Manmohan telephones Sheikh Hasina; Bangladesh hopes for historic September visit (Roundup)July 5th, 2011 - 1:00 am ICT by IANS
New Delhi/Dhaka, July 4 (IANS) Moving beyond the row triggered by his reported remarks about Bangladesh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh told his counterpart Sheikh Hasina over the phone that he was looking forward to his Dhaka visit Sep 6-7 and stressed that “a strong and productive partnership” was in the interest of the two countries as well as South Asia.
In a damage-control exercise aimed at assuaging hurt feelings in Bangladesh over his off-the-record remarks about anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh that became public, Manmohan Singh telephoned Sheikh Hasina and conveyed “his warm personal greetings to her and through her to the people of Bangladesh.”
Ahead of Manmohan Singh’s visit, India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna will travel to Dhaka July 6 on a three-day trip that is expected to pacify hurt feelings in Bangladesh and set the stage for the prime minister’s visit.
July promises to be an intense month for India’s diplomatic thrusts in Bangladesh.
Sonia Gandhi, the chairman of the ruling United Progressive Alliance (UPA), is also likely to go to Dhaka July 25 to attend a conference on physically challenged and autistic children. During the visit, Gandhi will also call on Sheikh Hasina and foreign minister Dipu Moni.
According to informed sources, Home Minister P. Chidambaram may also go to Dhaka to seal an agreement on the boundary issue.
“Following the official announcement of his visit to Bangladesh on 6-7 September, PM Dr. Manmohan Singh called the Prime Minister of Bangladesh HE Sheikh Hasina, to say how much he was looking forward to the visit and to renewing contacts with his old friends there,” India’s external affairs ministry said in a statement here.
During the telephonic conversation, Sheikh Hasina said that she “personally and the people of Bangladesh were waiting eagerly to receive him and there were high expectations from the visit, which she hoped would be a historic one,” the ministry said.
Manmohan Singh underlined that “India attached the highest importance to relations with Bangladesh and that a strong and productive partnership between the two countries was in the interest of the two peoples and the people of South Asia as a whole.”
“The visit would provide an opportunity to give added momentum and high level political direction to bilateral ties, which have been intensifying steadily in recent years,” the ministry said. “PM noted with satisfaction that there had been an increase in high level exchanges,” it added.
“Both leaders decided to instruct their respective officials to work towards making the Prime Minister’s visit successful and substantive,” the ministry stressed.
Manmohan Singh’s visit is poised to be a landmark trip, during which New Delhi is expected to unveil a raft of concessions, including a further easing of textile imports, signalling a new phase in improving bilateral ties.
In Dhaka, the Bangladesh government also announced the visit, saying it “is expected to infuse fresh dynamism into the multi-faceted, multi-dimensional relationship between the two countries”.
The announcement of the prime minister’s visit by both sides on the same day indicated a calibrated effort to play down the controversy triggered by Manmohan Singh’s off-the-record remarks in an interaction with Indian editors last week about 25 percent of Bangladeshis being under the influence of the “anti-Indian” Jamaat-e-Islami, a rightwing Islamist political party.
These remarks created a storm in Bangladesh and were splashed in all Bangladeshi dailies.
Krishna’s three-day trip to Dhaka beginning July 6 is expected to pacify hurt feelings in Bangladesh and set the stage for the prime minister’s visit.
“I spoke to prime minister today. He said he is looking forward to his visit,” Krishna told reporters Monday ahead of his visit.
Denying that he would be in damage-control mode when he goes to Dhaka, Krishna said: “The prime minister has been one of the consistent champions of India-Bangladesh relations.”
This will be Manmohan Singh’s second visit to Dhaka. He visited Bangladesh to attend the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) summit in 2005.
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