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New beginning in bilateral ties: Bangla envoy

By Raju Das

SHILLONG, Jan 29 � Bangladesh High Commissioner to India, Tariq A Karim today said that India and Bangladesh are headed towards a �new and exciting� beginning in their bilateral ties.

Addressing a press meet after meeting Meghalaya Chief Minister Mukul Sangma here, Karim said that a slew of new initiatives in trade and commerce to other mutual bilateral exchanges have been set in motion and these would take the two neighbouring countries closer.

Amongst the new policies is the proposed construction of the National Highway 127 B that would connect the two countries right from North Bengal to Chittagong port. The Highway would begin from North Bengal touch Bhutan-Dhubri (Assam)-Dalu-Narayanganj (Garo Hills in Meghalaya) and move into Bangladesh and eventually culminate in Chittagong port.

Moreover, Shillong-Sylhet-Dhaka bus service is in its final stages of being approved. Karim said that talks on starting the bus service began some years back and the service would soon be implemented.

There is also a talk to open more border haats between the two countries. Currently, two border haats, one each in Tripura and Meghalaya, are doing trade successfully with their respective Bangladesh counterparts.

There are proposals to open similar border haats along the international border. The Bangladesh High Commissioner said that Meghalaya has proposed setting up 22 new border haats. These would be opened in stages and based on the success of the new haats similar haats would be opened throughout the international border.

To develop the communication system further, talks are also on to restart the inland waterway service between the two countries. Karim said these waterways were important routes for trade and commerce before the partition.

In this connection, he added that air service between the North East and Bangladesh would get a fillip after Bangladesh Biman agreed to fly twice a week between Guwahati and Dhaka from July this year.

�Initially, Bangladesh Biman would be operating two ATRs and then there is plan to operate 727 aircrafts,� he added.

Karim further said that Bangladesh is seeking to retrieve the mortal remains of �Bangladesh war heroes� who were buried in India. He said the initiative would have �huge emotional� value and help building stronger ties between the people of the two nations.

He said that a Joint Foreign Secretary-level meeting that is slated to be held between the two countries in the next few months would hammer out new policy frameworks on some of these issues.

�We are trying to re-discover and re-connect to our historical ties, although history and Colonial legacy intervened. Despite this, we are headed towards a new beginning,� the Bangladesh High Commissioner stated.

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