PM to be accompanied by 5 CMs for next week's B'desh trip

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Manmohan Singh
New Delhi, Aug 31: Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, would be accompanied by five Chief Ministers during his next week's foreigh trip to Bangladesh. The visit is likely to see India and Bangladesh finally working out a comprehensive boundary agreement.

The chief ministers of West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram will accompany Singh, an event that is extremely rare in Indian politics. Bangladeshi opposition leader Begum Khaleda Zia will meet Singh, which Indians see as the first step in a continued engagement of all sides of political opinion in Bangladesh.

India has a concern of sustainability of the new spring in bilateral ties. That will require a lot of political investment by India on the BNP and Jamaat front. The boundary defied a resolution all these years, which both sides resisted getting caught in the complexities of "enclaves and "adverse possessions fearing largescale migration, uprooting of people etc. But a joint survey of the affected areas over the past few months showed the affected people to be not more than 53,000.

The real deal between both sides will be to work for economic integration. Here, the Indians are a lot more miserly, particularly in the textiles sector. Sources said it was much easier to work towards a simplified visa regime between the two countries. Soon, travellers between India and Bangladesh on the Maitree Express can get immigration and customs clearance on board, instead of having to wait an hour on either side.

There is an understanding in India that some thought has to be given to achieving a more just balance of trade position between the two countries. This can happen with greater investment. Here, Bangladesh will have to work hard to attract Indian companies to invest there. This will need some elbow grease by the Bangladeshis particularly after the disappointment suffered by Tatas a few years ago.

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