'I didn't hide anything about pacts with India': Sheikh Hasina to Zia
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Thursday said that she hid nothing about the agreements she signed with India, rejecting her predecessor Khaleda Zia's accusations that she failed to secure Dhaka's interests and gained "nothing, but assurances".
Zia, the leader of Bangladesh's main political opposition party BNP, has criticised the four-day India visit of Hasina, that concluded this week, during which the two countries inked 22 agreements including in defence and civil nuclear sectors.
India announced a USD 4.5 billion Line of Credit to Bangladesh and an additional assistance of USD 500 million for its military procurement. But the two countries could not sign the long-pending Teesta waters sharing pact primarily due to opposition from West Bengal, through which the river passes.
Zia on Wednesday said that Hasina brought "nothing from India, but assurances". She said the visit was Bangladesh government's failure to secure its interests from its stronger neighbour, claiming Hasina's Awami League government was "advised" by many political groups and civil society members against signing the defence deals with India.
Hasina responded to Khaleda's criticisms at a meeting of the Awami League's Working Committee, bdnews24.com reported. "The BNP leader said we kept the people in the dark while signing the memoranda of understanding (MoUs). I have only one question to ask her: Whom did she consult when she signed the defence deal with China? No-one saw what was in it," Hasina said.
"At least, I didn't hide anything like she did," she added. The prime minister said the deals had been placed for clearance by the Cabinet before the signing, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali spoke about those in a press conference before the visit and those were disclosed in the Bangladesh-India joint statement.
"Now if someone can't see even after having eyes, then I have nothing to do," Hasina said, in a dig at her arch rival. She said Bangladesh has gained by signing the agreements and MoUs with India. "We will be able to bring power from India; diesel will come through pipeline; LNG will also be brought to overcome the gas crisis."
About Khaleda's criticism for the failure to have India sign the Teesta water-sharing deal, the prime minister asked, "Khaleda Zia was also in power, then why couldn't she bring Teesta water?"
She alleged Bangladesh was actually paying for not protesting against a barrage India built on the Teesta river in Gazaldoba when Khaleda's husband BNP founder Ziaur Rahman was in power.
She also criticised Khaleda for "not raising" the Ganges water-sharing issue during her India visit when the latter was prime minister in 1991.