Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina slammed her arch-rival Khaleda Zia of the Bangladeshi National Party on Tuesday for spearheading a "misleading campaign" against the $1 billion loan deal with India that has sparked a row between the government and the main opposition party.
"Our government has signed the deal with 1.75 percent interest rate and 20 years of repayment period while the Bangladesh Nationalist Party had struck another such deal with India fixing the rate at 5 percent with a repayment period of 15 years," Hasina said, as she flayed the BNP supremo for leading a "misleading campaign" against the key pact.
Hasina pointed out the Zia-led government had also signed a supplier's credit agreement with China with 4.5 percent interest rate to explore the major Barapukuria Coal Mine in northwestern Bangladesh.
Interacting with a delegation of university teachers, Hasina joined the debate a day after Zia at a major party rally in the capital demanded the scrapping of the loan deal, calling it a "slavery pact".
"This is another pact of slavery signed against the national interest the people of the country do not and will not accept it," BNP chief Khaleda Zia told a major public rally on Monday, two days after the signing of the landmark deal.
Zia alleged that the post independence Awami League government had signed a 25-year "slavery pact" soon after Bangladesh's 1971 independence while "this time too they signed another such unequal treaty against the national interest".
In the largest-ever loan India has given to any foreign country, New Delhi signed an agreement with Bangladesh to extend a $1 billion credit line to Dhaka on August 7 for developing 14 infrastructure projects, mostly in the communications sector.
The loan agreement was signed between the Exim Bank of India and the economic relations department of Bangladesh in the presence of Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.
Mukherjee, made a brief five-hour trip to be present at the signing function of the key pact, agreed during Hasina's trip to New Delhi in January.
The government singed the $1 billion Line of Credit agreement to implement a range of projects mainly for development of railway and other communication infrastructures on August 7.
The BNP had alleged "the government is getting the loan from an Indian bank with an interest rate seven times higher than that from any multinational bank or donor agency". However, the Awami League-led government has strongly defended the loan deal, dismissing the BNP's charges as a "disgusting attempt to spread falsehood".
Relations between the South Asian neighbours were chilly between 2001-2006 when the Islamist-allied BNP was in power in Bangladesh and New Delhi regularly accused Dhaka of harbouring anti-India insurgents and fostering militancy.The bilateral ties, however, have been on the upswing since Hasina came to power after the landmark general election in 2008.