Wednesday, September 9, 2009

India, Bangladesh to jointly combat terror, discuss Tipaimukh dam

NEW DELHI - India Tuesday allayed Bangladesh’s concerns over the contentious Tipaimukh dam and hydroelectric project while the neighbours agreed to step up cooperation to combat terrorism and bridge differences on trade and transit issues.

With their relations on an upward curve after a protracted period of drift, the two countries also tried to narrow differences on illegal migration, cross-border infiltration and sharing of river waters.

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna held wide-ranging talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni and pressed for closer cooperation in combating terrorism, and emphasised the need for intelligence sharing and closer coordination.

The talks lasted over two hours and included a one-to-one interaction between the two ministers for 10 minutes.

Foreign Secretary Nirupama Rao was also present at the delegation-level talks. The Bangladeshi delegation included Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes, Bangladesh High Commissioner Tarique Ahmed Karim and Mohammad Imran, director general (South Asia).

Moni, who is on her first official visit to India after Sheikh Hasina came to power eight months ago, assured Krishna that Dhaka was keen to jointly combat terrorism and address New Delhi’s concerns about insurgents allegedly operating from the Bangladeshi territory.

Krishna renewed New Delhi’s request to Dhaka to deport anti-India insurgents - like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia - who are said to be living in Bangladesh.

The contentious Tipaimukh project located near the confluence of the Barak and Tuivai rivers in Manipur also figured prominently in the discussions.

Krishna assured Moni that the proposed dam was mutually beneficial and did not involve any diversion of water, as alleged by some sections of the political establishment in Bangladesh.

Moni Tuesday called on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and discussed an entire gamut of bilateral and regional issues. Manmohan Singh renewed his invitation to Sheikh Hasina to visit India later this year.

Trade and transit issues came up for discussion when Moni met Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee. The two ministers discussed ways to bridge trade deficit and improve road and air connectivity that could give a big push to economic engagement between the two countries.

Mukherjee pushed for transit rights for goods through Bangladesh to the northeast, a long-pending issue between the two countries.

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