Onlanka News – By Janaka Alahapperuma
(Pix by: Sudath Silva)
President Mahinda Rajapaksa started a three day official visit to Bangladesh at the invitation of the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina this afternoon on 18 April. This is the first visit to Bangladesh by President Mahinda Rajapaksa.
Bangladesh President Zillur Rahman warmly received his Sri Lankan counterpart at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka as President Rajapaksa began a state visit to the country. A 21 gun salute greeted the President as he alighted from a Sri Lankan Airline aircraft accompanied by Sri Lankan First Lady Shiranthi Rajapaksa. Two tiny tots presented bouquets to the President and Mrs Rajapaksa and an elegant contingent drawn from Bangladesh three forces gave the distinguished visitor a guard of honour at the VVIP terminal of the airport.
Later Sri Lankan President was taken to the presentation line and introduced with the dignitaries.
Finance Minister A.M.A. Muhith, Agriculture Minister Begum Matia Chowdhury, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, State Minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) Affairs Dipankar Talukdar, the three services chiefs, and senior civil and military officials were present at the airport.
After the airport ceremony, President Rajapaksa and his delegation were driven in a ceremonial motorcade to Sonargaon Hotel where they will be staying during the visit.
President Rajapaksa will hold official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office on bilateral issues as well as regional and international issues of common interest. The talks will be followed by signing of several bilateral agreements in the areas of export promotion, business, shipping service, agriculture, fisheries and livestock, tourism, education, religion and culture.
Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said this state visit is expected to infuse new dynamism in the bilateral ties and plan new directions for the future of relations between the two South Asian neighbours. Sri Lanka’s External Affairs Minister Prof. G.L.Peiris said President Rajapaksa’s visit would reaffirm and further reinforce the friendly and warm relations between Sri Lanka and Bangladesh.
Sri Lankan delegation has included several Ministers, Parliamentarians, government officials and members from the business community.
Sri Lanka has a cordial relationship with Bangladesh since the former East Pakistan emerged as a new nation in 1971. Diplomatic ties between the two countries were established in 1972. Sri Lankan High Commission in the Bangladeshi capital was established in 1979. Sri Lanka also has a consulate office in Chittagong. Both countries are also actively involved in the region as members of the South Asian regional union, SAARC. Apart from these, Sri Lanka also has a long established historical cultural and religious relationship with Bangladesh.