Indian external affairs minister arrives in Dhaka for talks

Indian External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee arrived in Dhaka Monday for talks on trade, investment and security with top Bangladeshi officials, dpa reported.

"We will work for further improvement of bilateral relations and find new areas of cooperation," Pranab said on his arrival at the Zia International Airport.

Pranab was scheduled to hold meetings with Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed and Foreign Minister Dipu Moni later in the day.

"I hope to cover in my interaction the entire gamut of our relations including security, connectivity, trade and investment and other important areas," the Indian minister said.

This is the first visit by an Indian minister after Bangladesh returned to democratic rule following December elections, ending two years under a military backed government. In the elections, Hasina's Awami League-led alliance won a sweeping victory.

Pranab also congratulated the Bangladeshi people for helping to achieve a smooth transition to democracy.

"Allow me at the outset to convey warm greetings and congratulations to the people of Bangladesh for the successful conduct of a free, fair and peaceful election."

During the visit the two next-door neighbours are expected to ink two deals, a trade agreement and a bilateral investment promotion and protection agreement.

Hasina's cabinet on Thursday cleared the way for signing the two agreements with India.

The agreement on mutual investment promotion and protection will give most favoured nation status to each other while the trade agreement is a renewal of an old deal, originally signed in 1980, that allowed the two nations to use their water, rail and road routes for transportation of goods.

India has been enjoying limited transit facilities only on water routes since the signing of the treaty.

But New Delhi has long been pressing Dhaka to allow transportation of Indian goods to its isolated seven states in north-east India through Bangladesh territory.

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