Delhi, Dhaka ink 5 agreements, Hasina pushes for Teesta pact

Wednesday 31st March 2021 06:40 EDT

Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina followed up the bonhomie and goodwill exuded on Bangladesh’s National Day with a bilateral meeting on Saturday that saw the two countries signing five agreements in areas ranging from sports and disaster management to trade remedial measures. Hasina again emphasised the need to sign the interim Teesta water-sharing agreement which West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee continues to oppose vehemently. The two sides also discussed issues related to the Rohingya with India saying it was happy to facilitate “safe, speedy and sustainable” return of the forcibly displaced people from Myanmar’s Rakhine state.

PM Modi reiterated India’s sincere and continued effort to conclude the agreement in consultation with relevant stakeholders,’’ said foreign secretary Harsh Shringla, adding that the Indian side also requested Bangladesh for early finalisation of the draft of the interim agreement for sharing of Feni river water. The results of the West Bengal election could have a direct bearing on the Teesta pact.

A joint statement said, “She (Hasina) underscored that to alleviate the sufferings and save the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the Teesta river basin, it is necessary that Bangladesh receives its fair share of the Teesta waters, the draft agreement of which has already been agreed upon by both governments in January 2011.”

The delay in signing the Teesta agreement remains one of the few thorny issues in bilateral ties. Hasina had also raised the issue with PM Modi in their virtual summit last year in December. Showing no sign of softening her position, Banerjee said earlier this month that her state can share water only if it had enough for itself.

On security cooperation, recognising terrorism remains a threat to global peace and security, both sides reiterated their strong commitment to eliminating terrorism in “all its forms and manifestations.’’ Modi expressed India’s appreciation for the cooperation extended by Bangladesh on security issues.

The two leaders inaugurated three border “haats”, oversaw the foundation of facilities at Rooppur nuclear facility and also jointly inaugurated extended development work at Rabindra Bhawan kuthibari at Kushtiaalo. The discussion on Saturday concluded efforts on both sides to accelerate cooperation across varied fields aimed at more closely enmeshing Indian and Bangladeshi development strategies. India also gifted 109 ambulances to Bangladesh.

Significantly, while Bangladesh thanked India for gifting 3.2 million Covid-19 vaccine doses, it also requested India to facilitate regular delivery of the remaining tranches of vaccine procured by Bangladesh from the Serum Institute of India. According to the joint statement, India assured its best cooperation in accordance with its “domestic exigencies and international commitments’’.

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