Process underway to reduce trade gap with Bangladesh: Pranab

December 1st, 2007 - 7:19 pm ICT by admin  

By Mrityunjay Singh
Dhaka, Dec 1 (ANI): External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee today said that efforts are underway to reduce the huge trade gap largely in favour of India, which was a major concern in bilateral relations with Bangladesh.
Mukherjee, who is on a day-long visit to Bangladesh in the wake of destruction along the southwestern coastlines due to Cyclone Sidr, said this after his hour-long talks with Bangladesh’s Foreign Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhary in Dhaka.
The recent agreement allowing Bangladesh to export 80 lakh pieces of ready-made garments without citing previously needed “origin of certificate” was a major step towards that end, he said.
Mukherjee said New Delhi is also expected to announce a package for the least developed regional countries, including Bangladesh, shortening its “sensitive list” for imported products later this month.
He said the two countries are also likely to witness direct railway links after resolution of some “technical issues”.
On his arrival here at the Zia International Airport, Mukherjee today formally handed a fresh consignment of Indian relief material of over 36.4 tonnes to Chowdhury.
Mukherjee also announced that India has decided to lift a ban on the export of rice up to 5.5 lakh tonnes to the neighbouring country, and proposed to adopt Bangladeshs 10 worst affected villages as part of overall assistance package.
Mukherjee said that India has already announced a waiver of the ban on the export of rice to Bangladesh for 50,000 tonnes. Besides, 20,000 tonnes of rice is being sent by sea to Chittagong.
“India has always attached high importance to its relations with Bangladesh. It is, therefore, but natural that, like always, we stand by Bangladesh in its efforts to rebuild the lives of those affected by the cyclone,” Mukherjee told reporters.
Expressing deep sadness on behalf of Indian Government, he said, I have come in a situation which is painful for the people of Bangladesh and all of us.”
He pointed out that as a “shared sense of loss that we, as a nation, feel for your (Bangladeshi) people,” Indian Parliament expressed its sorrow in a resolution adopted on November 19 and observed silence for a brief while.
Expressing gratitude on behalf of the Bangladesh Government for India’s “generous gesture”, Chowdhury said, “India has shown solidarity in this hour. We are grateful. More than the relief material, it is the gesture we deeply appreciate.
Mukherjee, formally handed over 36.4 tonnes of relief material supplied under ‘Operation Sahayata’.
The fourth sortie by huge IL-76 Aircraft of Indian Air Force (AIF) contained milk powder, water filters, blankets, ready-to-eat meals and medicines.
Total relief assistance to Bangladesh this year so far amounts to more than Rs 152 crore (Rs.1.52 billion), Mukherjee said.
Over the last few days, the IAF aircraft have been expeditiously delivering relief materials.
Earlier, following torrential rains, which caused mudslides in Chittagong in June 2007, India had also extended 10-million-dollar cash assistance to Bangladesh.
A severe cyclone struck Bangladesh in November with 250 kph winds that whipped up a five-meter tidal surge.
Around 3,500 people were killed by Cyclone Sidr, making it the deadliest in 16 years. Thousands more are missing or injured and aid workers and officials say at least two million people have been displaced.
“I bring the solidarity of my country in your hour of need and an assurance that as a friendly neighbour, India would always be interested in a stable, prosperous and democratic Bangladesh, Mukherjee said.
Mukherjee also met Bangladeshs Chief Adviser Fakhruddin Ahmed.
Mukherjee also thanked Bangladesh for their support to the candidature of Kamalesh Sharma for the post of the Commonwealth Secretary General. (ANI)

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