New Delhi, Jun 27 UNI | 1 month ago

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today returned home after what was described by officials as a very ''fruitful and successful'' trip to Bangladesh, which was her first stand alone visit abroad after taking over charge of office.

''...across the broad spectrum of the Bangladeshi society, there is a desire for India and Bangladesh to strengthen their relations and deepen their cooperation,'' Ministry of External Affairs Spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin told reporters, while replying to a question on the outcome of the visit before her departure from Dhaka.

During her three-day stay in Dhaka, Ms Swaraj held talks with her Bangladeshi counterpart AH Mahmood Ali and met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and President Abdul Hamid.

She had a meeting with former Bangladesh prime minister and Chairperson of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) Khaleda Zia today before her departure.

Ms Zia had boycotted the January 5 elections on the ground that the exercise was not being conducted in a democratic manner and was not supported by people.

When asked whether India's engagement with the Hasina government in Bangladesh would continue until its tenure till 2019, Mr Akbaruddin said ''governments work with governments and Indian government will work with Bangladeshi government.

''All other issues, internal to Bangladesh, will need to be addressed by the people of Bangladesh''.

Ms Swaraj during her interaction with the Bangladesh government, conveyed the Indian decision to relax visa norms for minors and senior citizens.

Bangladeshi nationals below 13 and above 65 years of age will be eligible for five-year multiple entry visas as against the current practice of multiple entry for one year, according to the relaxed norms.

The two countries also discussed the Land Border Agreement (LBA) and the imbroglio over the proposed Teesta water sharing agreement.

Ms Swaraj told the Bangladeshi leadership that the agreement was with the Parliamentary Committee and the government was trying to build a national consensus over the issue.

She also conveyed to them that India would supply additional 100 MW power from the Palatana project in Tripura to Bangladesh.

Besides, she proposed to increase the frequency of Dhaka-Kolkata Maitree Express and start a bus service on the Dhaka-Shillong-Guwahati route.

Mr Akbaruddin said the External Affairs Minister was returning wit an understanding that ''it is an excellent beginning in addressing each others' concerns''.

Ms Swaraj's last engagement in Dhaka was a 45-minute meeting with Leader of the Opposition Raushan Ershad of Jatiya Party at her office in Parliament.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tarique A Karim came to the airport to see her off.

Earlier today, she visited the Dhakeswari National Temple and held a meeting with Prime Minister's Foreign Affairs Adviser Gowher Rizvi

Ms Swaraj also delivered Prime Minister Narendra Modi's letter written to Ms Hasina, in which he expressed desire to work together to foster a new era of cooperation and connectivity in South Asia to ''ignite collective surge to prosperity.''

''My government will apply itself to further accelerating our engagement and strengthening the framework of our relationships,'' Mr Modi said and thanked Ms Hasina for her letter of felicitations on his assumption of office.

Ms Hasina could not attend Mr Modi's swearing-in ceremony on May 26 due to pre-scheduled visit to Japan.

The Prime Minister in his letter said he was convinced that the well-being of every nation was linked to its neighbourhood.

''I sincerely hope we can all work together to foster a new era of cooperation and connectivity across the South Asian region, which will ignite our collective surge to prosperity,'' the Prime Minister wrote.

He accepted Ms Hasina's invitation to visit Bangladesh and also extended an invitation to her to visit India.

(Posted on 27-06-2014)