Bangladesh's new foreign minister Hasan Mahmud appreciates India's stance over election

Mahmud said India stood with Bangladesh to ensure continuity of democratic process

39-Muhammad-Hasan-Mahmud Muhammad Hasan Mahmud | Mandira Nayar

Bangladesh's new foreign minister Hasan Mahmud on Monday appreciated India's stance over its election that reinstalled Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's ruling Awami League party for the fourth consecutive term while the polls were boycotted by major opposition BNP.

"India stood beside us in our efforts to maintain the continuity of the democratic process, and they remain beside us (in this regard)," Mahmud told reporters after Indian High Commissioner Pranay Verma called on him.

Mahmud said there were conspiracies to tamper with the 2014 elections and "efforts were made to make the 2018 elections controversial and questionable and during both events India was on our side."

"You all know India's position in the elections this year too," he said following the meeting, which was Mahmud's first diplomatic engagement after assuming the charge of the foreign ministry. Mahmud expected New Delhi's continued support for its next-door neighbour and emphasised expanding the ties through greater connectivity, business, digital economy and people-to-people contact.

Major opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) of ex-prime minister Khaleda Zia boycotted the January 7 polls saying that no election under Hasina's government would be fair and credible.

The BNP had demanded the polls-time non-party caretaker government for election oversight.

The Western powers, including the United States, earlier called for credible and inclusive polls and after the January 7 election they agreed to continue bilateral relations but expressed their reservation about the voting saying it was not free and fair.

The US State Department said Washington was concerned by reports of vote irregularities and condemned violence that took place.

The US State Department added: The United States shares the view with other observers that these elections were not free or fair and we regret that not all parties participated."

The UK said: Democratic elections depend on credible, open, and fair competitions (and) respect for human rights, rule of law and due process are essential elements of the democratic process."

These standards were not consistently met during the election period. We are concerned at the significant number of arrests of opposition party members before polling day, the UK statement said.

India earlier called the Bangladesh election an internal matter while it was one of the first countries to welcome Hasina's new government when Prime Minister Narendra Modi telephoned Hasina to congratulate on her historic election victory.

Modi told Hasina that New Delhi was committed to further strengthening the partnership with Bangladesh in different sectors.

Bangladesh's new government also drew congratulations from China, Russia and almost all Middle Eastern nations including Saudi Arabia, Egypt, Qatar and Iran.

In her first media appearance, Hasina also called India a great friend, recalling that it stood by Bangladesh in its 1971 Liberation War, and sheltered her following the 1975 assassination of her father and country's founder Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

" We had some bilateral issues with India, but solved them across the table ... (I) expect to resolve the rest as well," she said.

Mahmud said he received an invitation from his Indian counterpart Dr. S Jaishankar and expected New Delhi to be his first destination for a bilateral visit at a convenient time. He, however, is set to visit Uganda to join the Non-Aligned Movement Summit, a multilateral event, this week.

A foreign ministry statement, meanwhile, said during the meeting Mahmud expressed satisfaction with the existing bilateral relations between the two closest neighbours and hoped to work closely with India in the coming days. "He (Mahmud) emphasised the working on the renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, which will expire in 2026. He also emphasised on resolving the pending issues amicably," read the statement.

Prior to the polls, Mahmud had emphasised the "excellent relationship" his country had with India. "It has scaled new heights under the leadership of Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi. We cooperate on multiple fronts. Just 14 years ago, if anybody would speak about transit, people in our country would consider that to be anti-state. Now transit is a reality. People have understood transit is beneficial for the country and the region. Just 15 years ago, it was unthinkable that electricity would be produced in India and would be supplied to Bangladesh. But this is the reality now. Bangladesh has also offered India the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports," Mahmud told THE WEEK in an earlier interview. 

Meanwhile, the Indian envoy congratulated the foreign minister and termed 2023 as one of the most successful years in Dhaka-Delhi ties citing several notable achievements like the inauguration of a few projects related to connectivity and power.


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