Bangladesh minister draws flak for ‘transit’ remark

Dhaka, Nov 4 (IANS) Bangladesh Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith has drawn flak for reportedly terming as ‘fools’ the opponents of the government policy of providing transit facilities to South Asian neighbours — India, Nepal and Bhutan.

After a meeting with officials of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) earlier this week, Muhith reportedly said Bangladesh is geographically a transit country and those who deny it are fools.

The remark has drawn flak from all quarters.

‘The issue of allowing transit is a business and political issue. As it is a business, it needs to assess the profit and loss ratio. It is the duty of the government to protect the country’s interests strongly. Then other factors come,’ Sirajul Islam Chowdhury, a professor emeritus of University of Dhaka, was quoted as saying by New Age newspaper Thursday.

After nursing reservations for long that larger neighbour would benefit more from any transit facility, Bangladesh under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is providing transit to all neighbours and wants its Chittagong and Mongla ports utilised optimally, especially by land-locked Nepal and Bhutan.

It is also preparing to join the UN-sponsored trans-Asian road and rail network.

Main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party and its Islamist allies have termed these moves as ‘sell out to India’.

Leftist thinker Badruddin Umar, also president of Jatiya Mukti Council, said: ‘Those who consider only Bangladesh is a transit country, I would like to call them uneducated. Is it applicable only in case of Bangladesh? India too is a transit country, have they ever dared to seek transit through India?’

Economist Mahbubullah said: ‘The issue is not a unique one, rather related to many other things such as security issues. We are allowing India to transport its goods from one of its parts to another… this is not transit.’

‘The geo-political point of view also needs to be considered. We have two big neighbours who are rivals. We should not invite danger by harbouring one of the two rivals,’ he pointed out.

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