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Dhaka, Delhi may sign trade pact

world Updated: Jan 22, 2009 11:08 IST

Bangladesh and India may sign two key agreements on bilateral trade and investment promotion and protection during next month's visit by Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee, a diplomat said.

The trade pact in particular needs renewal as it is due to expire in March, Indian envoy in Dhaka Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty told the media on Wednesday after meeting Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, The Daily Star reported on Thursday.

Mukherjee is due to pay an official visit in Dhaka February 8-9. It will be the first visit by a senior foreign dignitary since the Awami League-led grand alliance assumed power through a landslide victory and a government headed by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took office January 6.

Chakravarty said: "The agreement needs to be signed as the existing three-years bilateral trade agreement will expire in March this year and be renewed through a fresh accord."

He said the investment promotion and protection agreement will be necessary since there is a trend of investment flow from either side. Indian investors will come to invest in Bangladesh and vice versa.

The trade balance is heavily weighed against Bangladesh, while past governments have not been very encouraging on inviting Indian investments.

Indian conglomerate Tata's investment proposals worth $3 billion, the highest-ever Bangladesh has received, were shelved for political reasons.

Listing Indian priorities, the high commissioner emphasised the need for greater cooperation to jointly tackle terrorists, insurgents and operatives of cross-border crime.

Asked about `irritants' like delimitation of maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal, the high commissioner said India had already proposed that Bangladesh send a technical team to India to discuss the matter.

Like Bangladesh, India too will have to submit its claims over its maritime zone to the United Nations by next June.

Meanwhile, European Union (EU) envoys in Dhaka Wednesday assured their continued support to Bangladesh's trade and development. The EU countries last year disbursed 550 million euros as grants for various projects in Bangladesh.

"We are committed partners in the areas of trade, development cooperation and a number of other areas," said Sweden's Ambassador Britt F. Hagstorm after a meeting with Dipu Moni Wednesday. Hagstorm led a nine-member delegation.

In reply to another question, she said the EU wants to see future democratic progress in all areas. Apart from this the other major challenges facing Bangladesh are poverty alleviation, human rights and foreign investment, Hagstorm said.