Trust, ?doables? on Khaleda?s menu

B'desh PM's visit will focus on bilateral fences that have frayed with mistrust, writes Nilova Roy Chaudhury.

india Updated: Mar 20, 2006 12:04 IST

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Khaleda Zia, arrives in New Delhi on Monday for what is being termed a “landmark” visit that will concentrate on mending bilateral fences that have frayed with mistrust and mutual suspicion.

The focus, senior officials said, would be to concentrate on “doables” to build trust while not skirting the concerns that have plagued the bilateral dialogue.

That Khaleda is coming, not as the SAARC chairperson, but on a bilateral state visit, the first in her second term in office, is indicative of the “definite desire” to improve ties. The more the leaders meet and talk, the less scope there is for mistrust.

Officials said the recent arrests of key terrorist leaders like “Bangla Bhai” in Bangladesh was a “positive sign” that indicated Dhaka’s “acceptance” of the problem of Islamist terrorism using the country as a base. “Coming out of denial mode into acceptance mode” was the first step to resolve the problem, an analyst said.

Diplomats said there had been no incidents of terrorist violence in over four months, indicating Dhaka’s seriousness in dealing with the issue. Amnesty International called it the first signs of a “shift” in government policy.

Treason charges have been filed by Bangla authorities against top leaders of the banned militant outfit Jamaat-ul-Mujaheedin Bangladesh, including Sidiqul Islam (Bangla Bhai) and Sheikh Abdur Rahman, for allegedly conspiring to oust the Khaleda Zia government, reports said.

Concerns about infiltration and the denial of transit rights will figure in the talks, as will the river water issue. The entire gamut of bilateral relations, including unresolved border issues, security-related matters, trade and the sharing of river water, would be discussed when Khaleda meets PM Manmohan Singh for formal talks on March 21, Bangladeshi foreign secretary Hemayetuddin said.

But results are expected in improved economic and commercial ties. The major investment planned by the Tatas in Bangladesh, caught up in “protracted negotiations” will also figure. India is likely offer duty-free access for a number of Bangladeshi products to meet Dhaka’s concerns.

Hemayetuddin said an important CBM would be for India to reduce tariff barriers to allow easy access for Bangla goods here. The massive trade deficit is a sore point with Dhaka. Of the two billion dollars in annual bilateral trade, India’s exports amount to around 1.9 billion dollars. A 20-member delegation including the Foreign and Finance Ministers, will accompany the Bangladesh PM on the visit, as will 43 of that country’s leading businessmen.

First Published: Mar 20, 2006 00:47 IST