Teesta agreement expected in soonest possible time: Modi


NEW DELHI, Oct 5, 2019 (BSS) – Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi today
said Indian stakeholders were working to ink the proposed Teesta deal in
soonest possible time as his visiting Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina
said Bangladesh keenly awaited for its early signing as agreed upon by both
the governments eight years ago.

“Prime Minister Modi informed (Sheikh Hasina) that his government is
working with all stakeholders in India for conclusion of the Agreement in
soonest possible,” read a joint statement issued after talks between the two
leaders in the Indian capital earlier today.

It said Modi’s comments came as the Bangladesh Prime Minister said the
people of Bangladesh awaited “early signing and implementation of the
Framework of Interim Agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed
upon by both governments in 2011”.

According to the statement the two premiers simultaneously directed the
Joint Rivers Commission’s Technical Level Committee to expeditiously exchange
updated data and information and prepare the draft framework of Interim
Sharing Agreements for six other common rivers as well.

The remaining rivers, it said, were Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and
Dudhkumar and to firm up the draft framework of interim sharing agreement of
Feni River.

The Rohingya crisis also featured the Bangladesh premier’s meeting with
Modi who, the statement said, agreed on the need to expedite safe, speedy and
sustainable repatriation of the displaced persons to their homes in Myanmar’s
Rakhine State.

“They agreed on the need for greater efforts to be made to facilitate their
return, including by improving security situation and socio-economic
conditions in the Rakhine State of Myanmar,” said the 53-point statement.

The Indian premier, it said, appreciated Bangladesh’s generosity in
sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to “forcibly displaced
persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar”.

He said New Delhi would supply a fifth tranche of humanitarian assistance
to support Bangladesh government’s humanitarian efforts to shelter the
Rohingyas in temporary camps in Cox’s Bazar.

The tranche of aid, he said, would comprise tents, relief and rescue
material as well as one thousand sewing machines for skill development of
forcibly displaced women from Myanmar.

The statement pointed out that India by now completed a first project to
build 250 houses in Rakhine state and it was now preparing to implement
another set of socio-economic development projects in the area.

Sheikh Hasina conveyed Dhaka’s gratitude for India’s humanitarian
assistance since September 2017 to help meet the needs of the displaced
persons from Myanmar.

The statement said the two premiers emphasised the importance of effective border management for ensuring a “tranquil, stable and crime free border” and directed their respective border forces to complete border fencing at all pending sectors between both the countries at the earliest.

“Both Leaders also agreed that the loss of civilian lives at the border is a matter of concern and directed the concerned border forces to enhance coordinated measures to work toward bringing such border incidents down to zero,” it read.

Modi, it said, appreciated Bangladesh’s zero-tolerance policy against terrorism and commended his counterpart for her resolute efforts to ensure peace, security and stability in the region.

But the statement pointed out that terrorism remained one of the most significant threats to peace and stability of both countries and the region and the two leaders reiterated their strong commitment to eliminate terrorism in all its forms and manifestations.

They stressed that there could be no justification whatsoever for any act of terror.

Sheikh Hasina and Modi referred to the recent discussions between the two home ministers in India agreeing that closer cooperation against extremist and radical groups, terrorists, smugglers, smuggling of fake currency, and organised crime remain a shared priority.

Bangladesh side requested Indian authorities to consider addressing the issue of anti-dumping/anti-circumvention duties imposed on multiple products exported from Bangladesh to India, including jute products.

The leaders directed their officials to expedite establishment of twelve Border Haats which have been agreed to by both countries.

Sheikh Hasina appreciated India’s readiness to extend duty free and quota free access for Bangladeshi exports to the Indian market while Bangladesh requested India to consider addressing the anti-dumping/anti-circumvention duties issues imposed on its multiple products including jute products.

The statement said India on the other hand requested Dhaka to withdraw port restrictions on products being traded through Akhaura-Agartala port.

“The Bangladesh side informed that the restrictions would be removed on most items of regular trade in the near future,” it read.

The leaders directed their officials to expedite establishment of twelve Border Haats which have been agreed to by both countries.

The two premiers, however, welcomed that for the first time, exports from Bangladesh to India crossed the one billion dollar mark in 2019 witnessing a year-on-year growth of 52 percent in the exports.

The two premiers reaffirmed their commitment to work closely in the UN and other multilateral organisations. They also reaffirmed their commitment to work together particularly in the international arena, to call upon developed countries to fulfill their commitments on the means of implementation as enshrined in the Agenda 2030.

