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Momen: Regional stability, loans to feature Sheikh Hasina-Xi Jinping meeting

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Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen on Monday said if Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina meets Chinese President Xi Jinping during the BRICS meeting in Johannesburg, they would likely discuss loan interest rates, regional peace, and stability.

“The meeting time has not been set yet. “Usually, it is decided at the last minute. If I am there, I will talk to the Chinese president about regional peace and stability,” Dr Momen said while replying to a question at the foreign ministry.

The prime minister will leave Dhaka for Johannesburg on Tuesday. She will speak at the BRICS-Africa Outreach and the BRICS Plus Dialogues on Thursday on the last day of the 15th BRICS summit. The foreign minister will accompany her.

On the sidelines, the prime minister is expected to meet Chinese President Xi Jinping and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, among others.

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Due to the time constraint, the meeting with Narendra Modi might not happen since the two leaders would also meet again in Delhi on September 9 and September 10 at the G20 summit.

The meetings are scheduled at a time when Bangladesh’s upcoming general election is in the spotlight.

The US takes interest in free and fair elections. China insists the US is meddling in Bangladesh’s internal affairs. India wants the elections to be held peacefully and as scheduled.

Media reports, however, suggest that India conveyed to the US not to destabilize Sheikh Hasina government for the sake of regional security.

Foreign Minister Dr Momen termed the Indian government as mature, saying any decision Delhi took would be helpful for the region.

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“Without peace and stability nothing can happen. Look at Singapore, they developed because of peace and stability. Look at Dubai, it’s also for peace and stability,” the foreign minister said on Monday.

He said during the meeting many things can come up.

“China is our development partner. We have signed many projects, MoUs. It is a total $23 billion project with the government and in addition $13 billion from the private sector. But we got only $4 billion in the last eight years. Expediting the projects can be a topic of discussion,” he said.

“We want loans at a low interest rate. It will be discussed. Interest rates on their (China’s) loans have risen worldwide. We will say it is better if you consider it,” he said.

“There will be climate issues, and migration issues. We also want trade and investment for economic development,” he said, adding that “China has given concessions to Bangladesh for trade. Yet the trade is titled to one side (towards China). We will tell them to increase trade, increase investment.”

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Asked whether regional stability will be included in the Dhaka-Beijing talks, the foreign minister said: “It is our concern too. The entire region needs peace and stability. I say it everywhere I go. If I am in the meeting, I will give the message.”

He said if the prime minister remained in power again, it would be good for the region.

“Peace and stability is the most important. Sheikh Hasina is a symbol of peace and stability. If the prime minister can be kept, it will be good for everyone, for the entire region, for us, for India, Nepal, Bhutan….”

“People saw what BNP, Jamaat could do. If they come back in power like 2001-2006, they will promote terrorism, corruption, and jihadists. These have been promoted during their tenure. The country then went into the abyss.”

In response to a question about Bangladesh’s inclusion in the China-led Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership, the foreign minister said: “Our scholars who study these things say that it is good for our country. But we haven’t talked yet. We haven’t signed it yet.”

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Vast majority of Bangladeshis want good relations with neighbours: FM tells South Asia Correspondents

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Foreign Minister Dr Hasan Mahmud has said the vast majority of the people of Bangladesh now understand that it should have good relations with neighbours – for its own prosperity as well as that of the region.

He said his party (Bangladesh Awami League) is painted as a ‘pro-Indian’ party but AL is a pro-Bangladeshi party.

“There are anti-Indian elements. We specifically see this issue during elections. But the anti-Indian sentiment is gradually diminishing in Bangladesh,” he told the members of the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of South Asia during an interaction in New Delhi on February 9.

The Foreign Minister said the tablet or capsule of blaming Awami League as a pro-India party does not work anymore like the past.

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“Today, the vast majority of the people understand that for the prosperity of Bangladesh and the region, neighbours should have good relations,” he said while responding to a question.

Asked about balancing relations, the Foreign Minister said Bangladesh-India relationship is not comparable to any other relations.

“Bangladesh’s relations with India are bonded by blood and shared sacrifice during the War of Liberation in 1971,” Hasan said.

He said although China is not Bangladesh’s immediate neighbor but it is a neighbor and a development partner of Bangladesh.

The Foreign Minister said they face a lot of challenges due to the wave of fake news. He said this is a problem even in Europe and shared how fake news was spread during Covid-19.

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He mentioned that this is an area where all need to work together. “We can work together to fight against fake news.”

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Last national election was open for all AL members for sake of democracy: PM Hasina

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday (9 Februay) said if she did not allow her party members to take part in last month’s election as independent candidates the democracy of the country would have been snatched away.

“If the election was not open for all (AL members), then not only the election would have been stained, the democracy of the country would have been hijacked too,” she said.

The prime minister was delivering her introductory speech at the extended meeting of Awami League at her official residence Ganabhaban.

This election was important to maintain the country’s status as a developing country, she said.

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“We should not forget the election manifesto that we announced before the election to retain this achievement. Every year during the budget formulation we follow the election manifesto,” she said.

Hasina, also the chief of ruling Awami League, said that her party has also opened the upcoming upazila elections for all her party members to make it participatory.

“It will also be scrutinised how much work has been done for the common people in the last 15 years while in power, and who could not deliver. Through it we will see who is accepted by the people,” she said.

She issued warning against any sort of confrontation in the upcoming local government elections.

“We do not want any kind of confrontation. Stern actions will be taken against the individuals responsible for it no matter who they are,” she said.

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Claiming that the 12th parliamentary election was free, fair and impartial, Hasina said that those who want to dispute the election, they must give clear evidence.

She said that elections have been held in many developed countries of the world, but these are yet to be accepted by their opponents.

“Even the post-election violence has resulted in murders. But the election in Bangladesh was very fair. Public administration, the armed forces, law and order enforcement and all those involved in the election have performed their duties impartially,” she claimed

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Political crisis nearing climax: Rizvi

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The BNP today said the country’s long-standing political crisis is now nearing its climax as people are taking to the streets risking their lives to resist a one-sided election.

“The chief election commissioner surrendered to Sheikh Hasina instead of protecting the interests of the people and taking proper steps to ensure a free, fair, and participatory election,” Ruhul Kabir Rizvi, senior joint secretary general of the party, said in a virtual press conference.

The BNP leader alleged that the EC announced the schedule for the next election ignoring the continuous movement for free and fair elections.

Rizvi also alleged that the commission announced the election schedule on the instruction of the government, ignoring the appeals of the country’s civil society, the international community, and foreign diplomats.

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“When the CEC announced the schedule, he should have also mentioned the time of voting, whether it will be at night, or during the daytime, or early morning.”

The BNP leader said the government has established a regime where those who demand free and fair elections are being attacked.

He said their ongoing movement to restore the power and rights of the people will be a warning for all the autocrats.

Rizvi said the BNP leaders and activists are being arrested indiscriminately. “If they [law enforcers] can’t detain them, they are arresting their fathers, fathers-in-law, younger brothers, and even women in the house.”

He said law enforcers arrested more than 12,900 leaders and activists in 289 cases across the country since October 28.

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