TODAY -
India to discuss Tipaimukh with Bangla's Foreign Minister
Source: The Sangai Express / PTI

Imphal, September 06, 2009: The entire gamut of bilateral ties, including the Tipaimukh dam issue, sharing of river waters, trade, border management and combating terrorism, are expected to come up for discussion at a "congenial ambience" during Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni's 4-day visit to India beginning tomorrow.

Barak river where the Tipaimukh dam will be built


This is Moni's first official trip to the neighbouring country since the installation of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's Awami League to power eight months ago following the historic December 29 general elections in Bangladesh.

Officials said the bilateral ties, including the contentious issue of the hydro-electric Tipaimukh dam whose construction by India is opposed by the Opposition BNP here, are expected to be discussed during Moni's talks with her Indian counterpart SM Krishna.

Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee, in his then capacity as External Affairs Minister, had held talks with Moni on February 9, when he visited Dhaka mainly to convey India's good wishes to the new Government led by Awami League, widely regarded as a traditional ally of the Congress party.

Officials familiar with Moni's visit process said India was keen to "bridge differences with Bangladesh" on sensitive matters like Tipakimukh and move ahead on trade and transit.

Trade, investment, sharing waters of the common rivers, including the Teesta, border management, connectivity and security issues were other topics likely to figure prominently during the MoniKrishna talks, they said.

Official sources said the two sides were likely to focus on enhancing connectivity and giving a fresh momentum to expanding economic engagement that would help in reducing "trust deficit" to resolve complex issues like border management, infiltration and illegal migration and terrorism.

Political and foreign analysts said the installation of Awami League and Congress to power in the two countries created a congenial ambience to settle the longstanding issues through constructive negotiations because of the historic links between the two parties since the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh.

The trade deficit is one such major issue while Dhaka has been pressing for long to remove para and non-tariff barriers to Bangladeshi exports in a bid to reduce the yawning trade gap that accounts for over USD 2,566 million.

Business analysts said Bangladesh looks for stepping up its exports to the landlocked seven North Eastern States and close the trade imbalance if the barriers were removed.

The two countries also share over 50 common rivers and there had not been any progress in distribution of waters of the seven other rivers, including the Teesta, though the landmark 1996 Ganges Water Treaty during the previous tenure of Hasina.

The proposed Tipaimukh Dam on the Barak River in Manipur dominated the centre stage of Bangladesh-India-relations in the past several months though New Delhi assured Dhaka nothing would be done under the project which could affect Bangladesh.

According to officials, India has made as many as four proposals, including the signing of an extradition treaty, mutual legal assistance against terrorism and exchange of sentenced prisoners, to be signed between the two countries.

"We have suggested going ahead with the proposals after considering our laws, but the final decision has to be made by the highest office of the Government," said an official familiar with the process.

Moni's visit comes as India has been seeking more land-route connectivity through Bangladesh to boost trading in its seven North Eastern States while it has a long-pending proposal seeking to use Bangladesh's port facilities alongside the road transit.

No major headway in this regard was witnessed in the past years in view of what analysts said "sensitivity" in bilateral relations.

"All these issues are under discussion and we are expecting them to take a shape as Foreign Minister Dipu Moni is visiting New Delhi.

Let us see how best we can reach agreements on these issues," Indian High Commissioner Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty recently told PTI as he emphasised the importance of "political will" in making the longstanding proposals.


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