Prime Minister expected to visit Bangladesh after the end of monsoon season

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh will visit Bangladesh for the first time since the new government took over, with “tangible progress” having been achieved in nearly all issues, Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told journalists here. Dr. Moni is here to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) Foreign Ministers' two-day meet beginning Tuesday.

Manmohan’s visit

While no dates have been finalised for the Prime Minister's visit, he is expected to arrive in Dhaka after the end of the monsoon season. This would be Dr. Singh's first standalone visit to Bangladesh during his two terms as the Prime Minister.

India-Bangladesh ties have been on the upswing since the Awami League-led government took power in Dhaka. However, the killing of Bangladeshis by the Border Security Force on the border is the sole sore point. Touching on this issue, Dr. Moni wanted the BSF to exercise “utmost restraint.” External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna assured her that adequate steps were being taken to address the issue.

According to a Bangladeshi human rights organisation, about 100 Bangladeshis have been killed every year on the border for the past 10 years. The toll was 74 last year, but the most poignant case was that of a 15-year-old girl. Her body hung from the barbed wire fence for hours after the BSF pumped bullets into her. India has ordered a probe into the firing.

But for this issue, Dr. Moni pointed to the many breakthroughs both sides have made in resolving issues of discord. Prime among them is the agreement to ink a 15-year accord on sharing the waters of common rivers Teesta and Feni which would lead to agreements on five other rivers. This was a result of reactivation of the Joint Rivers Commission after several years.

Forward movement

“We are satisfied over the forward movement on issues of bilateral interest and the initiatives taken during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit. Both Mr. Krishna and Dr. Moni agreed on the need to maintain the momentum,” Foreign Office spokesperson, Vishnu Prakash, said. They also expressed satisfaction over the floating of tenders for projects envisaged in the $ 1 billion line of credit extended by India to Bangladesh, he added.

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