इंडियन आवाज़     24 Feb 2024 11:57:28      انڈین آواز

PM B’desh visit: hopes for better border trade

There is an indication for agreements on boosting border trade and increasing connectivity between Bangladesh and the bordering states of India. There may be agreements on fisheries, textiles, cooperation in television sector and environment.

Singh’s team also faces a difficult challenge of signing an agreement for resolving the border dispute as India may have to forgo scores of square kilometre of land. The principal Opposition party – BJP – has already sounded a note of caution. The issues of Adverse Possessions and Enclaves on either sides of the border and as well as the demarcation of the 4,300 km border awaits to be resolved on the basis of the 1974 agreement signed between the two countries.

Singh will leave on Tuesday for a two-day visit to Dhaka at the invitation of the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina. This is his maiden visit to Bangladesh as Prime Minister. In fact an Indian Prime Minister is visiting Dhaka after a gap of 12 years.

The West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee has opted out of the Prime Minister’s delegation apparently in protest against the new draft for a 15-year interim agreement on sharing of Teesta waters. River Teesta is crucial for irrigation and drinking water supply in at least six districts of the northern part of West Bengal. It originates in Sikkim and flows into northern West Bengal and enters Bangladesh.

In response to the proposed Teesta agreement the Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said : “The subject of water is a sensitive issue. We have been trying to arrive at an agreement on Teesta which is acceptable to all parties. In our federal scheme of things, nothing is done or will be done without consultations with the State Government. Any agreement that we conclude will have to be acceptable to the (West Bengal) State Government; at the same time, it would also have to be acceptable to Bangladesh”.
However, there is a possibility of boosting border trade between the two countries. The presence of chief ministers from four northeastern states – Manik Sarkar of Tripura, Tarun Gogoi of Assam, Mukul Sangma of Meghalaya and Lal Thanhawla of Mizoram – gives a clear indication for the eagerness to boost border trade.

The bilateral trade balance is heavily tilted in favour of India and Bangladesh may ask for correcting the trade balance by giving more market access to its goods in the Indian market. It has asked for tariff concessions in 61 goods produced in Bangladesh, out of which about 40 relates to textiles and garments.

The National Security Advisor, Shivshankar Menon, the Foreign Secretary, Ranjan Mathai and Secretary, Water Resources and other senior officials are part of the official delegation.

Hinting at the possibility of reaching cooperation in other sectors on basis of the 2010 agreement between the two countries, the Indian Prime Minister in a statement said : “It is a matter of satisfaction that we have made concrete progress in several areas such as security, boundary issues, water resources, power connectivity, improvement of border infrastructure, trade facilitation and economic cooperation. Our endeavour will be to sustain and build upon this positive momentum”.

Both the countries have taken steps to implement some of the provisions of the 2010 Agreement signed between the two countries during the visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina to India. There are yet many areas were implementation is awaited. The present friendly regime in Bangladesh under Sheikh Hasina has brought the two South Asian countries closer and has also roped in Nepal and Bhutan. Only friendly regimes in these countries can sustain this beneficial quadrilateral in the near future with the possibility of further roping in Myanmar and Thailand in its ambit. Thus this hexagon of friendship can ensure faster development of India’s remote northeastern region.

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