India, Bangladesh should work on river management: Jaishankar

Ready to extend assistance in management of annual flood in neighbouring nation, says External Affairs Minister

Updated - June 20, 2022 01:24 pm IST

Published - June 20, 2022 12:06 am IST - NEW DELHI

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Bangladesh counterparty AK Abdul Momen ahead of the the 7th India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission meeting, in New Delhi on Sunday, June 19, 2022.

External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar with his Bangladesh counterparty AK Abdul Momen ahead of the the 7th India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission meeting, in New Delhi on Sunday, June 19, 2022. | Photo Credit: PTI

India and Bangladesh should work together for comprehensive management of rivers, said External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar here on Sunday. Delivering opening remarks at the 7th round of India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission, Mr. Jaishankar welcomed his counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen and extended India’s assistance in management of the annual flood in Bangladesh and said the Indian side wished to work with Bangladesh on Artificial Intelligence, start-ups, Fintech and cybersecurity. 

“We would also like to convey our support and solidarity at the unprecedented flooding that we have had in northern Bangladesh. We have also had in the north-east. We are now sharing flood management data for an extended period. I would like to take the opportunity to convey that if in any concrete way, we can be of assistance to you in the management of flood and relief efforts, we would be very glad to be supportive,” said Mr. Jaishankar.

The Indian Minister took up the riparian dimension of bilateral relations with Bangladesh, which is the largest trade partner of India in south Asia, and said the two sides shared 54 rivers that required Delhi and Dhaka to work together and share “environmental responsibility” in areas such as the Sundarbans.

Teesta waters

India and Bangladesh have resolved border problems through the Land Boundary Agreement of 2015 but have been in dialogue over the sharing of multiple rivers that define the borders and impact lives and livelihoods on both sides. Bangladesh, however, has been particularly keen in receiving a fair share of the waters of the Teesta that flows through the northern part of West Bengal. 

A joint statement issued after the meeting said the two teams remain focused on the “importance of safe, speedy, and sustainable return of forcibly displaced persons from Rakhine State to Myanmar, currently being sheltered by Bangladesh”. Bangladesh has been hosting more than a million displaced persons from Rakhine, known as the Rohingyas, since 2017. 2022 marks the fifth year of the exile of this community that Dhaka wants to repatriate with “security and dignity”.

The visit of Dr. Momen came weeks after an international controversy broke out with two BJP leaders making derogatory comments on the Prophet. Bangladesh, however, has avoided issuing a direct condemnation of the remarks unlike several other countries of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC). Officials in Dhaka had earlier told The Hindu that Bangladesh did not want to “trigger” an issue by raising the controversy at the bilateral level. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to pay a visit here but the official comments did not indicate a firm date for the travel. The joint statement mentioned that both Ministers “tasked their officials to accelerate cooperation, with further attention paid to addressing issues and finding durable solutions for the mutual benefit of both the peoples.” Ms. Hasina’s visit is planned as a reciprocation of the visits by Prime Minister Narendra Modi and President Ram Nath Kovind to Dhaka during 2021 when both sides jointly celebrated the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, founder of Bangladesh.

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