Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived here last night on a three-day visit to Bangladesh.
During her stay in Dhaka, she is expected to talk to Bangladesh leaders on bilateral issues, including the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and Teesta water sharing treaty.
On her first official visit abroad as external affairs minister, Swaraj will discuss long-pending issues and review the status of bilateral ties between Dhaka and Delhi.
“We are expecting that she will carry a positive message of engagement between the two countries and this visit will take bilateral relations to a higher level,” said a top foreign ministry official.
Dhaka is also optimistic that the Indian minister's visit will pave the way for an early trip by Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh, he added.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Foreign Secretary Shahidul Hauqe, Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pankaj Saran and other senior officials from the foreign ministry and the Indian mission in Dhaka received Swaraj at Shahjalal International Airport around 10:50pm.
Diplomatic sources in Dhaka and New Delhi said though there was no big expectation about the outcome of the trip, India termed it a “goodwill visit” aimed at taking forward the bilateral ties which have been on a “positive track” for the last few years.
Swaraj will hold a meeting with Mahmood Ali and call on President Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
She will also meet Leader of the Opposition Raushan Ershad, BNP Chairperson Khaleda Zia and prime minister's advisers Gowher Rizvi and Mashiur Rahman.
Welcoming the Indian minister's trip to Dhaka, BNP acting secretary general Mirza Fakhrul Islam Alamgir yesterday said his party was hopeful that her visit would have a positive impact on resolving outstanding bilateral issues, including the LBA and Teesta water sharing deal.
Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Indian diplomats in Dhaka said Swaraj was not here with a “specific agenda” and that the minister would review bilateral ties and what to expect in the coming years.
However, they added, the seven-member Indian delegation, which is expected to raise issues like illegal immigration and fresh proposals for road and railway transit, is also prepared that Bangladesh will table the LBA and Teesta water sharing issues.
Meanwhile, in a significant development, the Indian external affairs minister before departing for Dhaka yesterday spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee about her three-day trip.
According to India's official news agency PTI, Swaraj made a call to Banerjee to “touch-base” and told the latter about her impending trip to Dhaka.
Significantly, the previous Congress government failed to ratify the LBA and sign the Teesta water sharing deal with Bangladesh due to opposition from the BJP, Trinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad.
The LBA, which is yet to be ratified by the Indian parliament, is aimed at redrawing the international boundary between the two neighbours by exchanging adversely-held areas and enclaves along with population on either side, thus making the highly porous Indo-Bangla border more manageable.
According to the visiting minister's schedule, the bilateral talks will be held at the foreign ministry today between 9:30am and 10:45am.
Swaraj and Ali will lead their respective sides at the meeting. They will discuss trade and investment, security, connectivity, border management, water, power, shipping, renewable energy, development cooperation, art and culture, among other issues.
After the official talks, the Indian minister will meet the PM at the latter's office. In the afternoon, she will call on President Abdul Hamid and deliver a lecture at a talk on “India-Bangladesh Relations: A Framework for Cooperation”, organised by the Bangladesh Institute of International and Strategic Studies at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel at 6:30pm.
Prior to leaving Dhaka on Friday noon, Swaraj will meet the two advisers of the prime minister, opposition leader Raushan Ershad and BNP chief Khaleda Zia.