Dhaka presses Delhi for expediting Teesta, land boundary deals

Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes, left, with his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai at the Foreign Office Consultation at South Block in New Delhi yesterday. Photo: Ministry of External Affairs, India

Bangladesh has urged India to take steps on an urgent basis to implement the land boundary agreement and sign the Teesta river water-sharing treaty.

Talking to media persons following Foreign Office Consultations with his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai here yesterday, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes said Dhaka also proposed revival of interface between district administrations of bordering areas in both the countries to help stop incidents of killing.

During the talks, Bangladesh conveyed to India a sense of urgency about the latter’s implementing the agreement on land boundary demarcation and exchange of adversely-held enclaves “as it is important to deliver on it”, Quayes said.

The agreement was signed during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September last year.

“It’s not in the interest of Bangladesh or in the interest of India to make a commitment and not deliver on it”, Quayes said. “We have been assured by the Indian side that efforts are on to implement the land boundary agreement”.

Asked about the Teesta accord, which was scuppered by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s last-minute objections last year, he said, “We have been told about India’s internal consultations on the issue and we are looking forward to the completion of that process.”

He went on, “Things appear to be moving forward to the agreement and Bangladesh wants to give space to India to finish its internal consultations on the Teesta issue.”

“From the discussions I have had so far the sense I get is that India is serious to sign the agreement sooner than later”,

He added.

Replying to a question on a timeline for the Teesta agreement, Quayes, who also called Indian External Affairs Minister S M Krishna, said, “It is not right to ask when the agreement will be signed. I’m not talking about any timeline”.

The issue of joint survey of the controversial Tipaimukh multipurpose project in the northeastern Indian state of Manipur also came up at the meeting. And Quayes said Indian Water Resources Ministry has given to External Affairs Ministry the composition of its team for the joint survey. Bangladesh has firmed up its team for the purpose.

He said Bangladesh side also raised the issue of river-interlinking, and India “assured us that the Himalayan rivers component of the project” is not being implemented now.

Dhaka also reiterated its concern over killing of civilians in firing by BSF, and India reiterated the need for coordinated border management to check illegal border crossings.

Quayes said nobody can condone the killings at the border and “the act of shooting and killing does not reflect well on the bonhomie in bilateral partnership”.

In this context, he said, Bangladesh has proposed revival of interface between local administrations in border districts on both sides and “India has agreed to seriously consider it”.

If the local administrations on both sides of the border interact with each other frequently, many small incidents can be avoided, he said.

On the issue of expediting implementation of projects under the $1 billion Indian credit, Quayes said projects worth $183 million are in the pipeline and some of these would come through by next month. “There has been a significant forward movement from where we were in May this year.”

Quayes said security-related matters, border coordination, trade, credit, land boundary agreement and connectivity were discussed at the meeting, and both sides reiterated their resolve to carry forward the process. “There has been a forward movement in several areas.”

The issues of connectivity, particularly use of Ashuganj port, and waterways link were raised by India and discussed.

He said power sector cooperation also came up at the talks.

Dhaka wanted expediting setting up of the 1,320 MW coal-fired power plant in Khulna, New Delhi wanted to focus on another power plant in Chittagong.

Quayes also met Indian Water Resources Secretary Dhruv Vijay Singh and National Security Adviser Shivshankar Menon. He returns home this morning.