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Updated: May 6, 2011 02:04 IST

Talks with Dhaka focus on progress made on January 2010 road map

Smita Gupta
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Vice President M Hamid Ansari and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a meeting in Dhaka on Thursday.
Vice President M Hamid Ansari and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a meeting in Dhaka on Thursday.

Two nations agree to fight terror with determination

The scourge of terrorism, India and Bangladesh agreed, must be fought with determination, even as the two countries acknowledged that the strength of disruptive forces and extremists was often assumed to be larger than it actually was.

This point was made in the course of wide ranging discussions between Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Vice-President M. Hamid Ansari, shortly after he arrived in Dhaka on Thursday morning to represent India in the joint celebrations to mark Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary, which commenced here on Friday.

“Extremist forces,” Mr. Ansari told Sheikh Hasina, “always appear larger than life and their support base is more limited and narrow, if you were to test it.” The Bangladeshi Prime Minister, on her part, Indian Special Secretary (Public Diplomacy) Jayant Prasad said, was in “agreement on this.” Asked whether the subject of Osama bin Laden or terror in Pakistan was discussed, Mr. Prasad said: “No, they did not. It was a more general point as forces like this exist in all societies.”

These comments come in the wake of Sheikh Hasina's government cracking down on extremist groups in her country and handing over wanted separatist leaders to India.

The focus of the discussions that Mr. Ansari had with the Bangladesh Prime Minister, President Md. Zillur Rahman and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, however, was not terror, but the progress made in the road map spelt out in the historic joint communiqué that was issued in January 2010.

The talks, which were held in a “ friendly and relaxed atmosphere,” Mr. Prasad said, dealt with four broad themes: the joint celebrations to mark Tagore's 150th birth anniversary, a review of the road map the two sides were working on and satisfaction at the progress made, the interest expressed in an early visit to Bangladesh by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, and the stress laid on improved connectivity, which could transform the relationship between the two countries: In this context, Mr. Ansari made a commitment that India would do its best to address Bangladesh's requirement on infrastructure, power and railways.

Referring to the joint celebrations to mark Tagore's 150th birth anniversary that will begin here on Friday, the Bangladeshi leadership spoke of the great excitement at the popular level: Sheikh Hasina stressed, according to Mr. Prasad, that it was difficult to imagine life in Bangladesh without Tagore. She said that a child here, from the first song he heard, to the first cadences that he became familiar with – all that came from Tagore. The Nobel Laureate, she pointed out, was part of the political and cultural movement in Bangladesh.

In 1947, a newly independent India chose Tagore's Jana Gana Mana as its national anthem. Twenty four years later, another freshly minted nation, Bangladesh, chose another Tagore composition, Amar Sonar Bangla, as its national song.

Now another 40 years on, the 150th birth anniversary of Tagore — Gurudev to his devotees on both sides of a not always stable border — has provided the two countries with an occasion not just to press the cultural button, but also to try and resolve the problems left over from the past, enhancing cooperation between the two, and venturing into new areas.

Minister of State for External Affairs Preneet Kaur and two Members of Parliament — O. P. Mathur of the BJP and Moinul Hassan of the CPI (M) — are accompanying the Vice-President.

The celebrations to mark the 150th anniversary of Tagore will begin at the Banga Bandhu International Convention Centre on Friday where various troupes will present a series of cultural programmes. Leader of the Opposition Khalida Zia is also scheduled to call on the Vice-President on Friday.

Bangladesh Planning Minister A.K. Khandker will attend the inauguration of the Nobel Laureate's 150th birth anniversary celebrations in Delhi on May 7.

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