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Dhaka seeks access to Nepal, Bhutan through India
Published on 8 Oct. 2009 10:43 PM IST
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Bangladesh has urged India to give it transit to Nepal and Bhutan to boost bilateral and South Asian regional trade and connectivity. The subject will be high on the agenda when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visits New Delhi shortly. India too is expected to raise its pitch for better connectivity to its northeastern region through Bangladesh. The opinion in Bangladesh is divided on the twin issue that involves a quid pro quo. Some sections see Indian access a security threat while others want Dhaka to drive what they call a hard bargain with New Delhi since its access to the northeastern region deprives Bangladesh of a potential market. Hasina Wednesday said Bangladesh ‘always’ requests India to give it transit facilities to Nepal and Bhutan. “If such transit facilities are given, neighbouring countries can use Mongla Port, which will expedite regional development,” United News of Bangladesh (UNB) news agency quoted her as telling newly appointed Ambassador of Japan to Bangladesh Tamotsu Shinotsuka. Bangladesh is dependent upon its river ports and besides Mongla, it plans to build another sea port at Sonadia in the Bay of Bengal. She told the envoy that the present government has planned to modernise the Mongla seaport and Japan can help Bangladesh in this regard, The Daily Star said Thursday. Dates for Hasina’s New Delhi visit, the first since she returned to power last December, have not yet been announced. Among the thorny bilateral issues is the transfer of people convicted for various crimes in Bangladesh and India. Dhaka is moving fast to sign the proposed agreement on transfer of ‘sentenced persons’ with New Delhi, New Age newspaper said Thursday. Bangladeshi officials of both foreign affairs and home ministries in Dhaka are learnt to have been in agreement to go ahead with the move to sign the agreement on transfer of ‘sentenced persons’ which would allow convicted prisoners to move to their country of origin by choice. Besides criminals like smugglers, India is keen on getting custody of militants from its northeastern region hiding in Bangladesh. While Dhaka is willing to repatriate those ‘sentenced’ by its courts, it has kept out of the purview Anup Chetia, military chief of the outlawed United Liberation Front of Asom. Chetia, nabbed for travelling to Bangladesh on fake documents, completed his four year jail term several years ago. India says many militants from its northeastern region are hiding in Bangladesh. Dhaka denies it.

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