Indo-Bangla crawl towards Teesta, extradition issues

IANS New Delhi, May 7 — Signalling a positive movement forward on contentious issues, India and Bangladesh Monday said they have inched ahead towards signing of the Teesta river water-sharing accord and a long overdue extradition treaty.

India’s External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and his Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni had a “very useful and productive” first joint consultative commission meeting, after which they sounded positive over several bilateral issues, including the delayed Teesta accord.

“We look forward to making progress and finishing the agreement on Teesta water sharing at the earliest,” Krishna told reporters after his talks with Dipu Moni.

“We are trying to develop a political consensus in India. It is important that the views of all those who are dependent on its waters are taken into account and the burden is shared equitably,” he said, referring to the Teesta agreement.

Opposition from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is an ally of the United Progressive Alliance union government, led to India not signing the water sharing agreement with Bangladesh during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka last September.

Noting that the Teesta accord is being discussed since 2009, Krishna said there is no change in the ground situation, though the two sides shared data during a technical meeting held in Kolkata in February.

Dipu Moni is in Delhi on the second day of her three-day visit to India, beginning with a stop in Kolkata Sunday.

Krishna also said he had assured Dipu Moni that India remains committed to an early solution of the Teesta issue.

“Since water is a sensitive issue, in accordance with the traditions of consensual decision-making in India’s democratic polity, internal consultations are on amongst stake-holders,” he added.

On Manipur’s Tipaimukh hydel power project, it has been agreed that a sub-group under the Joint Rivers Commission would be constituted to look into all aspects, including Manmohan Singh’s proposal for joint participation.

Meanwhile, official sources told IANS that Krishna had also raised the extradition treaty with Bangladesh in the context of Indian insurgent groups operating out of there.

They said draft of extradition treaty had been given to Bangladesh earlier. Now, the two sides agreed that an Indian team will go to Dhaka soon to discuss the final contours of the treaty.

India is hoping to sign the long-overdue extradition treaty, which will enable it to prosecute insurgents from its northeastern states, like Anup Chetia, general secretary of the banned United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA), who operated from Bangladesh for long.

Dipu Moni, who addressed the joint press conference with Krishna after their meeting, also noted that the Indian side has reassured her that “there will no unilateral undertaking of linking the Himalayan rivers without consultations with Bangladesh”.

She also expressed the hope that India and Bangladesh will expedite their trade agreements and protocols.

The two sides, during their meeting, also reviewed the 24-hour unfettered access to Bangladeshi nationals at Dahagram and Angarporta through the Tin Bigha corridor, the signing of the bilateral boundary strip maps under which a few areas are still to be covered, and the coordinated border management plan to reduce illegal and criminal activities.

Following the positive experience in Meghalaya, India is hopeful of opening new border haats in Tripura and Mizoram as well, Krishna said.

In the power sector, the two sides reviewed the progress on the inter-grid connectivity. “We are hopeful that 500 MW power would flow from India to Bangladesh during the summer of 2013,” Krishna said.

India and Bangladesh are also moving ahead with the setting up of the 1,320 MW coal-based joint venture power plant, which is expected to be commissioned in 2016.

With regard to the $1 billion line of credit to Bangladesh, Krishna said India’s focus now is to ensure “timely delivery” on the contracts that have been signed.

So far, projects worth more than $810 million have been agreed upon and five contracts worth $83 million have been signed.