PM Modi begins 'historic' Dhaka visit, thanks Sheikh Hasina for warm welcome

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, Dhaka
  • Updated: Jun 06, 2015 13:45 IST

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was given a warm welcome by his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina on Saturday as he arrived in Dhaka for an official visit that will focus on closer security and economic ties and agreements to boost connectivity and trade.

Breaking protocol, Hasina personally received Modi as he emerged from his special aircraft at Shahjalal International Airport on a bright sunny day. The Indian Prime minister was also given a guard of honour.

Modi's visit was described by foreign secretary S Jaishankar as "very historic" following the conclusion of the land boundary agreement to settle India's 41-year-old border issue with Bangladesh.

The Indian Parliament recently passed a historic constitution amendment bill, paving the way for operationalising the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement that provides for the exchange of 161 enclaves.

Before the visit, Modi tweeted that it would "strengthen the bond between our nations, benefiting people of our countries and our region".

Bangladesh prepared a grand welcome for Modi , with signs visible even on the roads of the Bangladeshi capital. The facade of the airport was adorned with messages of welcome in Bangla and English and the flags of the two countries.

Watch:Prime Minister Narendra Modi receives Guard of Honour in Dhaka

Cut-outs of Modi and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee dotted the streets along with those of Sheikh Hasina. Modi visited the Savar National Memorial Monument dedicated to those who died in the 1971 war of liberation and the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum dedicated to Sheikh Mujibur Rehman before holding talks with West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, who arrived in Dhaka on Friday.

The prime ministers of India and Bangladesh will hold one-to-one talks before official talks with their delegations. Modi will also attend a state banquet where he will be served vegetarian dishes.

On Sunday, Modi will visit Dhakeshwari Temple, Ramakrishna Mission and the new Indian chancery complex.

Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party chairperson Khaleda Zia has scheduled a meeting with Modi on Sunday. She had earlier refused to meet President Pranab Mukherjee during his visit in March 2013.

The Jamaat Islami Bangladesh, which is known for its anti-India stance, too appeared happy with the high-profile visit.

Gowher Rizvi, Hasina's international affairs adviser, said the visit should be seen as a turning point in regional cooperation. "India and Bangladesh have developed into a relationship of win-win situation. Prime Minister Modi's visit is a landmark one," he said.

"India and Bangladesh are going to be involved in more ways than before," wrote Mohammad Badrul Ahsan, an opinion writer in the Daily Star newspaper.

In Delhi, foreign secretary Jaishankankar said Modi's visit would be historic and the wrapping up of the land boundary agreement would be the central point of discussion. Both countries are also looking to step up security, defence and economic ties.

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