India and Bangladesh on Thursday reiterated their resolve to strengthen cooperation to deter recurrence of terror incidents and conclude three agreements related to it, including mutual legal assistance on criminal matters. Both sides agreed to finalise pacts on transfer of sentenced persons and to combat international terrorism, organised crime and illegal drug trafficking.
The decisions were announced in a joint statement at the end of a four-day visit of Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni in New Delhi on Thursday.
New Delhi and Dhaka re-emphasised the resolve not to allow the use of their territories for activities inimical to each other’s security interests. The issue assumes significance in the light of reports that insurgent groups/individuals, who operate in the northeast, take refuge in Bangladesh.
Dr. Moni held talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna. She also called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal.
Dr. Singh said India attached highest priority to its relations with Bangladesh and reiterated his invitation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit at an early date. He expressed the hope that the visit would write a new chapter in the ties.
Besides security, Mr. Krishna and Dr. Moni held wide-ranging talks that included issues such as river water sharing, connectivity, energy and cross-border trade.
“The visit was marked by warmth and cordiality and a commitment to strengthen bilateral relations. Each side showed a keenness to respond positively to the concerns of the other,” the joint statement said.
It was agreed that the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Bangladesh and the Ministry of External Affairs would be provided the mandate to meet and discuss the technical and other parameters with a view to finalising an agreement on sharing the Teesta River water. To begin with, both sides will immediately start joint hydrological observations on the river.
The two sides will undertake bank protection works; dredge the Icchamati River as also minor irrigation/drinking water schemes on the Feni River. India will assist Bangladesh in the dredging sector, the joint statement said.
As for the Tipaimukh Dam site, which became a political issue in Bangladesh, Dhaka welcomed New Delhi’s assurance to it that the project in Manipur would not have any adverse impact in Bangladesh.
On outstanding land boundary issues, both sides expressed intent to resolve the Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves and the Tin Bigha corridor. Both sides recognised the need for electrifiying the Dahagram and Angarpota enclaves as a humanitarian gesture.
Recognising the importance of bilateral and regional connectivity, discussions were held to designate Ashuganj as a new port of call under the Inland Water Transit and Trade Agreement as well as use of the Chittagong port by India. Dhaka agreed to provide access to the Ashuganj port to facilitate transportation of the Over Dimensional Consignments for the Palatana power project in Tripura.
As for connectivity and trade to which both sides accord high priority, India agreed to facilitate Nepal-Bangladesh and Bhutan-Bangladesh connectivity; reopen the Sabroom-Ramgarh trade point and the land route at Demagiri-Thegamukh on Mizoram border for bilateral trade. In addition, Border Haats would be started at the Bangladesh-Meghalaya border for mutual benefit of people in the area. Movement of containerised cargo by rail and water for bilateral trade was also agreed upon.
To enhance cooperation in the power sector, India agreed to provide at least 100 MW to Bangladesh on priority. Ahead of this, New Delhi will undertake a feasibility study on the power-grid inter-connectivity for transmission lines, from this side.
The statement welcomed the holding of a meeting of the Joint Working Group on trade last month to promote two-way trade and initiate long pending trade facilitation measures and the movement of businessmen and professionals.
Bangladesh specifically raised the issue of duty free access to its commodities, removal of non-tariff and para-tariff barriers and improvement of infrastructures on the Indian side.
India said it was ready to assist Bangladesh in strengthening its Standards and Testing Institute while seeking removal of barriers of Indian investments and port restrictions for specific commodities.
New Delhi agreed in principle to provide a Line of Credit for railway projects and supply of locomotives, coaches and buses and offered to take up construction of the Akhuara-Agartala railway link under Indian assistance.