India says firm to implement all treaties with Bangladesh
India on Sunday assured Bangladesh that it would implement all agreements signed earlier with the latter, in the greater interest of the two neighbouring countries, report agencies.
"There's been some delay, but all those agreements signed by New Delhi and Dhaka during the visit by Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh last September, will be implemented soon," visiting Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee said during a meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her official residence Ganobhaban.
"Although it was late, these agreements will be materialised soon," a spokesman of the Prime Minister's Office quoted him as saying.
Pranab Mukherjee told the Prime Minister that a subcommittee under the Joint River Commission would be formed to study, analyse and examine all aspects of different issues relating to the proposed Tipaimukh Dam and inform both sides of the outcome to help remove all sorts of misgivings and misunderstanding about the
project. The sub-committee will comprise experts of both the countries, he said.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed the hope at the meeting that all the pending issues between Bangladesh and India would be resolved at an early date.
Observing that both countries have some domestic political compulsions which make it all the more difficult to take decisions about policy-choices, Hasina said her government had taken several bold decisions vis-à-vis relations with India, particularly on security issues, granting transit and access to the Chittagong and Mongla ports.
"Bangladesh hopes the Indian government will also be able to demonstrate is political will for addressing the pending issues and irritants," she said.
In this connection, she stressed the need for early ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement 1974 and its Protocol signed during the visit of Dr Manmohan Singh for a satisfactory resolution of the long-lingering issue and for implementation of the decisions on demarcation of land boundary, exchange of enclaves and areas in adverse possession.
Hasina further expressed the hope that the government of India would make an effort for expediting the signing of an agreement for the sharing of waters of the Teesta River.
She noted that the issue assumed a greater political significance, charged with strong emotions, and further delay about concluding a bilateral accord on it would only complicate matters.
Hasina mentioned that apart from a select group of people who follow developments in the Indian political arena, most people in Bangladesh do not understand the complexities about Center-State relations or the dynamics of coalition politics. "It's easy for them to misunderstand the intent of the government of India about the delay over the signing of the Teesta River Water Sharing Agreement."
In this context, she said the issue of constructing the Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak River and the inter-linking of rivers project in India have become matters of some strong concern for the general public in Bangladesh.
Regarding the killings of Bangladeshis along the border, Hasina appreciated the move of the Indian government and said there is also a need for greater sensitivity from the Indian side in response to concerns, already raised by Bangladesh.
She further noted that there has been some forward movement on cooperation in the hydro-power sector at the sub-regional level, such as exchanging of lists of projects and composition of working groups and for import of power from the Indian state of Tripura.
Hasina said the high-level exchange should continue since it allows the political leaderships in both the countries to understand each other's views and perceptions on issues of common interest and to calibrate the means of resolving them.
The Prime Minister thanked the Indian government for extending duty-free access to all products from Bangladesh under Safta, except for 25 items in the negative list.
She expressed her satisfaction at the small but significant forward movement that has taken place, including granting of a 24-hour unfettered access to Bangladesh nationals across the Tin Bigha Corridor, laying of electric cables across the Tin Bigha corridor for allowing electrification of Angorpota-Dahogram, operationalisation of the SOPs for movement of trucks carrying bilateral cargo for Nepal and India, opening of Border 'haat' at Kurigram-Meghalaya, movement of ODC, trial run of bulk cargo under PIWTT, signing of a joint venture agreement for setting up the coal-based power plant at Bagerhat, signing of PPA for the purchase of 250 MW power from the Indian state of west Bengal.
The Press Secretary to the Prime Minister, Abul Kalam Azad said Mukherjee told the premier that all countries would get due share of the water of the rivers coming down from the Himalayas.
About the sharing of the waters of the common rivers including that of the Teesta, the Indian Finance Minister said everyone has a legitimate share over the waters of different common rivers and no country will be affected due to any agreement.
About bilateral trade, Mukherjee said New Delhi has already granted duty-free access to 46 Bangladeshi products to the Indian market to help reduce the widening trade gap between the two countries.
During the meeting, the two leaders reviewed the entire gamut of the bilateral relations, Azad said.
Welcoming the visit of Pranab Mukherjee to Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina expressed the hope that it would add a new dimension to the bilateral relations between the two next-door neighbours.
Referring to the projects under the US$ 1.0 billion Line of Credit (LoC), the Prime Minister called for early implementation of the projects under the LoC to provide the opportunity for a greater visible demonstration of the benefits of Bangladesh-India cooperation.
Sheikh Hasina said since Pranab Mukherjee's last visit to Bangladesh in August 2011, there has been a significant forward movement of the initiatives, undertaken by both Bangladesh and India, to help further deepen and widen the relations between the two countries.
In this context, she mentioned that her government, in particular, was making efforts for not only tangible outcome on issue-based matrix, but also deepening the emotional bonds and removing the mistrust and misunderstanding that have been created over the years between the two countries.
