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Indian prime minister to sign key agreements in Dhaka

Category: Headlines

Published: 6th Sep 2011 05:32:29

The Indian prime minister is due to arrive in Bangladesh on a visit during which the two countries are expected to sign key border and trade agreements.

Manmohan Singh's trip is the first bilateral visit by an Indian prime minister to Bangladesh in 12 years.

However, an agreement on sharing the Teesta river water appears unlikely.

On Sunday, the chief minister of India's West Bengal state pulled out of the visit amid reports that she was unhappy over the deal.

Mamata Banerjee did not give any reason for her decision but media reports said she felt that India had agreed to supply too much water to Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Singh arrives in Dhaka on Tuesday morning on a two-day visit which is being described as "historic" in Bangladesh.

"Mr Singh's trip is a historic visit. It will pave the way for a prosperous future for the whole region," news agency AFP quoted Bangladesh's Foreign Minister Dipu Moni as saying.

"We attach the highest importance to further developing and strengthening our relations with Bangladesh," Mr Singh said in a statement issued before his arrival.

"Our partnership with Bangladesh is important for the stability and prosperity of our own northeast region," he said.

The BBC's Anbarasan Ethirajan in Dhaka says the high-profile visit is seen as an attempt by Delhi to reinforce its regional ties as it is wary of growing Chinese influence in its neighbourhood.

Thousands of people living on the India-Bangladesh border are hoping for positive news from boundary negotiations when the leaders of the countries meet on Tuesday, our correspondent says.

There are tens of thousands of people living in 51 enclaves which belong to Bangladesh but are geographically in India and around 100 Indian areas inside Bangladesh.

There are no civic amenities in these enclaves and the residents say they are effectively stateless.

The two countries are expected to finalise a deal exchanging the territories during the visit.

India is also negotiating to use Bangladesh's road and rail network to send goods to its nearly land-locked north-eastern region.

In return, Bangladesh wants right of passage across India to trade with neighbouring Nepal and Bhutan.

India has already announced a $1bn loan to improve Bangladesh's transport infrastructure.

India's recent attempts to reach out to its smaller neighbours are also seen as a counter to growing Chinese influence in the region.

China is Bangladesh's biggest trading partner as well as its main supplier of military equipment.

As Beijing and Delhi compete for influence in the region, many in Bangladesh hope their government will do a careful balancing act and extract more trade concessions from the two regional powers.

Mr Singh will be accompanied by the chief ministers of four Indian states, including Assam, Tripura, Mizoram and Meghalaya which border Bangladesh.

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