Friday, July 10, 2009

India, Bangladesh discuss dam row, Hasina visit

New Delhi, July 9 (IANS)

In the first high-level contact between the two countries since the United Progressive Alliance government here began its second tenure, External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna Thursday held talks with visiting Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni on bilateral issues, including the row over a proposed hydel dam in India’s north-east.

Moni arrived here Thursday morning on her way to Sri Lankan capital Colombo to attend the fourth Saarc ministerial conference on children.

Moni handed over a letter from Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Krishna, conveying Dhaka’s desire to buttress relations with New Delhi that had tended to drift over many sticky issues under the previous dispensation.

The two ministers also discussed Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India later this year. The visit is expected to take place in another 3-4 months, sources said, saying dates are being finalised.

The prospects of improving bilateral ties got a boost after Sheikh Hasina, seen widely as a friend of India, won the Bangladesh elections with a thumping majority in December last year.

The recent row over the construction of the Tipaimukh dam in Manipur figured in the discussions, sources said. The two sides agreed to resolve issues through dialogue and consultations, sources said.

The Bangladesh Nationalist Party of former prime minister Khaleda Zia has tried to rake up the dam issue, saying it would seek the support of the international community, including the United Nations, to prevent India from constructing the dam on the Barak River along the northeastern Bangladesh frontier.

The dam, alleged the BNP, threatens to hamper the flow of water to Bangladesh and expose “half of the country to desertification”.

Moni also met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and discussed with him a host of issues relating to bilateral trade and investment.

Earlier this month, Sheikh Hasina had said Bangladesh would form an all-party parliamentary committee to review the impact and decide on the country’s stance on the dam in India.

Rejecting false propaganda, India has maintained that Bangladesh was consulted on the construction of the structure meant for generating hydro-power.

Moni’s visit will be followed by a trip to Delhi by a 10-member delegation of Bangladeshi legislators led by veteran leader and former water resources minister Abdur Razzak to discuss the Tipaimukh project.


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