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PM to go on 'charm Dhaka' trip, India spotlights Bangla ties

Monday July 04, 2011 08:55:08 PM, IANS

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 countries".

"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 stressed.

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 Khaleda Zia.

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 months ago.

"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.











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