Lines of credit, Rohingya crisis, water-sharing to be top agendas
Zahid Hossain Biplob: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to visit India in October this year to discuss bilateral issues, including water sharing in common rivers, aiming to take the growing relations between Bangladesh and India further. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has formally invited his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina for a bilateral official visit.
Foreign Ministry sources said, this visit will strengthen and explore new areas of cooperation between the two next-door neighbours. ‘Understanding and collaboration in different sectors will further enhance significantly between the two countries during the visit,’ added the source.
Political leaders and government officials of both countries are engaged in a war footing to make the visit successful.
In the last one month, home minister-level and water resources secretary-level meetings were held. Indian Foreign Minister S Jaishankar visited Dhaka recently on a bilateral trip has set the tone of the visit, said a top ranking official of the Foreign Ministry.
It was Jaishankar’s first visit to Bangladesh as foreign minister. He earlier visited Dhaka several times as foreign secretary.
Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen and his Indian counterpart discussed their priorities and aspirations to have more concrete political relations in the coming days.
“Both the countries want to have a solid understanding about themselves as their top political leaders know in bilateral relations, irritants occur here and there,” said a government official seeking anonymity.
Having irritant is not a problem, but not having a mindset to solve it amicably is a big challenge, he said.
Citing example, he said after filing a case with an international court to resolve a maritime boundary dispute between Bangladesh and India, there was a dilemma at the official level about how to cope with changing the environment but the firm determination and understanding at the top political levels showed them the way forward.
“Bangladesh believes in resolving issues amicably through dialogue and for that political understanding is very important,” the official said.
It is difficult to resolve Rohingya crisis as there is a lack of trust between Bangladesh and Myanmar but in the case Dhaka and New Delhi, both solved sensitive boundary disputes issue without any hiccup, he added.
Foreign Minister Dr A K Momen while talking to Daily Industry said, the issues, which are likely to figure prominently in the talks during the PM’s visit, include speeding up disbursement of Indian lines of credit (LoC), water-sharing of the 54 common rivers and the Rohingya crisis.
He noted that Dhaka will specifically highlight the Indian LoC.
However, water issue will discuss through this visit. India has agreed to find out the pros and cons of Ganges barrage project, which is important for Bangladesh.
“We hope to form a joint committee to conduct the Ganga barrage feasibility study by this year,” said another official while talking to Daily Industry.
It has also been decided that water flow data of seven common rives will be analyzed this September and expected to ink deals on water sharing of each of the rivers in the future, he said.
The rivers are Feni, Manu, Dharala, Dudhkumar, Khowai, Gumti and Muhuri.
“At this stage, it is difficult to say when the agreements will be signed but we are working on it,” he added.
Dhaka and New Delhi agreed about the text on water sharing of Teesta River in 2011 but it is yet to be signed.
Meanwhile, the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam will discuss through this visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Though it is a domestic political issue in India and almost all political parties in Assam play the ‘Bangladesh card’ to get support from the people.
“Dhaka is fully aware that over four million Indians in Assam are waiting for their verification, but we will not let the problem pass the border,” said one official.
The Indian political players including BJP, the ruling party, alleged that many Bangladeshis crossed the border and settled in Assam which is vehemently opposed by Dhaka.
In the last home minister-level meeting held in New Delhi on Aug 7, a joint statement could not issued over the dispute. Bangladesh also protested a press release issued by the Indian side as they mentioned the NRC issue in their release.
The prime minister said India can use Bangladesh’s Chattogram, Mongla and Payra ports for boosting trade and commerce.
Sheikh Hasina said the avenues in the field of connectivity between the two countries are increasing. “Many routes in rail, road and air connectivity between Bangladesh and India have been opened,” she said.
The prime minister said Bangladesh and India have wonderful relations and have also excellent cooperation in different sectors.
Earlier, Sheikh Hasina said the two countries solved many problems bilaterally.
In this connection, she particularly mentioned the solution of the land boundary dispute between the two countries.
“The Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) was concluded creating an example in the world … Indian all parties in parliament unanimously supported the LBA Bill.”
Terming India as a true friend of Bangladesh, the premier said New Delhi is continuing support to Bangladesh since independence.
Experts however said, a look at the map of Bangladesh reflects the strategic reality that the two countries have no option but to pursue economic and security cooperation. The emergence of terrorism as a challenge for both countries is also compelling a change in this regard.
The bilateral relationship between India and Bangladesh is a function of geography. Bangladesh is surrounded by India. And it is located astride India and its North Eastern states. Cooperation between the two countries is therefore unavoidable, they opined.
The foreign minister Dr A K Abdul Momen While talking to Daily Industry admired India’s socio-economic progresses and said “our partnership is mature, broad and strong”.
“In the past 10 years, we have experienced remarkable progress in many areas, namely, security, connectivity, development cooperation, cultural exchange, power, trade and commerce, defence exchange and so on.
“The security cooperation together with our collective fight against terrorism and violent extremism continue to play an important role in achieving peace, stability and security in the region and beyond,” Momen said.
“Our two countries also share common commitment to advance regional and international cooperation including strengthening regional processes such as BIMSTEC, BBIN and BCIM.”