Saturday, September 5, 2009

Tipaumukh, trade, transit to top India-Bangladesh talks

IANS, September 4th, 2009, NEW DELHI

India is keen to bridge differences with Bangladesh over sensitive issues like the Tipakimukh hydrolectric project and move ahead on trade and transit as Foreign Minister Dipu Moni arrives here Monday on a four-day trip, ahead of Sheikh Hasina’s visit here later this year.

This will be Moni’s first official visit to New Delhi after Sheikh Hasina rode to power in Dhaka on the strength of landslide victory in December polls last year.

Moni will hold talks with External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and also call on Prime Minister Manmohan Singh. She will discuss an entire gamut of bilateral issues, including security, cooperation in combating terrorism, illegal migration, trade and investment.

The two sides are likely to focus on enhancing connectivity and giving a fresh momentum to expanding economic engagement that would help in reducing trust deficit to resolve more complex issues like border management, infiltration and illegal migration and terrorism.

The contentious Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Dam Project will also figure prominently in the discussions. Located near the confluence of the Barak and Tuivai rivers in Manipur, the project has become a rallying point for the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) to stoke anti-India sentiments.

Some sections in Bangladesh fear that the dam will deprive their country of its rightful share of water. Ahead of Moni’s visit, official sources said here Friday that they have made it clear that there will be absolutely no diversion of water. They also pointed out there was no construction activity going on and the dam will augment water during the rainy season and decrease the prospects of flooding.

These points were made to a team of parliamentarians who visited the dam site last month. India has shared pertinent data with Bangladesh and stressed that the project will be beneficial to both countries. Moni’s visit will provide a good opportunity to remove any misgivings over the project.

India will also emphasise need to jointly combat terrorism and press Dhaka to deport anti-India insurgents like United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) chief Anup Chetia who are said to be in Bangladesh. New Delhi is optimistic that the Sheikh Hasina government will take requisite action in this regard.

Moni’s trip comes at a time when India’s relationship with Bangladesh, dogged by years of mistrust over Dhaka’s alleged patronage of anti-India insurgents and widening trade deficit, is showing signs of improvement.

During then external affairs minister Pranab Mukherjee’s visit to Dhaka in February 2009, India took significant unilateral initiatives like providing duty-free access to eight million pieces of ready garments, lifting a ban on FDI in Bangladesh and duty-free access to several items from Bangladesh.

India also signed a bilateral trade treaty and another one on the protection of investments. Put together, these initiatives have set the stage for a new positive period of trust and cooperation between the two neighbours.

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