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Khaleda China-bound for defence agreement

Dhaka, Dec. 22 (PTI): China is scheduled to enter into an agreement for broad-based defence cooperation with Bangladesh.

Such an agreement, which could have a far-reaching impact on the region in the light of Dhaka’s tense relations with India, is expected to be signed during Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s visit to China starting tomorrow.

The agreement will cover a wide range of defence areas, including training, maintenance, production and exchange of information, Bangladesh foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Choudhary told reporters here today.

He said the two countries want to institutionalise military cooperation within a broad framework.

The agreement is a reflection of Bangladesh’s friendly ties with China and not against any third country, Choudhary added.

The agreement on military cooperation is one of the four pacts likely to be signed during Zia’s five-day visit.

Bangladesh has been receiving Chinese military assistance since the mid-seventies and the new agreement will cover military technology.

The foreign secretary said specific programmes would be drawn up and defence cooperation between the two countries intensified to the desired level under the new agreement.

The maiden visit of Zia to China would also help boost trade and investment and strengthen economic cooperation between the two countries, the official BSS news agency said.

Zia is heading a big delegation of nearly half-a-dozen ministers.

Zia is expected to raise the sensitive issue of trade imbalance and urge the Chinese leadership to reduce the trade gap, diplomatic sources said.

In Beijing, Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Liu Jianchao described Sino-Bangladesh relations as “smooth” and emphasised that it has remained problem-free since the establishment of diplomatic ties in 1975.

“Bangladesh is a very important country in South Asia. China and Bangladesh are good neighbours and the friendship can be traced far back into history,” Liu said. “The two sides have conducted sound exchanges and cooperation in political, economic and cultural fields.”

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