India to lift tariff barriers from Bangladeshi goods
Feb 20, 2007 - 1:36:46 PM

Dhaka, Feb 20 - India will remove tariff and non-tariff barriers from Bangladeshi goods and import two million pieces of readymade garments duty free as a friendly gesture to its eastern neighbour.

India will also remove restrictions from the import of cosmetics from Bangladesh and make the Sealdah-Joydevpur passenger train service operational to strengthen communications, the country's External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee announced late Monday.

India will neither withdraw waters from the Tipaimukh dam, nor any of the common rivers unilaterally, calming Bangladeshi anxieties on the issue, Mukherjee said as he wound up his seven-hour visit.

Both Dhaka and New Delhi agreed to take steps to place bilateral relations on an 'irreversible higher trajectory'.

Mukherjee was in Dhaka to invite Bangladesh to the 14th South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation - Summit in New Delhi on April 3-4.

His Bangladeshi counterpart, Foreign Affairs Adviser Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury, told the media that India had already declared withdrawal of non-tariff barriers to trade and would issue a notification to this effect.

'It will be beneficial for all SAARC countries.'

He said Bangladesh and India had 'agreed to jointly combat terrorism, which today poses the most grave challenge to both the societies and threatens rapid economic development of the nations'.

Mukherjee called for greater connectivity among the SAARC countries to be linked with East Asia and Southeast Asia.

'In fact, that is one of the objectives of the SAARC summit and if we could establish the transit facilities among the SAARC countries going through Bangladesh, we will be able to connect with East Asia and Southeast Asia, and through Afghanistan we shall have access to Central Asia and West Asia.'

This was the first ministerial visit from India since recent political developments in Bangladesh -- with the ninth general elections cancelled and a national emergency imposed last month.

India has been extremely cautious in its reaction. Mukherjee described the developments as Dhaka's 'internal matter', adding that as a democracy India wished to see the people of the country exercising their democratic rights.

Mukherjee met Chief Adviser to the Caretaker Government Fakhruddin Ahmed, a banker who is performing the prime ministerial functions. As head of the government, he is slated to represent the country at the SAARC Summit.

The Indian minister also met former prime ministers and political rivals Begum Khaleda Zia and Sheikh Hasina, thus maintaining diplomatic equidistance.

The $3 billion investment package proposed by Indian industrial giant Tata, termed 'politically sensitive' last year by the Zia government, did not come up for specific discussion at the ministerial level talks.

But Chowdhury said in general Bangladesh welcomed Indian investment. 'We discussed expanding economic cooperation and cooperation in various areas including energy,' he said.

Dhaka last month cleared a 400 MW power project to be executed by Indian public sector Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited -.

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