Focus on sharing of Teesta river water

To give a boost to their relations, Bangladesh and India have finalised over a dozen deals, including a comprehensive framework agreement for bilateral cooperation.

The agreements, MoUs and protocols are likely to be signed when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrives here on a two-day visit on Tuesday.

Dr. Singh will be accompanied by his wife Gursharan Kaur, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal and Chief Ministers of Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam and Mizoram — Mukul Sangma, Manik Sarkar, Tarun Gogoi and Lal Thanhawla.

National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon, who was in Dhaka on Saturday, gave final touches to the deals, including that on sharing of the Teesta river water, official sources said.

The framework agreement is likely to lay the foundation and broad principles of the future relationship. The two countries had a 25-year Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace, which got expired in 1997.

Dhaka and New Delhi are likely to sign a package protocol under the 1974 Indira-Mujib Land Boundary Agreement, which will deal with five long-standing issues — exchange of enclaves and adversely possessed lands, demarcation of 6.5 km of un-demarcated border, allowing Bangladeshis to use “Tin Bigha Corridor” for 24 hours, and finalisation of a strip map.

The agreements ready to be signed are: 15-year interim water sharing agreements on the Teesta and Feni rivers and import of 250 megawatt of electricity from India. The MoUs to be signed are on protection of the Sundarbans, cooperation in the fisheries and renewable energy sectors and joint venture on a coal-fired 1,320-MW power plant in Bangladesh.

One of the MoUs will be on trade liberalisation allowing India duty-free access to 61 Bangladeshi products. A protocol on Protection of Royal Bengal Tiger in the Sundarbans is also likely to be signed.

Besides, the two countries may sign a MoU on preservation of biodiversity in the Sundarbans.

According to the draft protocol, both countries will patrol the waterways of their portions of the world's largest mangrove forest to prevent poaching and smuggling of wildlife.

Cooperation between Dhaka University and Jawaharlal Nehru University will also be initiated.

Transit to Nepal

The two countries will finalise a deal on allowing transit to Nepal through Rohanpur in Bangladesh and Singabad in India. There is also a possibility of signing an agreement on railway connectivity between Akhaura and Agartala.

The official sources said the issue of transit was expected to be finalised under the existing trade agreement.

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