Amid poll fever, India’s top diplomat heads to Dhaka

banglaAmid festering political uncertainty in poll-bound Bangladesh and the Indian government’s plan to table the land boundary pact in parliament, India’s Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh heads to Dhaka Dec. 4 for wide-ranging consultations aimed at sustaining momentum in bilateral ties.

This will be Singh’s first visit to Bangladesh (Dec. 4-5) after taking over as foreign secretary of India on August 1, 2013 and is part of New Delhi’s outreach efforts to neighbouring countries.

During her short stay in Dhaka, Singh will call on Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Foreign Minister Abdul Hasan Mahmood Ali. In talks with her Bangladeshi counterpart Shahidul Haque, Singh is expected to underline New Delhi’s enduring commitment to deepening relations with Dhaka. The visit comes at a time when the Manmohan Singh government is planning to table a constitution amendment bill on the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh in the winter session of the Indian parliament, which begins Dec. 5. India’s chief opposition, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP), has told the government that it will oppose the bill.

With elections in Bangladesh barely a month away, Singh will be also looking to engage Begum Khaleda Zia, the Leader of Opposition and BNP Chairperson, and Chairman of Jatiya Party General (rtd.) Hussain Muhammed Ershad.

bangla-mamtaIndia’s once-drifting relations with Bangladesh saw a dramatic transformation during the Sheikh Hasina dispensation, with the two countries signing a clutch of counter-terror pacts and India pledging $1 billion Line of Credit for a host of infrastructure projects in Dhaka. The improving relations, however, got caught in the bog of domestic politics in India, with the government unable to push through the Teesta water sharing due to opposition from then ally Trinamool Congress and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee. Similarly, the historic land boundary pact remains embroiled in partisan politics.

India is keeping its fingers crossed on the outcome of the Bangladesh polls, but wants to make sure that it’s able to sustain the renewed momentum in this critical relationship regardless of which party comes to power in Dhaka.



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