Ershad meets Manmohan, discusses Tipaimukh

Former Bangladesh president and Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad meets Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in New Delhi yesterday. Photo: PIB, India

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday reiterated his government’s commitment to signing of the much-cherished Teesta Water Sharing Treaty with Bangladesh and pledged that India would not do anything regarding the Tipaimukh Dam, which could harm its neighbour.

He also said enclaves would be handed over to Bangladesh after ratifying the land boundary treaty to this end in the next session of parliament, reports our correspondent from New Delhi.

Manmohan gave these assurances when Jatiya Party Chairman HM Ershad called on him at his official residence at Race Course Road in central Delhi.

Emerging from nearly half-an-hour meeting, Ershad, a key leader in the ruling Awami League-led grand alliance government, told reporters that he had brought up the issues of proposed Teesta river water-sharing agreement, the Tipaimukh dam project and the implementation of land boundary agreement at the meeting.

The Indian premier assured him that the Teesta accord would be signed and efforts were on to reach a consensus on this with West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had been opposing it, the JP chairman said.

As Manmohan informed the JP leader that Bangladesh would be getting more than 50 percent of Teesta water according to the information he had, Ershad said it was not important whether his country would get 50 percent or less, but it was important to have a permanent solution through the signing of the treaty, JP presidium member Ziauddin Ahmed Bablu told The Daily Star last night after talking to Ershad.

About Tipaimukh Dam project, the Indian prime minister told Ershad that it was a hydropower project in which Bangladesh could also invest and benefit and that India would do nothing which would harm Bangladesh’s interests, he added.

Ershad said he had also raised the issue of interlinking of rivers in India, to which Manmohan said the project would not affect international rivers but involve only rivers within the country.

With regard to the land boundary agreement signed during Manmohan’s visit to Dhaka in September last year, Ershad said the Indian premier had pointed out to him that its ratification in Indian parliament required constitutional amendment by two-thirds majority, which his government lacked at present.

However, efforts were on for a consensus on the agreement, Ershad quoted Manmohan as saying.

At the meeting, other issues, including political situation and the next general elections of Bangladesh, also came up for discussion.

Ershad, who arrived in Delhi on Monday on an invitation, however, declined to elaborate.

In response to a question, an official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, said, “General Ershad’s visit is part of our ongoing engagement with a democratic and multi-party politics in Bangladesh.”

The prime minister conveyed the high priority that the government and people of India attach to developing the friendliest of relations with Bangladesh, which is an important neighbour of India.

General Ershad will also visit Ajmer Sharif on August 15 and 16, 2012. He is scheduled to call on President Pranab Mukherjee on Friday.