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PMs comments spark negative reactions in Bdesh

Dhaka: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s comments on sections of Bangladeshi people being under the influence of ISI, have sparked negative reactions here with a former foreign minister terming them "frustrating" and Jamaat- e-Islami contending that the remarks do not go with his status.

A senior leader of the ruling Awami League, however, was more cautious in response and just called Singh`s remarks "irrelevant" and "out of context".

Singh has sparked controversy by telling print editors during an interaction that at least 25 per cent of Bangladesh`s population was anti-India by their affiliation to the Jamaat-e-Islami political party "and they were in the clutches, many times, of the ISI", and that the political landscape in Bangladesh can change at any time.

The Prime Minister`s Office, however, later withdrew those remarks saying they were off the record.

Bangladesh Agriculture Minister Matia Chowdhury said: "His comment seems to be out of context".

Chowdhury said the Indian Prime Minister`s Office and foreign ministry could explain the whole thing better as the Bangladesh government has no detail about the comment except for the reports in the media.

Asked if Dhaka would seek an explanation about Singh`s comment, she said "it is usual to ask for an explanation about the statement of the Indian PM but the Bangladesh foreign minister is not in the country right now".

Morshed Khan, Bangladesh`s former minister during Khaleda Zia`s Bangladesh Nationalist Party-led government said "such comments from a person like Manmohan Singh is frustrating for Bangladesh".

"Jamaat could be happy with the comment that 25 per cent Bangladeshis are their supporters but where the Indian premier got the information and how he could know all the Jamaat supporters have hatred for India?" Khan asked.

The former foreign minister called Singh "a straightforward man" but opined that "he was misled by (India`s) intelligence agencies about Bangladesh".

Jamaat-e-Islami, meanwhile, condemned Singh`s remarks for linking it with Pakistan`s Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

"The comment of Indian premier that Bangladesh Jamaat-e-Islami is anti-Indian, and acts in accordance with advice of the ISI is false, baseless and it does not go with the status of the premier," said the party`s Acting Secretary General A T M Azharul Islam in a statement.

Islam said their party believed in the "principle of having a good relationship with India maintaining Bangladesh`s independence, sovereignty and interests".

"Indian intelligence agency confused Singh with misinformation," the statement said, adding that Jamaat also hoped that Singh would refrain from making wholesale remarks on Bangladesh`s Jamaat-e-Islami party.

Singh`s comments have come at a time when his visit to the country is one the cards.

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