Bangladesh wants to give space to India to finish internal consultations on Teesta issue

Although India and Bangladesh covered a lot of ground on several issues at Foreign Secretary level talks here on Tuesday, further movement in bilateral relations ran aground after Dhaka complained of non-implementation of the land boundary agreement and delay in a river water sharing pact.

In turn India did not raise the issue of demarcation of the maritime boundary on which it was prepared to negotiate in a manner that could have been acceptable to Dhaka, said government sources. The Cabinet Committee on Security vetted a proposal in this regard, they added.

Separately, official sources in the Ministry of External Affairs said the issue of equitable sharing of waters of Teesta River would have to await the emergence of internal consensus. West Bengal has objected to the water sharing pact that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had wanted to sign with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina and Centre has been engaged with West Bengal to resolve the issue.

With both sides having moved forward on the line of credit for Bangladesh Railways and a more intense energy relationship, the sources said the delay in the Teesta water sharing pact and the land agreement were the only blips in a quickly normalising relationship.

This, they said, showed in Dhaka cooperating to uproot anti-Indian groups running training camps on its soil and turning over several leaders of violent groups wanted by the Indian security forces. An equal partnership thermal power plant in Bangladesh is under active discussion and a hunt is on for land for a second one.

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes later told journalists that he had sought revival of the earlier interface between district administrations of border districts to prevent incidents of security forces firing at civilians, sometimes even killing them. The sources were relieved that with no untoward incident involving the Border Security Force having taken place in the run up to Tuesday's talks, constructive discussions have been held on minimising deaths which have often taken place on the Bangladesh side.

Mr. Quayes reiterated Bangladesh’s pitch at the talks for quickly implementing the agreements over land boundary demarcation and exchange of adversely-held enclaves “as it is important to deliver on it.” Bangladesh gains a few hundred hectares in the settlement that has doused many of the tensions that have dogged the Indo-Bangladesh border.

“It's not in the interest of Bangladesh or in the interest of India to make a commitment and not deliver on it. We have been assured by the Indian side that efforts are on to implement the land boundary agreement,” said Mr. Quayes.

The government is yet to get the agreement ratified by Parliament even though it was signed in September last year. On the Teesta pact, he said, “from the discussions I have had so far, the sense I get is that India is serious to sign the agreement sooner than later.”

“Things appear to be moving forward to the agreement and Bangladesh wants to give space to India to finish its internal consultations on the Teesta issue,” he added.

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