Dhaka: An English daily on Tuesday took strong
exception to Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s controversial
remark on Bangladesh, saying it was not "innocent" but made
to create a sense of "vulnerability" on the government in
"Given Manmohan`s reputation as an intellectual and
scholar, there is no reason, however, to treat his comments as
merely an innocent remark," the New Age said in its editorial.
Singh had sparked controversy by telling print editors
during a recent interaction that at least 25 per cent of
Bangladesh`s population was anti-India by their affiliation to
the Jamaat-e-Islami political party "and they were in the
clutches, many times, of the ISI", and that the political
landscape in Bangladesh can change at any time.
The daily said the timing of the comment was important.
"The Indian external affairs minister, SM Krishna is likely
to visit Dhaka on July 6. The Indian Water Resources Minister
Salman Khurshid is likely to visit Dhaka soon after to give
final touches to a treaty on sharing the waters of River
Teesta. Sonia Gandhi is expected arrive on July 25, while
Manmohan himself is likely to visit Dhaka by September."
It said, "Given the context, it is difficult to believe
that the apparently `off-the-record` comments had been
mistakenly inserted in the transcripts of the meeting, as
asserted by Indian High Commission in Dhaka. Instead, it would
not be a stretch to presume that the comments arrived at the
right time to exert an influence on the number of agreements
that are likely to be signed during these visits."
The editorial said an ominous note in Singh`s comment,
"that Bangladesh`s political landscape can change anytime",
can hardly be interpreted as anything but "a means to put
pressure and create a sense of vulnerability on the government
in power, in Bangladesh, prior to negotiations in which the
Indian government are expected to seek a number of concessions
from the Bangladesh government."
The daily felt that given the Bangladesh government`s
"visibly shaky relations in recent months with the US
government", following the Muhammad Yunus episode, Singh`s
comments could serve as a "double-edged sword" to impress upon
the US the apparent threat of fundamentalist forces in