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India, B’desh ink key pacts
India pledges $1 billion line of credit to the neighbour
Ashok Tuteja
Tribune News service

New Delhi, January 11
India extended $1-billion line of credit (LoC) to Bangladesh as the two countries today took bilateral ties to a new plane, signing five accords to combat terrorism and consolidate trade, economic and cultural links.

This was the highest single LoC pledged by New Delhi to any nation, which would be utilised for development projects, like rail lines, locomotives and supply of buses, official sources said after talks between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this evening.

Manmohan Singh also announced 250 MW of electricity for Bangladesh from the central grid. Another significant announcement was New Delhi’s approval to allow Bangladesh access to Nepal and Bhutan both by rail and road. The two sides also decided to establish a rail link between Akhaura in Bangladesh and Agartala in India. It was also agreed that Ashuganj in Bangladesh and Silghat in India would be the ports of call between the two countries. India also announced 300 scholarships for Bangladeshi students.

The counter-terror agreements signed by the two countries after the talks between the two PMs were on “Mutual legal assistance in criminal matters, transfer of sentenced persons, and combating international terrorism, organised crime and illegal drug trafficking. The two countries also inked a power cooperation agreement and a cultural exchange programme.

New Delhi pulled out all stops to accord a grand welcome to Sheikh Hasina as she began her four-day state visit. After she received a ceremonial welcome at the Rashtrapati Bhavan, the visiting leader called on President Pratibha Patil and later held talks with External Affairs Minister SM Krishna.

In the evening, the two PMs held delegation-level talks at which they are learnt to have discussed a wide range of bilateral issues, situation in the region and international developments. Describing Sheikh Hasina’s visit as a milestone, Manmohan Singh said India looked forward to establishing a forward-looking and multifaceted relationship with Bangladesh.

Reiterating their mutual desire to resolve all bilateral issues through negotiations, the two PMs decided to establish a mechanism for comprehensive cooperation. Sources said the two sides also discussed the challenges posed to their security by terrorists and insurgents.

It is understood that the two PMs discussed sharing of river waters, resolution of the maritime border dispute and the promotion of bilateral trade and connectivity. Manmohan Singh assured Sheikh Hasina that India would not do anything on the controversial Tipahimukh project that would affect the interests of Bangladesh.

Sources said the visit of the Bangladesh Premier was a path-breaking one and provided both countries an opportunity to build a new and forward-looking partnership.

Sheikh Hasina will be conferred the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development tomorrow. She will also address a luncheon meeting organised by the Indian Chambers of Commerce.

She is scheduled to visit Ajmer on Wednesday before returning home.



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