Both the leaders agreed that regional and sub-regional cooperation is a priority area for the two countries. Towards this goal, they agreed to streamline the activities of BIMSTEC to make it an effective vehicle for sub-regional cooperation to achieve the aim of collective prosperity of all member countries.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi accepted an invitation from his Bangladesh counterpart to pay a visit to Bangladesh and it was agreed that the dates of the visit would be finalized through diplomatic channel.

During the bilateral meeting, the two leaders expressed satisfaction at the excellent state of bilateral relations, which are based on deep historical and fraternal ties, which reflect an all-encompassing bilateral partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that transcends a strategic partnership.

Both Prime Ministers agreed to fully utilize various opportunities for advancing mutually beneficial partnership in both conventional and non-conventional areas, and to ensure that this irreversible partnership enhances the legacy that started with the Great War of Liberation of Bangladesh.

Indian Prime Minister Modi also reaffirmed India’s full support to the realization of Sheikh Hasina’s vision of ensuring a prosperous, peaceful and developed Bangladesh.

The joint statement said the both sides emphasized simplifying people-people movement between the two countries. Sheikh Hasina thanked Modi for India’s commitment to simplify travel requirements, for Bangladesh nationals traveling by road or rail to India, and asked that in the spirit of reciprocity, all restrictions be lifted for Bangladeshi travelers using existing land ports.

The two sides agreed that the remaining restrictions on entry/ exit from land ports in India for citizens of Bangladesh travelling on valid documents would be removed in a phased manner, beginning with checkpoints at Akhaura (Tripura) and Ghojadanga (West Bengal).

Welcoming Bangladesh’s imminent graduation out of LDC status, India extended Bangladesh its warm felicitations. In this context, both sides agreed to expedite commissioning of the Joint Study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Bangladesh.

Both sides recognized that increasing connectivity through air, water, rail, road offers mutually beneficial opportunity for enhancing economic cooperation between Bangladesh and the North Eastern States of India and beyond.

Both Leaders expressed satisfaction at the discussions in August 2019 in Dhaka between the Secretaries of Water Resources of both the countries and the subsequent formation of the Joint Technical Committee as well as formulation of the Terms of Reference to conduct the Feasibility Study of the proposed Ganges-Padma Barrage Project in Bangladesh for optimum utilization of the water received by Bangladesh as per Ganges Water Sharing Treaty 1996.

Both Leaders recognised the immense potential of cooperation between the two countries in railways sector. They noted with satisfaction the constructive discussions between the Railways Ministers of the two countries in August 2019.

Both Leaders emphasized the need to enhance people-people connectivity. As a step forward, both Prime Ministers welcomed the increase in the frequency of Maitree Express from 4 to 5 times per week and that of Bandhan Express from 1 to 2 per week.

Hasina and Modi directed the concerned officials to expedite the completion of modalities for provision of railway rolling stock supplies by India to Bangladesh, and on modernization of the Saidpur workshop in Bangladesh.

Sheikh Hasina thanked Prime Minister Modi for considering the supply of a number of broad-gauge and meter-gauge locomotives to Bangladesh, on a grant basis. This would help in enhancing trade between both the countries.

The two Leaders welcomed the decision to enhance the capacity entitlement in air services from existing 61 services per week to 91 services per week with effect from Summer 2019 schedule, and further to 120 services per week with effect from Winter 2020 schedule.

Both leaders also agreed to expedite work towards drawing upon a US$ 500 mn Defence Line of Credit extended by India to Bangladesh, for which implementation arrangements have been finalized in April 2019.

The two Prime Ministers expressed satisfaction over progress made in the utilization of the three Lines of Credit and directed the officials of both sides to expedite implementation of the projects initiated under these LoCs.

Both Leaders emphasized the need for greater cooperation to commemorate the two important anniversary years: Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Birth Centenary in 2020; and 50 years of Bangladesh’s War of Liberation, and the establishment of India-Bangladesh bilateral diplomatic ties in year 2021.

To commemorate these two historic years, both Leaders also agreed to enhance cultural interactions between both the countries. The Bangladesh Prime Minister thanked the Indian Prime Minister for a proposal to organize a Festival of India in Bangladesh at a mutually convenient period during 2019-2020.

Both Prime Ministers directed the officials to expedite the work towards agreement between NFDC and BFDC for co-production of feature film on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, in time for the celebrations of his birth centenary in 2020.