New Delhi/Dhaka: Downplaying the row over remarks of the Indian prime minister
about anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh, New Delhi announced
Monday Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka Sept 6-7 and underlined its
commitment to "forging a stronger and enduring relationship" with
its eastern neighbour.
Manmohan Singh's visit is poised to be a landmark trip, during
which which New Delhi is expected to unveil a raft of concessions,
including a further easing of textile imports, signalling a new
phase in improving bilateral ties.
In New Delhi, Vishnu Prakash, the spokesperson of the external
affairs ministry, disclosed the dates for the visit in a tweet on
the micro-blogging site. Later, the external affairs ministry made
it official, saying the Indian prime minister "would be paying an
official visit to Bangladesh from Sep 6 to 7".
In Dhaka, the Bangladesh government also announced the visit,
saying it "is expected to infuse fresh dynamism into the
multi-faceted, multi-dimensional relationship between the two
"The two sides have been working towards making the visit by the
Indian Prime Minister a successful and a fruitful one," the
Bangladesh government said.
The announcement of the prime minister's visit by both sides on
the same day indicated their conscious effort to play down the
controversy triggered by Manmohan Singh's off-the-record remarks
in an interaction with Indian editors last week about 25 percent
of Bangladeshis being under the influence of the "anti-Indian"
Jamaat-e-Islami, a rightwing Islamist political party.
These remarks created a storm in Bangladesh and were splashed in
all Bangladeshi dailies.
Ahead of Manmohan Singh's visit, External Affairs Minister S.M.
Krishna will travel to Dhaka July 6 on a three-day trip that is
expected to pacify hurt feelings in Bangladesh and set the stage
for the prime minister's visit.
"I spoke to prime minister today. He said he is looking forward to
his visit," Krishna told reporters Monday ahead of his visit.
Denying that he would be in damage-control mode when he goes to
Dhaka, Krishna said: "The prime minister has been one of the
consistent champions of India-Bangladesh relations."
"We remain committed to forging a stronger and enduring
relationship with the people and the government of Bangladesh," he
During his vist, Krishna will meet hold wide-ranging talks with
his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni. He will also call on
President Zillur Rahman and Prime Minster Sheikh Hasina. He will
meet Finance Minister AMA Muhith and Leader of Opposition Begum
Krishna will deliver a speech at the Bangladesh Institute for
International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) during which he will
outline a soaring vision of the burgeoning India-Bangladesh
relations. He will also inaugurate the Kala Bhawan, set up with
Indian assistance, at the Dhaka University.
Krishna highlighted rapid improvement in bilateral ties that have
made major strides since Sheikh Hasina came to power nearly 18
"Both sides have identified a number of infrastructure
developmental projects to be undertaken under the $1 billion line
of credit extended by India, including for Bangladesh Railways,
and procurement of buses for Dhaka city."
He also underlined the progress made "on issues relating to river
waters sharing, land boundary, provision of 250 MW of power from
India to Bangladesh and facilitation of 24-hour access to
Bangladesh nationals through the Tin Bigha Corridor."
The two sides will review the decisions taken during Sheikh
Hasina's trip to India last January. India had announced $1
billion line of credit for a range of development projects in
Bangladesh and signed crucial agreements to enhance counter-terror
and security cooperation.
This will be Manmohan Singh's second visit to Dhaka. He visited
Bangladesh to attend the South Asian Association for Regional
Cooperation (SAARC) summit in 2005.
July promises to be an intense month for India's diplomatic
thrusts in Bangladesh.
Sonia Gandhi, the chairman of the ruling United Progressive
Alliance (UPA), is also likely to go to Dhaka July 25 to attend a
conference on physically challenged and autistic children. During
the visit, Gandhi will also call on Sheikh Hasina and Foreign
Minister Dipu Moni.
According to informed sources, Home Minister P. Chidamabaram may
also go to Dhaka to seal a pact on the boundary issue.