Bangladesh government on Tuesday reacted sharply to top opposition leader Khaleda Zia's refusal to meet visiting President Pranab Mukherjee, saying it ‘is a departure from 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," Moni said, adding however that India-Bangladesh relations would not suffer because of the incident as ‘our relations are on 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 courtesy.
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 antagonise 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 in Dhaka over the last three days and the predominant feeling across a wide spectrum of people, including academicians, is that 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 is a departure from that