Ahead of Premier Sheikh Hasina's three-day visit to New Delhi next week, Bangladesh's main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia has warned her against inking any "unequal deal" with India and threatened to take to streets if the government "compromised" the country's interests.
"We will not accept any accord which will go against the country's interest," Zia told a party rally on Friday night.
She threatened to launch street protests if Bangladesh's interests are not protected. "If government allows India to construct (cross-border) Tipaimukh dam, gives India a corridor, maritime disputes are not settled... We will have no alternative but to take to the streets."
Zia made the comments in her first pubic address since the landmark December 29, 2008, general elections installed her archrival Hasina's Awami League with three fourths majority.
Hasina is set to visit India for three days from January 10 in her first trip there since the general elections. The visit is expected to yield several deals on water sharing, energy cooperation and connectivity.
"We will not accept any deal that endangers the country's interests. We will appreciate you and accord you a flowery reception at the airport if you uphold the country's interest. But if you compromise the nation's interest we will have to cast thorns on your way," said Zia.
Without elaborating, she asked Hasina to scrap "unequal treaties" and sign accords safeguarding the country's interest "if you want to stay in power for the full term" and work together with the BNP for the democratic process.
Zia also said she wondered if Bangladesh was being ruled by the government or by some other force outside the country, adding "we do not know who is now running this country but what I know is the government is not ruling the country."
"The country is being governed by forces from somewhere else," she said.
Zia charged that the government was now concentrating on fulfilling the pledges made to what she said its "foreign masters" instead of the pledges made to the people.
"It will be futile to be a sycophant of your foreign masters and think that they will be able to protect your government. It is only the almighty Allah and the people who can protect you," she said.
Reacting to Zia's charges, Awami League spokesman and joint general secretary Mahbubul Alam Hanif regretted her "irresponsible comments".
"How could she know what deals the Prime Minister will sign during the (New Delhi) visit... she was the country's prime minister for two previous terms and the nation expect her to play a responsible role," he said on phone.Hanif said the BNP appeared to be playing the "old India card" against Awami League but "those days are gone, people can no more be fooled."