Bangladesh government slams Zia for cancelling meeting with Pranab Mukherjee


Bangladesh government today reacted sharply to top opposition leader Khaleda Zia's refusal to meet visiting President Pranab Mukherjee, saying it "is a departure mfrom democratic norms and courtesy".

Addressing a press conference, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said it was "very unfortunate" that Zia's meeting with Mukherjee was cancelled by her. "It should not have happened".

She said it is a part of democratic norm that whenever foreign dignitaries visit the country, they meet both the head of government and the leader of the opposition.

"In that sense, it is a departure from democratic norms," mMoni said, adding however that India-Bangladesh relations would not suffer because of the incident as "our relations are moni a firm footing".

She said not all parties are democratic in the same manner and not all parties practice the same level of democracy. Moni was asked if Zia's calling off her meeting with the,Indian President was a breach of protocol and violated courtsey. It was expected that Zia would meet Mukherjee who is a Bengali and a very respected leader. Zia called off her meeting with Mukherjee on Monday.

Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party did not cite any reason for her abrupt cancellation of the meeting with Mukherjee but political sources said she did not want to mantagonize her ally Jamaat-e-Islami which enforced a general strike on the same day.

Zia's decision to cancel the meeting has been the talk inDhaka over the last three days and the predominant feeling across a wide spectrum of people, including academicians, isthat she should not have cancelled her meeting.

Moni took a dig at the BNP chief, saying "we take pride in being very hospitable and gracious to our guests but this mis a departure from that."

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