Indian President's visit will strenthen ties with Bangladesh- Mirza Mohammed Azizul Islam

Dhaka, Mar 19 (ANI): Bangladeshi academician, Mirza Mohammed Azizul Islam hailed the recent visit of Indian President, Pranab Mukherjee, adding that it would strengthen the relations between the two nations.

He also said, "The relationship between India and Bangladesh has always been more or less cordial. Now, the degree of cordiality may differ a little bit from time to time and in fact, you know, very recently, our opposition leader also paid a visit to India. Now, given the sheer necessity imposed by the physical location of the two countries, we should maintain the cordial neighbourly relationship and in that process the visit of the Indian President one would expect that it should have some positive impact."

"Now as regards the border killings, this again has been on the agenda for several years now and we have seen assurances from many different quarters that the killings will be brought down to zero. But unfortunately that has not happened and so, here again I don't think that the President's visit per say will be able to stop this," he added.

Mukherjee visited Dhaka on Sunday and was presented with second highest civilian award by Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman on Monday for his valuable contribution to the country's liberation war in 1971.

Islam while talking to the reporters on Monday said that Mukherjee's visit would have a positive impact on the relations between India and Bangladesh.

Bangladesh became part of Pakistan at the end of British rule in 1947 but broke away in 1971 after a war between Bangladeshi nationalists, who were backed by India, and Pakistani forces that cost 3 million lives.

Some factions opposed independence from Pakistan and prominent among them was the Jamaat-e-Islami party.

The war crimes tribunal recently convicted Jamaat leaders, who were accused of committing atrocities including rape and murder during the conflict, which the party denies.

Islam said that he hoped that steps would be taken to address the issue of killings that are taking place on the India Bangladesh border.

Bangladesh and India in January signed an extradition treaty and struck a deal to relax business visa restrictions between the neighbouring countries.

Recently, there was significant improvement in the trade relations between the two countries. In 2010-11, two-way trade crossed the US$ 5 billion mark as a result of a significant increase in Bangladesh's exports to India (68 percent over the previous year) and India's exports to Bangladesh (43 percent over the previous year).

Currently Bangladesh imports more than $4.0 billion worth of products from India while India import less than $1.0 billion worth of products annually.

Furthermore, traditional economic and cultural links between India and Bangladesh have been greatly enhanced with Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina visiting India in January, 2010 followed by a return visit by Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh in September 2011.

On the issue of trade imbalance, Islam said he was worried about the impact of the global economy on Bangladesh.

"I am not generally worried about bilateral trade imbalances. What matters is the global scenario that means whether overall in my trade with the rest of the world including India whether we are running at surplus or trade deficit. But even there again trade deficit in itself is not something bad because when I import I get access to real resources," Islam also said.

Taking into account the trade imbalance between the two countries in favour of India, Singh during his visit to Bangladesh had announced the removal of all 46-textile items from the sensitive list and zero duty access in all these 46 items for Bangladesh exports to India.

Bangladesh's exports to India in 2010-11 were $ 512.5 million, and India's exports to Bangladesh in the same period were US$ 4586.8 million. India is the biggest export destination for Bangladesh outside the Western world.

Tariff concessions granted by India to Bangladesh under SAFTA (South Asian Free Trade Area) (as SAARC LDC) include a zero-duty market access for all, but 480 items in the sensitive list. India had further increased the duty-free access to 10 million pieces of readymade garments (RMG) from Bangladesh every year.

India is upgrading seven main borders Land Customs Stations (LCS) as Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) at a total cost of rupees 467 crores (rupees 4.67 billion). ICPs will have facilities for immigration, customs, parking, banks, warehousing, quarantine, fuelling etc.

The measure will help improve trade with Bangladesh across West Bengal, Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura and Mizoram.

Bilateral investment will be facilitated by the recent conclusion of the 'Bilateral Investment Protection and Promotion Agreement' and 'Convention for the Avoidance of Double Taxation' between the two countries.

It is hoped that Bangladesh investments in India will increase with easing of local currency transfer restrictions.

Given the geographical proximity, warm and friendly ties, availability of workforce and investment-supportive atmosphere, the quantum of Indian investment and trade with Bangladesh is further expected to improve for mutual benefit. (ANI)