Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at the press briefing
The visiting External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid has reiterated India’s commitment that they will not do anything that is detrimental to the interests of Bangladesh and said a process is underway to bring an ‘early resolution’ of the unresolved issues between the two countries.
He was interacting with the journalists at a joint press briefing at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Saturday after the second meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) that coordinates and oversees bilateral issues.
He said the meeting was ‘unusually meaningful, warm and constructive.’
The meeting co-chaired by Khurshid and his counterpart Dipu Moni reviewed progress made in the entire gamut of bilateral cooperation including power, water resources, security, border management, people-to-people exchanges, trade, connectivity, culture, development cooperation, environment and education.
A Memorandum of Understanding (MoUs) on the construction of the Akhaura-Agartala rail link and another MoU on setting up a think-tank called Bangladesh-India Foundation were signed along with an addendum to the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement.
They have also exchanged the signed ‘Strip Maps’ of the land boundary as part of the implementation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and its 2011 Protocol.
The External Affairs Minister’s two-day visit will also kick off the groundwork for the visit in early March of Indian President Pranab Mukharjee to Bangladesh when the government will honour him for his support during the 1971 Liberation War.
The joint commission was established under the Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development and signed by the two prime ministers on Sep 6, 2011.
The first meeting of the JCC was held in New Delhi on May 7, 2012.
Khurshid said the vision for “such unprecedented cooperation, based on the principles of equality, partnership and mutual growth, has undoubtedly emanated from the landmark visits of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India in Jan 2010 and the Prime Minister of India to Bangladesh in Sep 2011.”
India and Bangladesh also signed $1 billion credit agreement including $200 million grants for different projects, mostly related to railways and infrastructure development, in Aug 2010. This was the highest loan that India has so far committed to any country.
He said the first tranche $ 50 million of the grants would handed over on Sunday in presence of the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The meeting also reviewed the progress of utilisation of the line of credit and both the ministers were ‘satisfied’ at the progress.
Khurshid said entire consignment of buses had been delivered to Bangladesh. “Deliveries of railway rolling stock will commence in the coming days.”
He said the work on power inter-grid connectivity was proceeding ‘satisfactory’, with 500 MW of power expected to flow from India to Bangladesh this summer.
“We have been promised that necessary clearances for the speedy setting up of the 1320 MW coal based joint venture power plant will be expedited,” he said.
He also welcomed the participation of Bangladesh in power projects in India, particularly in the North-Eastern states of India.
Inspired by the success of border haats in Meghalaya, India has proposed to open more haats along the border of Tripura and Mizoram.
Foreign Minister Dipu Moni assured him that Bangladesh would take a ‘quick’ decision on the proposal.
As Teesta water sharing deal and ratification of the land boundary agreement remained stumbling blocks between the growing relationship of India and Bangladesh, Khurshid assured India’s commitment ‘to an early resolution’ of those issues.
He said the agreements of Teesta water sharing and ratification of land boundary were ‘collective aspiration of India for most valuable friend of Bangladesh.’
He said India’s Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the proposed Constitution Amendment Bill, required to ratify its 1974 Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh.
Khurshid hoped that it would be tabled in the forthcoming Budget session of the parliament.
He said India and Bangladesh had already exchanged data on the flow of Teesta at Dalia and Gazaldoba at the Joint Technical Meeting held in Kolkata.
As Teesta water sharing agreement has been suspended following resistance from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerji, Khurshid said they would take the decision keeping the West Bengal government ‘fully onboard’.
“I can assure you that I have great regard for Chief Minister of West Bengal and I believe she is a good friend of Bangladesh and she is conscious of her responsibilities and the responsibilities on her shoulder is very great,” he said.
He reiterated Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s proposal for joint participation on the the Tipaimukh project and said “It is India’s commitment and resolve that whatever we do will never be at the cost of interest of Bangladesh.”
He said India attaches ‘the highest importance’ to its relations with Bangladesh.
“We shall continue our endeavour to move forward in a spirit of trust, understanding, accommodation, friendship and respect for each other,” he said and that on the trade and investment front, “new opportunities are being actively developed by our corporate and business entities.”
The External Affairs Minister said encouraged by the last year’s visit of 100-member youth delegation from Bangladesh to India, they are ready to organise a similar visit of students’ later this year.