It is possible to change friends, but not neighbours. Therefore, India and Bangladesh must live in a friendly atmosphere. This was President Pranab Mukherjee’s message to the former Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Begum Khaleda Zia, who called on him here on Saturday.

Begum Zia, who is Leader of the Opposition and Chairperson of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, and Mr. Mukherjee discussed issues that are of concern to the two countries.

The President recollected that he had the privilege of working with Begum Zia twice before when she was in power. He called for the establishment of close and friendly relations between India and Bangladesh and said there existed tremendous potential for cooperation. The two countries must do their utmost to strengthen cooperation in all fields, the President said.

Mr. Mukherjee reiterated the determination of India to address all concerns of Bangladesh.

Khaleda’s contribution

He said India admired Begum Zia’s contribution to the development of Bangladesh both as Prime Minister and as Leader of the Opposition. India attached the highest importance to its relations with Bangladesh, which was a close neighbour, Mr. Mukherjee said.

Begum Zia told the President that she had “good discussions” with Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and the External Affairs Minister.

Begum Zia fondly remembered her past visits to India and long association with Mr. Mukherjee. She reiterated the commitment of her party to the establishment of strong and friendly relations with India.

She was accompanied by a seven-member delegation.

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