NEW DELHI: Bangladesh has said it would not allow its territory to be used against India. The assurance, reiterated to Sushma Swaraj on her first foreign visit, came as the external affairs minister promised to put extra energy into bilateral ties.
After meetings with her counterpart, Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali, and other leaders, Swaraj also made it clear that while India would not agree to visa-free travel for Bangladeshis, India would extend multiple-entry visas for Bangladeshi citizens under 13 and over 65 years of age from the present one year to five years. India is also willing to increase the frequency of the Maitree Express and the number of AC coaches.
Continuing with the Indian policy of keeping Bangladesh as a priority neighbour, Swaraj focused on connectivity in her first set of meetings, according to the MEA spokesperson, Syed Akbaruddin. "It was a conscious decision to make this first stand-alone visit to Bangladesh to send a clear signal that India is keen to enhance our bilateral relationship."
So India has proposed a bus service connecting Guwahati, Shillong and Dhaka. Connectivity, he said, was the main theme of discussions between Swaraj and the Bangladeshi leadership. India has also decided to give additional 100 MW of power to Bangladesh from the gas-based power project at Palatana in Tripura.
Describing the meetings as "constructive and productive", Swaraj also informed the Bangladeshi leadership that they were working on evolving a national consensus on sharing Teesta water and land boundary pact. Akbaruddin told journalists that "in each of her meetings she has specifically emphasised that the new Government of India stands ready to enhance the momentum and build on our cooperative relationship. In essence her message to the leadership of Bangladesh has been that India stands ready to break fresh ground in our relationship".