Swaraj’s visit an ‘excellent beginning’

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India has termed the visit of its External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj to Dhaka “an excellent beginning” and said it wants to build a comprehensive and equitable partnership with Bangladesh.
“This is an excellent beginning … There is a widespread desire to move ahead, address each other’s concerns and work in the spirit of good neighbourly attitude with each other,” said Indian external affairs ministry spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin.
Delhi also wants to bolster relations and mutual understanding with Dhaka, but it prefers not to get involved in Bangladesh’s internal politics, he stressed.
Sushma Swaraj, who wrapped her three-day-long first visit abroad as the external affairs minister of India, left Dhaka yesterday afternoon leaving an impression that the BJP government would work with the government of Bangladesh to take the bilateral relations forward.
“It is our view that the visit is extremely satisfying and fulfilling. She goes back to India and hopes to build on excellent start of our new government’s relationship with Bangladesh,” Akbaruddin said at a pre-departure short press briefing at the airport.
Like the previous day, Swaraj had a series of meetings yesterday as well. She met BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia at her hotel suite.
Though the BNP claims that issues like the “absence of democracy” in Bangladesh and if India wants such a democracy in its neighbour country were raised in the half-an-hour-long meeting, the Indian spokesperson described it as a “courtesy meeting” only.
“The external affairs minister’s meeting with Khaleda Zia comes against the backdrop of the Indian government’s efforts to reach out to all sections of Bangladesh society,” said another Indian diplomat.
Interestingly, the BNP chairperson did not meet President Pranab Mukherjee during his first official foreign visit to Bangladesh after assuming office in March 2013.
“The Indian government will work with the government of Bangladesh and all other issues internal to Bangladesh will need to be addressed and resolved by the people of Bangladesh,” the spokesman said, making it somewhat clear that the BJP government has no reservations in working with the Awami League government that came to power through a controversial election on January 5.
“We hope to continue to work with the leadership of Bangladesh to take India-Bangladesh relationship forward,” he added.
Swaraj began the last day of her stay with a visit to Dhakeshwari Temple where she offered prayers in the morning.
Speaking before the devotees there afterwards, she said India and Bangladesh share an excellent relation and it will be strengthened further.
“I came here with an open mind and we will continue our efforts to remove the obstacles to the relations between the two countries,” she said in Hindi.
Later, Swaraj met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s younger sister Sheikh Rehana and the PM’s daughter Saima Wazed Putul at the former’s Sonargaon hotel suite.
Then Prime Minister’s International Affairs Adviser Dr Gawher Rizvi and Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman called on Swaraj. This meeting was followed by Khaleda Zia’s visit.
Swaraj ended her tour through meeting Opposition Leader Raushan Ershad at the latter’s parliament office. She left Dhaka on a special plane around 1:30pm.
Syed Akbaruddin said the external affairs minister is extremely grateful for the warm welcome given to her and the gracious hospitality of the government.
Gawher Rizvi told The Daily Star that the peoples of Bangladesh and India have a shared past and common aspirations and Sushma Swaraj’s visit has reiterated the vision of the countries working together for a peaceful and prosperous future.
The Indian external affairs minister arrived here on Wednesday night on her first bilateral visit to demonstrate the importance her government gives to Bangladesh.
Though it was a “goodwill visit”, Sushma had meetings with President Abdul Hamid, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Bangladeshi counterpart AH Mahmood Ali during which bilateral issues, including Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and proposed Teesta water sharing pact, prominently came up.
She also delivered a lecture on “India-Bangladesh relations: A Framework for Cooperation” at an event organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies (BIISS) on Thursday evening.

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