India, Bangladesh to cement ties during Hasina visit

NEW DELHI: Talks between the leaders of India and Bangladesh in New Delhi later Monday were due to focus on strengthening the previously difficult bilateral ties between the two south Asian neighbours.

Cross-border relations have improved in recent years, and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was expected to sign cooperation agreements in areas ranging from security and crime to power supplies during her four-day visit.

Hasina, who has received strong support from Delhi since she came to power a year ago, was likely to discuss her crackdown on Bangladesh-based Indian separatist rebels with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

New Delhi has often accused Dhaka of providing shelter to militant groups active in India’s northeast, but Hasina has detained several senior rebels and handed them over to India.

Both countries resolved a bitter dispute on sharing the waters of the Ganges river in 1996, and will likely work to end disagreements over how to use waters of smaller rivers flowing through both countries.

Other thorny issues include Dhaka’s apparent reluctance to allow New Delhi transit rights through its territory to India’s landlocked northeast, and India’s refusal to grant Bangladeshi goods duty free access.

“Sheikh Hasina’s visit is an opportunity to lay the foundations of a much more stable relationship,” Arundhati Ghosh, a retired Indian official formerly posted in Dhaka, told AFP.

“It is India’s strategic interest to cooperate” with its small neighbour, she said.

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