Deputy Leader of the House Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, Finance Minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith, Home Minister Advocate Sahara Kahtun, Advisers to the Prime Minister Dr Mashiur Rahman, Dr Gowher Rizvi and Professor Modasser Ali, Ambassador-at-Large M Ziauddian, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Tarik A Karim, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran, Principal Secretary to the Prime Minister Sheikh Md Wahid Uz Zaman, PMO Secretary Mollah Waheeduzzaman and Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad were, among others, present at the meeting.
The Indian finance minister arrived in Dhaka in the evening hours of last Saturday on a two-day visit to join the 150th birth anniversary celebrations of Nobel Laureate, poet Rabindranath Tagore.
Meanwhile, Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee told a group of senior editors in Dhaka on Sunday that India would convert 200 million dollars, out of a $1.0 billion loan assistance on soft-terms that it had earlier offered to Bangladesh for various projects, into grant, reports bdnews24.com.
"India will treat this amount as grant, not as credit," he said.
The rest of the amount -- $800 million -- will bear a rate of interest at 1.0 per cent, he added.
"The amount of grant assistance -- US$200 million -- will be available to Bangladesh for financing projects that it (Bangladesh) will itself prioritise and like to opt for," he said.
Responding to a query at the meeting with the editors, Mukherjee said New Delhi had already relaxed the rules of origin criteria for procurement of inputs the projects and would be willing to consider more flexible terms, if the need arises.
The Indian minister blamed the "ground realities" in India such as lack of majority on the part of the ruling party at the centre for failure to seal the Teesta water sharing deal.
"In a democracy such as ours," he said "this process often becomes time consuming."
"There are certain issues that need to be resolved," Mukherjee said about the delays of signing of the Teesta river water-sharing deal and described the issue as "sensitive".
About the alleged delays in delivering on promises, the minister defended the works completed so far saying that projects worth $ 820 million had already been identified and that five contracts worth $ 214 million had also been signed.
He said that buses had been delivered, and that coaches and locomotives were on their way.
He also mentioned the 1320-mw power plant to be built at Khulna by National Power Development Company of India and the 500-mw of power that would be bought from India.
About Tipaimukh, Mukherjee said a sub-group would look into "all aspects" of the project and reiterated that India would take "no unilateral action that would harm Bangladesh".
Mukherjee came to attend the concluding ceremonies of a year-long programme marking the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore and termed the joint venture events as unique and having no parallel in history.
"The manner in which our countries have celebrated this anniversary is an example," he said.
The idea about the celebrations was mooted in January, 2010 when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India. The related events have been successful in bringing together a good number of artistes from both countries for participation in both countries.
A concluding ceremony for the Indian part of the series of events will take place in New Delhi today (Monday) where Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will be present as the guest of honour.
The Indian minister said an event had been planned to mark the 90th anniversary of the composition of the immortal poem 'Bidrohi' by Kazi Nazrul Islam.
Mukherjee said he had "wide-ranging and friendly discussions" with the prime minister, with whom he had a luncheon meeting at her official residence, before the exchange of views with the editors, and spoke highly of "warmth, cordiality, trust and understanding" that he had experienced in Dhaka.
He had a breakfast meeting with the finance minister on Sunday and a tete-e-tete with the foreign minister in the afternoon.
On his way to the airport, he stopped to meet the Leader of the Opposition Khaleda Zia at Gulshan.
About his likelihood of becoming the first Bengali president of India, the veteran Indian politician from the state of Paschim Bangla was all smiles and said, "nothing is certain in our situation" until it actually happened. "I would prefer to make no comment on this stage," he added.
While flying to Dhaka on Saturday by a special aircraft from Manila, Mr Pranab Mukherjee gave his Bangladesh counterpart a lift from the Philippines capital where both attended a meeting of the Asian Development Bank.
UNB adds: Indian Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee gave an assurance to Foreign Minister Dipu Moni during a meeting at Sonargaon Hotel on Sunday that the river-linking project in his country would not affect Bangladesh since the proposed project has no link with the rivers which originated in the Himalayas.
"The river-linking project is not linked with the rivers originating from the Himalayas. There is no possibility of any harm to Bangladesh,'' Dipu Moni told reporters after the meeting.
Asked about any progress in ratification of the 1974 border protocol and sharing of the Teesta river waters, she said the government of India has been working very sincerely on these issues. "Insha-Allah, it will be done."
About the proposed Tipaimukh Dam, the Foreign Minister said a joint study group is working on that and mentioned about the reiteration of India's position that "nothing will be done at the cost of Bangladesh's interest."
Meanwhile, Dipu Moni left Dhaka for New Delhi later Sunday afternoon to attend the closing ceremony of the Tagore's 150th birth anniversary.
She will also lead the Bangladesh delegation to the first meeting of the joint consultative committee in the Indian capital. The committee was formed under the Bangladesh-India framework agreement which was signed during the Indian Prime Minister's Dhaka visit last September.
Indian External Affairs Minister SM Krishna will lead his country's side to the meeting to be held today (Monday).
Asked about the issues to be discussed at the meeting, Dipu Moni said they would review the progress so far achieved in the areas of cooperation and also about what needs to be done to accomplish the remaining tasks.
During her stay in New Delhi she will call on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Home Minister P Chidambaram and Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal on Tuesday.