Hillary, Pranab arrive todayDiplomatic Correspondent
The US secretary of state, Hillary Rodham Clinton, and the Indian finance minister, Pranab Mukherjee, will arrive in Dhaka today on separate two-day official visits.
Bangladesh and the United States are expected to sign a ‘partnership agreement’ during Hillary’s visit, foreign minister Dipu Moni, who would lead the Bangladesh side in the bilateral talks, said.
It would be an umbrella agreement covering all aspects of bilateral cooperation and with scope for regular annual review.
Bangladesh would request full duty- and quota-free access to the US markets and also access to the Millennium Challenge Corporation fund.
Extradition of fugitive Rashed Chowdhury, who was sentenced to death by the court for assassinating Bangladesh’s founding president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, from the US is also a priority.
Signing of the Trade and Investment Cooperation Framework Agreement (TICFA), selling of US military equipment to Bangladesh and inviting Bangladesh troops to Afghanistan are, among other issues, in the US priority list, diplomats said.
The US has tagged duty-free access of Bangladesh garment products with signing of TICFA.
Dipu Moni did not rule out the possibility of signing the TICFA. ‘The negotiations on TICFA are at final stage as differences between the two sides are nominal,’ she said.
The government would, however, require to go through ‘some procedures’, including formal approval by the cabinet for signing the TICFA, she said.
Bangladesh has not accepted, so far, a US proposal for allowing full trade union rights and a total removal of child labour in the apparel sector, officials said.
In her formal and informal exchanges with the Bangladesh leadership, Hillary is likely to request import of military equipment from the US, increased engagement between disciplined forces and allowing American companies to explore gas in the Bay of Bengal, officials said with reference to their recent exchanges with US diplomats.
Hillary Clinton will also meet senior government officials and civil society representatives to review an already robust US-Bangladesh cooperation across the full range of political, economic and security matters, according to the US state department.
Noble laureate Muhammad Yunus, a family friend of Clintons, would meet her.
Indian finance minister Pranab Mukherjee will arrive in Dhaka this evening by a special plane.
He is scheduled to hold a breakfast meeting with his Bangladesh counterpart AMA Muhith on Sunday morning.
He will attend the concluding ceremony of the celebrations of the 150th birth anniversary of poet Rabindranath Tagore at Bangabandhu International Convention Centre.
He will call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganabhaban. Foreign minister Dipu Moni will call on Mukherjee.
The Bangladesh side would once again request Mukherjee to expedite the process of signing an interim agreement on sharing of waters of the Teesta, ratifying land agreements and holding a joint study on construction of a controversial dam at Tipaimukh in India on the Barak, which provides water to the Meghna, a major river system in Bangladesh.
Mukherjee will also interact with select editors of print and electronic media before leaving Dhaka for New Delhi on Sunday afternoon.
Hillary Clinton and Pranab Mukherjee would separately call on the leader of the opposition and BNP chairperson, Khaleda Zia, during the visits.
The two dignitaries would leave Dhaka separately for India Sunday afternoon. Hillary is on a nine-day tour of China, Bangladesh and India that started on April 30.
Hillary comes to Dhaka 12 years after her husband Bill Clinton visited Bangladesh as the US president in 2000. Bill Clinton is the first US president to visit Bangladesh.
In 1995, Hillary visited Bangladesh as the US First Lady with her daughter Chelsea.
Hillary will be the third US secretary of state to visit Bangladesh.
Henry Kissinger was the first US secretary of state to visit newly independent Bangladesh in 1973.
After a decade, George P Schulz came here during the rule of HM Ershad while Colin Powell came to Dhaka on a brief visit in 2003.
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