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B'desh PM Zia set for maiden India trip
March 19, 2006 17:23 IST
Issues like border security and market access to Bangladeshi products are expected to figure in talks that Prime Minister Khaleda Zia will have with the Indian leadership during her three-day maiden visit to New Delhi from Monday, described by her foreign minister as 'one of the last calls for train of opportunity.'
Zia, elected for a second term in 2001, was making her first bilateral visit to India eight months before her tenure ends and Bangladesh goes to polls in early 2007. A caretaker administration for three months would run the state of affairs and oversee the polls.
"The prime minister is going with an open mind, ready to discuss anything and everything for mutual benefits," Foreign Minister Morshed Khan told the media in Dhaka.
Market access is one of the key areas that Dhaka is going to focus along with other bilateral issues due to the huge trade gap of some two billion dollars with India during Zia's talks with her Indian counterpart Manmohan Singh. Unofficial trade figures are even higher with the two countries sharing a long and porous border.
"I think India can afford to take unilateral initiative to open its market for Bangladeshi export products to help resolve the huge trade deficit against Bangladesh," Khan said. The friendly relations the two neighbours share usually have sometimes been strained over border issues.
Khan said all issues should be put on the table although solutions could not be found at one go but step-by-step. Earlier, he had described Bangladesh's relationship with India as 'very important' and said that on the issue of security both sides might have their own concerns.
"We think that both the sides would discuss the matter and understand the sensitivity of each other," he had said, adding, "Our relations with India are very important economically, geographically and strategically too."
India and Bangladesh are likely to sign three agreements on trade, investment protection and avoidance of double taxation during Zia's visit. The accord on investment protection is seen as crucial to enhancing possibilities of Indian investment in Bangladesh. Also, Zia would be taking along with her handcrafted jamdani silk sarees for United Progressive Alliance chairperson Sonia Gandhi and Prime Minister Singh's wife Gursharan Kaur, the foreign ministry sources said in Dhaka.