Dhaka, Delhi may renew trade pacts, discuss terror

February 3rd, 2009 - 1:16 pm ICT by IANS  

Manmohan SinghDhaka, Feb 3 (IANS) Bangladesh may renew trade pacts and discuss transit facility and terrorism during the visit of Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee to Dhaka Monday.Bangladesh is as yet ‘undecided’ about acceding to India’s long-pending plea for transit facility to the latter’s northeastern region, and a minister has termed commerce “a weapon in politics”.

Bangladesh might offer a trade concessions-for-transit when Mukherjee visits here Monday.

Media reports have indicated that while Delhi wants a bilateral anti-terror pact with Dhaka, the latter wants to talk of a regional task force that would include other South Asian nations.

Mukherjee’s visit has been reduced from two days to one as he is currently discharging additional responsibilities in the absence of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who is recuperating from a coronary heart bypass surgery, The Daily Star said.

Commenting on the issue of transit with India, Commerce Minister, Col. (retd) Faruq Khan told a regional seminar last Sunday that “trade is not seen as means of national development, but rather a weapon in politics”.

“We have often failed to understand the people’s requirement,” he was quoted in The Daily Star Tuesday.

Chief Minister of Tripura in India Manik Sarkar, who has been pressing for the transit treaty, was present.

He told a Bangladeshi business delegation that transit and trans-shipment facilities can help both India and Bangladesh promote business and investment enormously, especially in seven northeastern Indian states, including Tripura.

Asked about India’s proposal for setting up a joint anti-terror mechanism, an official of Bangladesh’s home ministry said: “Bangladesh preferred a regional task force to combat terrorism.”

During Mukherjee’s visit, Bangladesh and India may sign two key agreements on bilateral trade, and investment promotion and protection. The trade agreement needs to be signed as the existing three-year bilateral trade agreement will expire in March this year and be renewed through a fresh accord.

Dhaka is set to renew trade relations with India to bring down huge trade imbalance of $2 billion between the two neighbouring countries.

Its business community is eyeing the Indian $1 billion market, New Age newspaper said.

By 2011 Dhaka’s exports to India could cross the $1-billion (nearly Tk 69 billion) mark from meagre exports worth $250 million a year if a few major initiatives are taken to exploit trade potentials in the Indian market, forecast a bilateral trade body.

At a meeting Monday with Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, the leaders of the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry called for addressing infrastructure by massive investments, attracting Indian investments to Bangladesh, reducing interest rate and lobbying for removing exportable products from India’s negative list.

Bangladesh is expecting to ease the irritants with India and settle bilateral issues during Mukherjee’s brief visit, official sources said, adding that Dhaka is eagerly waiting to welcome Mukherjee considering the visit as an important move to strengthen relations between the neighbours.

His visit will provide the first high-level contact between the two countries since the Sheikh Hasina government returned to power through a massive victory in the Dec 29 general election.

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