Sonia Gandhi arrives Dhaka tonight

Sonia Gandhi, president of India’s ruling Congress party, will arrive in Dhaka Sunday night on a 24-hour visit to attend an autism conference and receive a posthumous award on behalf of former Indian premier Indira Gandhi.

Her tour holds a special significance as it takes place ahead of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s official visit here on September 6-7.

She will arrive at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport on board a special flight at 9:00pm, official sources said.

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives Syed Ashraful Islam and State Minister for Liberation War Affairs Capt (retd) AB Tajul Islam will receive her.

Sonia will place floral wreaths at the National Memorial in Savar and visit the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum at Dhanmondi in the morning.

The Congress leader will join the conference styled “Autism Spectrum Disorder and Developmental Disabilities in Bangladesh and South Asia” as the chief guest. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will be the special guest at the conference to be held at a city hotel, according to diplomatic sources.

Sonia, also the chairperson of National Advisory Council of Indian government, will meet Hasina at Ruposhi Bangla Hotel to discuss bilateral ties and explore the relations between the Congress party and Awami League, added sources.

The foreign minister will pay a courtesy call on her in the afternoon.

President Zillur Rahman will confer “Bangladesh Swadhinata Sanmanona,” country’s highest state honour for foreign nationals, posthumously on former Indian premier Indira Gandhi at an award ceremony at Bangabhaban in the afternoon. Sonia will receive the award on behalf of her assassinated mother-in-law.

Bangladesh will honour Indira for her outstanding contributions during the 1971 Liberation War.

The Congress chief will also meet the president at Bangabhaban. She will attend a dinner to be hosted by the prime minister in honour of the distinguished participants of the autism conference.

An Indian security team is already in the capital to ensure foolproof security for her during the trip. Authorities here will also provide VVIP security facility to the Indian guest.

Sonia is scheduled to leave Dhaka at 9:00pm Monday.

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