Staff Correspondent, NewAge, February 10, 2009
Dhaka and New Delhi Monday signed two agreements on trade and investment promotion and protection for increased bilateral trade and investment which is now heavily tilted towards India.
India’s external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee signed the two deals —Bilateral Trade Agreement and Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement — on behalf of India while the commerce minister, Faruq Khan, and the industries minister, Dilip Barua, signed the deals on behalf of Bangladesh.
The two agreements were signed at the Sheraton Hotel after Mukherjee held talks with his Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni and the home minister, Sahara Khatun, at the state guest house Meghna.
The Indian minister also unveiled a model of core shelters for Sidr-affected families in Bagerhat. The agreement on mutual investment promotion and protection will give the most favoured nation status to each of the countries.
The trade deal is, however, a renewal of an old agreement, originally signed in 1980, on the use of waterways, roadways and railways for commerce between the two countries for passage of goods between two places in one country through the territory of the other.
India has for long enjoyed water transport facility through the Bangladesh territory, but the parts on road and rail transit have never been activated.
India will construct 2,800 homes capable of withstanding strong winds for Bangladeshi families who lost their houses in a devastating cyclone in November 2007. The homes will be built in 11 villages in the worst-hit southern Bagerhat district.
Briefing the reporters, both Dipu Moni and Pranab Mukherjee claimed to have fruitful and comprehensive discussions on a wide range of bilateral issues.
The two foreign ministers of the South Asian neighbours informed the media they had touched on the issues of security, border management, strengthening connectivity, promoting trade and investment, and people-to-people contact.
Dipu Moni said their meeting in details discussed ‘practical ways’ for the promotion of economic relations and two-way trade, reduction in the trade gap and increase in investment.
Besides, matters of security and anti-people activities by fundamentalists and extremists were also discussed.
Dipu Moni assured Pranab Mukherjee Bangladesh would not allow its territory to be used by any anti-Indian elements to carry out activities against India.
She also sought India’s cooperation against elements who are trying to harm the interests of Bangladesh (from the other side).
The Bangladesh foreign minister requested her Indian counterpart to resume the stalled talks on the longstanding issues of the sharing the waters of common rivers and demarcation of land and maritime boundaries.
Mukherjee said a joint commission would meet to work out ways to boost trade, such as duty cut and removal of non-tariff barriers on some Bangladeshi exports to India.
The volume of two-way trade between the two next-door neighbours was recorded at $ 3.76 billion in the 2007-08 financial year.
India enjoys a huge trade surplus with Bangladesh as Bangladesh imported Indian goods worth $3.37 billion in the financial year while its exports fetched only $358 million from the vast Indian market.
Later in the day, Mukherjee laid the foundation stone of the specialised classroom of the theatre and music department in Dhaka University.