved,” said Jaishankar.
Describing Bangladesh as an “exceptional neighbour”, he said it was a “symbol of society where democratic roots have taken hold under very difficult conditions”. “We support Bangladesh as a democracy, we note the commitment to a pluralistic way of life,” he added.