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Bangla PM to arrive on Monday

The "goodwill visit" by Zia to Delhi will provide an opportunity for the countries to arrest the drift in their relationship.

india Updated: Mar 19, 2006 15:53 IST
Indo-Asian News Service
Indo-Asian News Service

Terrorism, illegal migration, trade and the bridging of trust deficit between India and Bangladesh will be defining themes for talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and his Bangla counterpart Khaleda Zia, who comes to Delhi on a three-day visit onMonday.

The "goodwill visit" by Zia -- the first to India in her four years in power -- will provide the much-needed opportunity to the two countries to arrest the drift in their relationship and to improve the atmospherics for resolving sensitive issues like the demarcation of the over 4,000 km border, enclaves in "adverse possession," and the massive trade deficit between them.

Manmohan Singh and Zia, accompanied by four of her senior ministers, Tuesday will discuss ways to boost confidence-building measures like an Indian proposal for a bus service between Kolkata and Agartala through Bangladesh and the signing of a mutual extradition treaty.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Hemayatuddin discussed with his Indian counterpart Shyam Saran here Friday a "substantial agenda for cooperation" and underlined Dhaka's "constructive approach" to all outstanding problems, including terrorism, between the two countries.

"Our expectation is that the visit will be landmark in terms of bilateral relations," Hemayatuddin said, adding: "We need to move forward," he added.

Asked what Bangladesh wanted from India, he said, "Reduction of tax barrier will be an important CBM," he said.

The whopping trade deficit, estimated to be over $2 billion, is a touchy issue with Dhaka and it is likely to try to extract some concessions from New Delhi.

Other prickly issues like border security and the presence of anti-India insurgents in Bangladesh are also expected to figure in discussions between Zia and Manmohan Singh.

Agreements on preventing illegal trade in psychotropic substances and on trade are likely to be signed. Another pact on inland water transit would be discussed, but Dhaka is not very keen on it, official sources said.

Despite a very substantial agenda and some likely upfront talk on rising incidence of terrorism in Bangladesh, trust-building will be the leitmotif of bilateral talks with both sides trying hard to inject some vitality in a stagnating relationship.

The meeting between Zia and Manmohan Singh on the sidelines of the 13th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in Dhaka last year broke the ice and set the stage for the bilateral visit by Zia, who is also the current chairman of the SAARC.

First Published: Mar 19, 2006 14:11 IST