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Bangladesh Prime Minister Visits India to Cement Ties

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (L) wave to media, 11 Jan 2010

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh (R) and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina (L) wave to media, 11 Jan 2010

India and Bangladesh have signed three agreements during a visit by Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India. Relations between the South Asian neighbors have improved since she came to power just more than a year ago.

Before commencing a round of meetings with top Indian officials in New Delhi, Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said she wants closer ties with India. She says this will help promote the welfare of people in the region.

"We want friendship, cooperation, because our main enemy is poverty. So our main target we want to establish South Asia, specially the subcontinent as a peaceful, poverty free region," she said.

The optimistic note struck by Prime Minister Hasina was echoed by officials in New Delhi. They called her first visit since she came to power an opportunity to build a new and forward looking relationship.

New Delhi's ties with the previous administration in Dhaka had been uneasy, but relations have become warmer since Sheikh Hasina's Awami League party won elections in December 2008.

The warmth was reflected in her talks with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

Following the talks, the two countries signed three agreements relating to cross-border crime and terrorism. These treaties will make it easier for India to extradite insurgents who cross the border and hide in Bangladesh.

This issue is of top priority for India, which is concerned that rebels operating in its restive northeastern states often find refuge in Bangladesh. But in recent months, Dhaka has been cooperating with India in cracking down on these insurgents, and has handed over senior rebel leaders to New Delhi.

New Delhi will help Bangladesh develop its power sector. It also announced more economic assistance to Bangladesh for infrastructure development.

Indian Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao said New Delhi will support Dhaka in a host of areas.

"We are addressing an entire range of developmental issues of direct interest to Bangladesh including railway infrastructure, transportation, dredging, power grid interconnectivity, human resource development, investment and trade," Rao said.

Sheikh Hasina, who is accompanied with a large business delegation, will meet Indian business leaders on Tuesday. She returns to Bangladesh on Wednesday.