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‘Nobody a minority’ in Bangladesh says minister Hasan Mahmud, thanks India for regional stability

The Sheikh Hasina-led government in Bangladesh is focussing on garnering India’s support, as the country gears up to face elections next year.

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New Delhi: Bangladesh believes “nobody is a minority” in that country be it Hindus or people from other minorities there and that “everyone is a son of the soil” where every citizen feels safe, the country’s Minister for Information and Broadcasting Hasan Mahmud said in New Delhi Tuesday.

Speaking to journalists during a 24-hour visit to the Indian capital, Mahmud said, “We believe no one is a minority. Our Prime Minister says don’t feel you are a minority. You are the son of the soil. This is your country and according to our Constitution everybody has equal rights.”

“Of course there are fanatic people both in India and Bangladesh and they try to ignite fanaticism. They try to destabilise the harmony across religious groups. That happens everywhere,” said Mahmud, who is regarded as one of the close aides of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

The minister added that in the last couple of years, the Sheikh Hasina government has taken “tough” action against such elements and cited how this year the Hindu festival of ‘Durga Puja’ was celebrated in Bangladesh.

“(This year) the number of puja pandals has increased by 700 more than last year. This is because the Bangladesh government has ensured the safety and security of those who follow Hindu religion (there) and I don’t want to say minority,” he added.

Bangladesh had seen a spate of religious violence targeting Hindu temples and puja pandals during last year’s Durga Puja celebrations — an episode which India had called “disturbing”.

Referring to India-Bangladesh bilateral ties and the contentious issue of Teesta River water sharing, Mahmud said, “Our relationship is very diverse and it does not depend only on Teesta water sharing (issue). Of course, India and Bangladesh have been engaging in the issue.”

In September this year, for the first time in 26 years, India and Bangladesh signed a treaty to share the water of a key transboundary river, Kushiyara, while the long-pending pact to share the waters of Teesta River — a politically-sensitive issue for Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina — continued to remain stuck.

The Bangladesh minister also spoke of the importance of the proposed trade deal between India and Bangladesh, New Delhi’s role in maintaining regional stability and how they view the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act.

Also readSheikh Hasina’s Teesta water calls turn desperate. But Modi is weighing national interest

Bangladesh needs to address trade gap with India

According to the minister, Bangladesh is facing issues when it comes to exports, as two-way trade between both countries continues to remain favourably tilted towards India.

Bangladesh was trying to export more and more goods to India to address the growing trade deficit, said Mahmud, but it was imperative that both sides sign the proposed trade deal, the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

The minister added, however, that it was due to India due that Bangladesh was able to achieve a high GDP growth despite the pandemic, as well as maintain political stability.

“To maintain political stability in Bangladesh it is important to have regional stability and India has played a role in that,” Mahmud said.

He added: “Regional stability is important for the progress of the region as a whole. Political stability of any country is one of the most important pre-conditions for prosperity of that country … This region does not include China.”

Mahmud’s comments assume critical importance as Bangladesh is now focussing on garnering India’s support even as PM Hasina gears up to face elections in 2023. This is one of the reasons why she undertook a trip to India in September this year to meet Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

The Bangladesh minister, however, refused to elaborate on the controversial Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA), which stipulates granting citizenship to minorities of Bangladesh, Pakistan and Afghanistan, calling it “an internal matter” of India.

“CAA is your internal matter and as an appeal has been submitted in the Supreme Court then it has also become a legal issue,” he said.

(Edited by Poulomi Banerjee)

Also read: How Sheikh Hasina’s breaking the Chinese wall, creating new links between India — and India


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