Prez Pranab Mukherjee to pay state visit to Bangladesh

Seeking to convey India`s commitment to sort out unresolved issues with its eastern neighbour, President Pranab Mukherjee will pay a three-day state visit to Bangladesh from March 3.

Updated: Mar 01, 2013, 18:54 PM IST

New Delhi: Seeking to convey India`s commitment to sort out unresolved issues with its eastern neighbour, President Pranab Mukherjee will pay a three-day state visit to Bangladesh from March 3.
Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said Mukherjee`s visit "is not designed to to engage in political negotiations. What the President will convey to the top Bangladesh leadership the Indian government`s commitment to take bilateral relations to a higher level and resolve unresolved issues".

"The President`s visit will provide an opportunity to take bilateral relations to a new height", he said.

Asked if it would be prudent for the President to visit Bangladesh at a time when the country has been rocked by waves of violence following the death sentence of a top Jamaat-e-Islami leader there, Mathai said "we have done a great deal of preparation for the visit. We feel it would be appropriate to carry on with the visit".

According to the Foreign Secretary, the situation in Dhaka is "calm and we are looking forward to a productive visit".

"We are looking at the situation (in Bangladesh) arising out of a legal process as also in the backdrop of an upsurge in Bangladesh", he said.

He was apparently referring to to the violence unleashed by activists of Jamaat and its militant student outfit Islamic Chhatra Shivir across Bangladesh on one hand and the massive protests in Dhaka demanding death penalty for Jamaat leaders who had collaborated with occupation Pakistani troops during Bangladesh liberation war.

Mathai said Mukherjee`s visit was "reflective of the highest importance attached by India to its relations with Bangladesh".

President Mukherjee, who will be accompanied by his wife Suvra Mukherjee, Minister of State for Railways Adhir Ranjan Choudhury and four lawmakers besides senior officials, will have talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Md Zillur Rahman, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia among others during his visit.

Answering a question, the Foreign Secretary said the President`s visit will not see political negotiations but it would have an overall effect on bilateral relations.

The Foreign Secretary said Indian companies would be interested in participating in offshore oil blocks which have "quite significant potential".

"The potential of hydrocarbon in Bangladesh is quite significant. Indian companies would be interested in participating in the offshore oil blocks", he said.

Mathai said there were some oil blocks along the maritime boundary of the two countries and "I think it will be resolved", an apparent reference to the dispute between India and Bangladesh over territorial jurisdiction of the blocks.

Asked about rough edges in India-Bangladesh relations over the tardy pace of utilization of the one billion dollar Line of Credit extended by India, Mathai said "we have made rapid progress in signing contracts for the Line of Credit".

To showcase that progress, President Mukherjee and Hasina will jointly flag off a train of locomotives at Dhaka cantonment station.

"We have had a great deal of discussion on the Line of Credit and we have better understanding of each other`s positions and procudures in our respective countries about finalizing plans for using the money", the Foreign Secretary said.

He said several initiatives across a range of sectors taken during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Hasina`s visit to Dhaka and New Delhi in 2011 and 2010 are "at an advanced stage of implementation".

During his stay in Dhaka, President Mukherjee will receive the Bangladesh Liberation War Honour Award for his contribution to the independence struggle of that country in 1971.

The President will also receive an honorary Doctorate of Law degree from the University of Dhaka at a special convocation which is expected to be attended by 15,000 people.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni and Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith would call on Mukherjee.

On the concluding day of his visit, President Mukherjee, accompanied by his wife, will visit Bhadrabila village in Narail district of Bangladesh to visit the ancestral house of his in-laws.

He will also visit Shelaidah in Kusthia district where the family estate of Rabindranath Tagore is located and where the poet had written many of his memorable poems, short stories and essays.