NATIONAL

Dhaka counters Indian envoy's charges

DHAKA OCT. 26. The Bangladesh Foreign Minister, M. Morshed Khan, has said Dhaka had never given any support to Indian separatists and would not allow its soil to be used for insurgency activities.

"We do not want any conflict and want to live in harmony with our neighbours," he told a function on Saturday. Mr. Khan's comments came a day after the outgoing Indian High Commissioner, Moni Lal Tripathi, named two insurgent leaders from India's northeast as being given special treatment in Bangladesh. Mr. Tripathi had also expressed dissatisfaction over "anti-Indian" propaganda by a Minister, lawmaker and officials.

Replying to a question about the Indian envoy's remarks, the Minister said there was nothing personal about it. "Earlier, the Indian Deputy Prime Minister, L.K. Advani, also made similar remarks." Bangladesh's stand is very clear in this regard, he said, pointing out that the country would not allow any insurgents or anyone to use its land against any other country.

"Bangladesh is neither land-locked nor water-locked; it is an India-locked country. So any problem like this will need to be solved by both the countries. We are talking to each other and we are discussing our bilateral problems."

Mr. Khan said such remarks neither hampered relations in the past, nor would they do so in future. If Bangladesh was India-locked, he said "one fifth of India is also Bangladesh-locked."

In the same function organised by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Bangladesh Institute of International Strategic Studies (BIISS) to mark the Government's two years in power, the Minister criticised India for undertaking a giant river-link project and planning to build other barrages on international rivers.

"If they proceed with the projects, it can spell disaster of unforeseeable proportions. It will adversely impact not only Bangladesh, but the region as a whole," he said.

Referring to the mega river-link project that has already got the support of President, A.P.J. Abdul Kalam, and the Prime Minister, Atal Bihari Vajpayee, Mr. Khan said: "It could threaten the integrity of our river system, deny water to most areas of Bangladesh, cause irreparable damage to our ecology and intensify the arsenic contamination process."

Mr. Khan said the project could destroy the Sunderbans, the world's largest mangrove forest, trigger widespread population displacement and cause human suffering. He referred to another plan of India for the construction of a dam at Tipaimukh on the Barak river near the Bangladesh border.

"The implementation of this project together with a plan to build a barrage at Phulerhat, will harm Bangladesh, " he said.

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