Monday, July 20, 2009

Kalam backs 'joint water initiatives'

Dhaka, July 19 (

Former Indian president APJ Abdul Kalam, who arrived in Dhaka Sunday amid Bangladeshi concerns over India's planned Tipaimukh dam, has expressed support for "joint water initiatives" in the spirit of the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation.

Kalam also proposed India and Bangladesh work together to revive the importance of the 'golden fibre' jute by putting research and technology behind it.

He made the comments during a meeting with Nobel Laureate Prof Muhammad Yunus at his Grameen Bank office, the first of his scheduled visits during his three-day stay.

Kalam later attended a dinner at prime minister Sheikh Hasina's official Hare Road residence, where he met president Zillur Rahman.

Kalam, who served as India's eleventh president from 2002 to 2007, was one of the architects of India's nuclear programme and a driving force behind India's plans to become a developed and knowledge-based super power by 2020.

Yunus told of his meeting with the former Indian president, "We spoke of efforts by SAARC nations to resolve the water problems in the region."

Kalam's visit comes in the wake of heated debate in Bangladesh over the proposed construction of the controversial dam at Tipaimukh across the common river Barak.

Environmentalists fear ecological disaster in downstream Bangladesh if India goes ahead with the project.

Bangladesh-India bilateral relations had earlier faced troubles over India's construction of the Farakka barrage.

Yunus said Kalam supported cooperation among countries under the SAARC umbrella.

Kalam said he had read Yunus' book 'Banker to the Poor' and wanted to learn about the detailed workings of Grameen Bank so that microcredit could be incorporated into the approach of his own initiatives in the villages of India.

Professor Yunus raised the issue of strengthening SAARC. He elaborated his proposals about the creation of SAARC passports and SAARC scholarships.

Yunus said there was a strong need for joint efforts in the region to improve the quality of life of people overcoming poverty and ensuring basic services such as healthcare.

Kalam, who was born in Rameshwaram, Tamil Nadu, offered his readiness to impress the importance of SAARC among leaders in the region.

Yunus also proposed joint water development and management, and power generation, for the countries of the region, in the spirit of SAARC.

Kalam said he fully supported the ideas of closer cooperation within SAARC in those areas.

Kalam, who graduated in aeronautical engineering from the Madras Institute of Technology, has been invited to deliver a convocation speech to faculty members and students of the University of Information Technology and Sciences in Dhaka on Monday.

President Zillur Rahman will preside over the first annual convocation of the university at the Bangladesh-China Friendship Conference Centre.

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