India has brought basin-wise river management in the negotiations with Bangladesh amid uncertainty of the signing of an agreement on Teesta River water sharing and formal concurrence on Bangladesh’s proposal for joint constructions of the Padma-Ganges Barrage during prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi scheduled for April 7-10.
‘We talked about river-wise basin management, how we can harness potentials of water exclusively for lower riparian state such as Bangladesh,’ Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Monday after a meeting on the preparations of the visit.
Among other issues, he said, ‘connectivity is a high priority. You’ll see a lot of progress on connectivity including in areas of energy, rivers, railway and highway, all are linked to sub-regional cooperation.’
Bangladesh is expected to push for signing an agreement on the sharing of Teesta river water, joint construction of Padma Barrage on the Bangladesh side of the cross-border Padma River, removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers from Bangladesh’s exports to India and completion of the implementation of the land boundary agreement.
Signing about 10 deals including a memorandum of understanding on defence cooperation framework, a $500 million line of credit for defence purchase from India and use of Chittagong and Mongla seaports for transferring goods from India-to-India are, among others, priorities of India.
The two sides have finalised about one dozen and a half deals for signing after official talks between Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in New Delhi on April 8. The two sides are in negotiations on about 40 deals for several months.
‘We don’t have complete picture,’ Shringla said about consensus on issues in discussions till Monday.
On a question on the possibility of removal of anti-dumping duty imposed by India on jute export from Bangladesh to India, the high commissioner said, ‘Decisions [would be] according to the WTO provisions.’
In protracted negotiations for several decades, Bangladesh has been requesting for signing a deal on sharing waters of Teesta, one of at least 54 common rivers.
Prime minister Hasina ‘invited India’s cooperation in jointly developing the Padma Barrage on the river Padma, according to article 18 of the joint declaration issued after the official visit of Modi in Dhaka in June 2005. Modi replied that the concerned agencies in India would examine the matter.
In 1975, India commissioned a barrage across the Ganges at Farakka to divert water into the Bhagirathi-Hoogly rivers in West Bengal for the purpose of flushing silts to improve the navigability of the Kolkata port, official documents show.
Due to the diversion, the flows in the Ganges, known as Padma after it enters Bangladesh, reduced considerably and affected agriculture, fishery, forestry, navigation and industrial development in the Ganges dependent areas in Bangladesh, said officials.
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