Sonia to meet Hasina during Bangladesh visit

July 20th, 2011 - 7:06 pm ICT by IANS  

Sonia Gandhi New Delhi, July 20 (IANS) Congress president Sonia Gandhi will discuss bilateral relations with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during a visit to Dhaka July 25, said a party official.

Sonia Gandhi is to receive the ‘Swadhinata Sammanona’ - the highest state honour of Bangladesh - being awarded posthumously to former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi. Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman will present the award to Indira Gandhi’s daughter-in-law at a function in Dhaka.

Indira Gandhi, who threw the full weight of her government behind the 1971 Bangladesh liberation struggle, is being awarded the highest honour 40 years after Bangladesh’s independence from Pakistan.

Sonia Gandhi, who has been invited by Prime Minister Hasina, will also address a seminar on autistic and disabled children.

The visit comes three weeks after a remark by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Bangladesh triggered protests by Bangladesh opposition parties and groups.

In an interaction with a group of editors here June 29, Manmohan Singh said: “…Bangladesh, our relations are quite good. But we must reckon that at least 25 percent of the population of Bangladesh swear by the Jamaat-e-Islami and they are very anti-Indian, and they are in the clutches, many times, of the ISI.”

The Inter-Services Intelligence is Pakistan’s spy agency.

The remarks were intended to be off the record, but figured in the official transcript of the interaction. They were later deleted.

A senior government official said that Foreign Minister S.M. Krishna’s visit to Dhaka July 6-7 has removed much of the confusion about Manmohan Singh’s remarks.

“(Sonia) Gandhi’s visit will be a positive step to strengthen the bilateral relations between the two neighbours, which have historic links,” Ravni Thakur, joint secretary in the foreign affairs department of the Congress Party, told IANS.

The Congress and the Awami League - the political party founded by Hasina’s late father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, have a similar history of freedom struggle and secularism, Thakur added.

Sonia Gandhi’s visit is expected to give a boost to the plans for the Sep 6-7 visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh.

During Manmohan Singh’s visit - the first in 12 years by an Indian prime minister - several important accords, especially on Indo-Bangla border demarcation and exchange of border enclaves, are expected to be signed.

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