President Mukherjee to visit Bangladesh March 3-5

Last Updated: Fri, Mar 01, 2013 13:30 hrs

New Delhi, Mar 1 (IANS) President Pranab Mukherjee is visiting Bangladesh March 3-5 in a trip that is expected to take bilateral relations between the two neighbours to new heights.

Mukherjee, in his first trip abroad after assuming presidency, will be accompanied by Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Chowdhury and four MPs. His wife Suvra Mukherjee will also accompany him.

The visit comes as Bangladesh is witnessing massive clashes after a top Islamist opposition leader was sentenced to death for his role in atrocities, including rape and killings, during the 1971 Freedom War.

The clashes, between youngsters celebrating the death sentence for the war crimes and supporters of the convicted Jamaat-e-Islami chief Delwar Hossain Sayeedi, have left over 40 people dead since Thursday.

To a question on the security situation ahead of the president's visit, Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said: "The overall security situation in Bangladesh is completely calm..."

"We have done a lot of preparations for the visit... advance teams have gone to Bangladesh to prepare for the visit. The overall situation has been carefully examined, and it would be appropriate to carry out the visit."

On the "unresolved issues" between the two countries -- inking of the Teesta water sharing agreement and implementing the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement, Mathai said the president's visit "is not designed to engage in political negotiations..."

"We are conscious of the need for forward movement on unresolved issues. The president will underline the government's commitment to work on them in the shortest time frame possible."

The four MPs accompanying the president are Sitaram Yechury, Chandan Mitra, Mukul Dey and Bhubaneshwar Kalita.

Mukherjee is to call on Bangladesh President M. Zillur Rahman and receive the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour Award.

He will also meet Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, opposition leader Khaleda Zia, the foreign minister and the finance minister.

He will receive an Honorary Doctorate of Law from Dhaka University at a convocation ceremony and also attend a reception organised by members of the Indian community.

Mukherjee will also travel to Bhadrabila in Narail district, Shilaidaha in Kushtia district and Mirzapur.

Home Minister Sushilkumar Shinde, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai have visited Dhaka ahead of Mukherjee's visit.

Both sides earlier this month inked an extradition treaty, a liberalized visa agreement, and also exchanged maps of the demarcated stretches, in accordance with the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) of 1974.

Both sides are also to launch a rail link between Akhaura in Bangladesh and Agartala in Tripura. They have also inked MoUs on several issues, including amending the double taxation avoidance treaty and for opening additional border haats (markets) in Tripura and Meghalaya.

India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Bangladesh and seeks a deeper and stronger partnership.

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