Dhaka, Delhi sign seven deals on use of Chattogram, Mongla ports, withdrawal of Feni river water
India is now allowed to withdraw 1.82 cusecs of water from Bangladesh's Feni river, though there is yet to be any progress about the much-awaited Teesta treaty.
A deal was signed between the two countries in Delhi yesterday that permits India to withdraw water from the Feni river.
In a joint statement issued after talks with her Indian counterpart on Saturday, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed her disappointment and said, "The people of Bangladesh are awaiting an early signing and implementation of the Framework of Interim Agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both governments in 2011."
For his part, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi again expressed his government's commitment to a resolution of the issue soon. In the joint statement, the Indian leader said that his government is working with all stakeholders in India for a conclusion of the Teesta agreement in the earliest possible time.
Apart from the pact regarding the Feni river, the two close neighbours inked six more pacts and launched three projects.
One of the three projects jointly inaugurated by India and Bangladesh allows India to buy liquefied petroleum gas from Bangladesh for consumption in India's north-eastern state of Tripura. The LPG will be transported by Bangladeshi trucks to the Indian state, cutting down transport times and costs. The second was the inauguration of a skill development centre that will provide basic as well as advanced training to some 200-300 Bangladeshi youths on an annual basis for employment in the small and medium scale industry sectors.
The seven pacts signed also include a Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports. Under this pact, India will use the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from its territory. This will significantly reduce both time and cost in carrying Indian goods from Kolkata to the country's north-eastern states.
The other pacts signed yesterday included an agreement concerning the implementation of Government of India Line of Credits (LOC) extended to Bangladesh, MoU between the University of Hyderabad and University of Dhaka, Cultural Exchange Programme Renewal, MoU on Co-operation in Youth Affairs and MoU relating to a Coastal Surveillance System.
Among the key items which were on the Bangladeshi agenda but were missed out yesterday were the launch of a joint initiative for ensuring a proper use of the waters of the Ganges and 54 other joint rivers and India's assistance in a resolution of the protracted Rohingya crisis.
Besides, the Bangladesh side also requested the Indian authorities to consider addressing the issue of anti-dumping/anti-circumvention duties imposed on multiple products exported from Bangladesh to India, including jute products. In response, the Indian side mentioned that trade remedial investigations are carried out in accordance with the existing laws.
In their comments to reporters, neither leader gave any indication as to whether the issue of India's move to identify illegal residents in Assam state was discussed. India has prepared a National Register of Citizens (NRC) that lists the names of Indian nationals while leaving out those who have not been able to prove their identity as Indians. Some 1.9 million people have been left out of the register and there are concerns in Dhaka that Bangladesh could be asked to take these people. Bangladesh already houses a large number of Rohingyas who have fled Myanmar.
A joint statement said the two leaders "held productive and comprehensive discussions during which they reviewed all aspects of the bilateral relations, and exchanged views on regional issues."
"Both Prime Ministers agreed to fully utilize various opportunities for advancing mutually beneficial partnership in both conventional and non-conventional areas, and to ensure that this irreversible partnership enhances the legacy that started with the Great War of Liberation of Bangladesh," it said.
"Both leaders emphasized the importance of effective border management for ensuring a tranquil, stable and crime free border. Towards this goal, the Leaders directed their respective border forces to complete border fencing at all pending sectors at the International Border between both the countries at the earliest. Both leaders also agreed that the loss of civilian lives at the border is a matter of concern and directed the concerned border forces to enhance coordinated measures to work toward bringing such border incidents down to zero," the joint statement further said.
In her remarks to reporters on Saturday, Sheikh Hasina said cooperation between the two countries over the past decade in the traditional areas of security, environment, culture, people to people contact and health had been enhanced. In non-traditional areas too, such as the economy, maritime affairs and peaceful uses of nuclear energy, cooperation had been enhanced, the Bangladesh leader said.
"This multifaceted cooperation" had raised the profile of bilateral relations, making it "a model of good neighbourliness before the world," she said. "I firmly believe this cooperation will be strengthened in the future," she added.
In a brief media statement, PM Modi said India accords priority to its ties with Bangladesh and increasing cooperation between the two neighbouring countries should be a model for the entire world.
"I am happy that today's talks will further energise our bilateral ties," he said in the presence of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
It may be noted that Sheikh Hasina arrived in New Delhi on a four-day visit on Thursday.
She took part in the World Economic Forum on Thursday and Friday.
This is the Bangladesh Prime Minister's first visit to India since parliamentary elections were held in Bangladesh in December last year and in India in May this year. Ties between the two countries have been on an upswing in the last few years.