Vol. 5 Num 418 Sat. July 30, 2005  
Front Page

Natwar to discuss irritants in ties

Dhaka is putting finishing touches to the itineraries of the three-day official visit of Indian External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh from August 6, which diplomatic circles expect will consolidate the Indo-Bangla relationship.

However, Dhaka does not know whether Singh is bringing a letter from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for his Bangladeshi counterpart Khaleda Zia, as was reported by Indian press yesterday.

"As of today, we have no information about his [Natwar Singh] carrying any letter," Foreign Secretary Hemayetuddin told The Daily Star last night. He said, "We're now finalising the itineraries."

Indian daily The Telegraph reported yesterday, "Natwar Singh may carry a letter -- though it has not been confirmed yet -- from the Prime Minister for Begum Khaleda Zia, inviting the Bangladesh Prime Minister to visit India at the earliest."

Our New Delhi correspondent sent a despatch yesterday saying the visit of Natwar Singh is aimed at clearing the misunderstandings that have crept into Indo-Bangladesh relations on a number of issues including those of security.

Issues of the Saarc region as well as bilateral subjects would come up for deliberations during Singh's meetings with his Bangladesh counterpart M Morshed Khan. Singh is also likely to call on Khaleda Zia.

This is the first ministerial level visit from India to Bangladesh since a Congress-led government coalition backed by left parties from outside came to power in May last year.

In yesterday's report The Telegraph said, "Prime Minister Manmohan Singh has decided to send foreign minister K Natwar Singh to Dhaka next month to assure the Bangladesh Nationalist Party government that Delhi is sincere about improving bilateral ties."

"Natwar Singh, whose trip is being described as a 'bilateral, goodwill' visit, is not going to Dhaka to hold the joint commission meeting that is co-chaired by the foreign ministers of the two countries. The panel has not met since July 2003," it reports.

According to the report, Singh is likely to discuss bilateral trade, alleged 'presence' of Northeast insurgents in Bangladesh and 'illegal immigration' to India with key Bangladesh leaders, including Khaleda Zia, Morshed Khan and Leader of Opposition Sheikh Hasina.

"However, the focus will be on the two key messages that Natwar Singh will carry. One, India is serious about having strong relations with whichever party comes to power in Bangladesh. Two, Delhi is keen to participate in the Saarc summit to be held in Dhaka from November 12," The Telgraph said.

Natwar Singh