Khaleda Zia assures counter-terror cooperation to India

Indo Asian News Service

New Delhi, Oct 29 (IANS) In an important outreach to sustain the momentum in bilateral ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh Monday held talks with Khaleda Zia, Bangladesh's opposition leader and former prime minister, with both leaders agreeing to continue counter-terror cooperation between the two countries.

"The meeting was very cordial and lasted approximately for 30 minutes," said an official source after the talks.

Zia, the leader of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), is currently on a week-long visit to India.

The two leaders held talks on a wide array of bilateral issues, including trade and security relations between the two countries.

Zia was very appreciative of various Indian initiatives which have been taken by the prime minister, including liberalisation of trade and efforts to provide power to the neighbouring country, said the source.

"She also expressed satisfaction at the manner in which India is working out issues related to Tipaimukh Dam and matters on border management, including deaths on the border," said the source.

Manmohan Singh assured Zia that India was willing to discuss all issues of importance to Bangladesh and underlined India's commitment to "a close and deeper relationship with Bangladesh".

"He mentioned that he always believed that the prosperity of India's neighbours, particularly Bangladesh, is in India's interest," said the source.

In an important step that indicates the possibility of India building bridges with Zia, who is not known to be friendly towards New Delhi, the two leaders agreed to continue counter-terror cooperation.

"Both the leaders felt that terrorism is of great concern and agreed to continue cooperation on terrorism and insurgent groups," said the source.

This marks an important advance in India's efforts to reach out to Bangladesh' chief opposition party as Zia was widely seen to have patronized and encouraged anti-India elements and rebels from the northeast sheltering in Bangladeshi territory during her stint in power.

India signed a number of anti-terror and security-related agreements with Bangladesh during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to New Delhi over two years ago, which heralded a new chapter in bilateral relations.

A series of high-level meetings await Zia during her week-long trip, part of India's efforts to sustain the momentum in its relations with Bangladesh, which has recorded a marked upswing since Sheikh Hasina came to power over three years ago, in case of a change of regime in Dhaka next year.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai also called on Zia and discussed a cluster of bilateral issues, including the status of the land boundary agreement which is awaiting ratification by parliament.

Zia arrived here Sunday and met President Pranab Mukherjee and Bharatiya Janata Party leader Sushma Swaraj, leader of opposition in the Lok Sabha.