‘India would write off $200 million of the $1-billion loan given to Bangladesh for various projects’

India is committed to implementing all deals it signed with Bangladesh during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka in September last, according to Union Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee.

“There has been some delay, but these [agreements] will be implemented soon,” he said at a meeting with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina here on Sunday.

Mr. Mukherjee told Ms. Hasina that a sub-committee under the Joint River Commission would be formed to study the proposed Tipaimukh dam so as to remove the misunderstanding from public mind. All would get their due share of the waters of the rivers flowing down the Himalayas.

Touching on bilateral trade, he said New Delhi had given 46 Bangladeshi items duty-free access to the Indian market to reduce the widening trade gap.

In an interview to a group of editors, also on Sunday, Mr. Mukherjee said India would write off $200 million of the $1-billion loan given to Bangladesh for various projects. “India will treat the amount as grant, not credit. “This $200 million will be utilised for projects that Bangladesh prioritises.”

New Delhi had relaxed the origin criteria for the projects and would consider more flexible terms, he said. He blamed “ground realities” such as lack of majority for the ruling party (in India) for the 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,” he said, terming the delay in the implementation of the accord “sensitive.”

On the alleged delay in India delivering on its promises, he defended the work done so far, saying five contracts, worth $834 million, were signed. Buses, coaches and locomotives had arrived or were on their way. A 1,320-MW power plant was being built and 500 MW would be bought from India.

Celebrations conclude

Speaking at the concluding session of Rabindranath Tagore's 150th birth anniversary celebrations here, he said India and Bangladesh were bound to each other with their identical cultural heritage, tradition, morality and values, and a promising future.

“I believe [that] our relationship is based on the strong foundation of love, confidence and the trust of the people of the two countries,” he said. The bilateral relations would attain a great height in future as it “has derived from our mutual desires and sacrifices.”

Ms. Hasina said Tagore's works created a bridge of bonding between the two countries. “There shall be problems between the neighbouring countries, but those are resolvable. We have proven it.”

She said the joint celebrations added a new dimension to the understanding of Tagore's works. “Rabindranath is an immense source of inspiration for every human being to become creative, pacifist and generous.”

“Tagore, through his literary work, also has built a bridge between Bangladesh and India.”

A cultural delegation from India, including Sharmila Tagore and Pabitra Sircar, and a dance drama group from the Sangeet Natak Academy took part in the ceremony.

The closing ceremony in India will be held in New Delhi on Monday. Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni will be the guest of honour.

More In: National | News