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Parrikar to visit B'desh, first by an Indian defence minister

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NEW DELHI (PTI): Indian Defence Minister Manohar Parrikar will on Wednsday embark on a two-day visit to Bangladesh during which he will call on the top leadership there and firm up defence cooperation initiatives ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's trip here next month.

Parrikar, who will be the first Indian Defence Minister to visit Bangladesh, will call on President Abdul Hamid in Dhaka on Wednesday and hold talks with the Security Advisor to Prime Minister, officials said.

On December 1, the Minister, who will be accompanied by the Vice Chiefs of the Army and Air Force, Deputy Chief of Navy besides Coast Guard chief, will visit the military academy in Chittagong and meet Hasina, who also holds the defence portfolio.

Top Defence Ministry officials said the focus of the trip was to deepen security ties and firm up a defence cooperation agreement that is likely to be signed when Hasina visits here around December 17.

They said that Parrikar was originally scheduled to travel to Bangladesh much earlier this month but the visit was delayed.

They also ruled out any link between the visit and the sale of two submarines by China to Bangladesh.

Hasina announced the plan to purchase two submarines in 2013 as part of her government's move to build a modern navy.

When Bangladesh Navy chief Muhammad Farid Habib had visited India in November last year, he had said Bangladesh is going to buy two used submarines from China for "training" its surface crew and Sonar crew in anti-submarine warfare.

"Since the delimitation of maritime border problem has been solved, we are now trying to cooperate. We are trying to patrol in our areas. So in our sea, we also expect lot of gas and oil," Habib had said then.

He also said Bangladesh wants to work with the Indian Navy as there are many "non-traditional threats" in sea, a reference to piracy, floating armouries among others.

"We cannot tackle those threats alone. It requires cooperation so that we can together fight non-traditional threats and make the area peaceful," the visiting Navy chief had said.

Areas of naval cooperation that are proposed include option of coordinated patrolling along International Maritime Boundary Line(IMBL), bilateral exercises between both navies, joint surveillance of Exclusive Economic Zone and cooperation in hydrography.

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