Bangladesh allows India to withdraw water from Feni River

Diplomatic Correspondent | Published: 14:07, Oct 05,2019 | Updated: 00:14, Oct 06,2019


- No progress on sharing of waters of Teesta, 6 other rivers
- ‘Committee’ on Ganges-Padma Barrage Project in Bangladesh formed
- Bay of Bengal surveillance system sought by India agreed
- SOP on Chattogram, Mongla seaports use sought by India
- Bangladesh asked to draw defence loan money
- No major progress on Rohingya issue
- Transhipment facilities for India increased
- No progress on removal of barriers on jute export from Bangladesh
- Mutual certification recognition of goods hangs in the balance
- Border fencing to be accelerated
- LPG export to north-eastern Indian states opens

The government of Bangladesh on Saturday signed a memorandum of understanding allowing India to withdraw water from the Feni River with no progress on signing of an agreement on sharing of water of the Teesta and six other rivers.

The two sides also signed an MoU for establishing a coastal surveillance radar system in Bangladesh to keep an eye on the Bay of Bengal area.

The two MoUs were part of the seven instruments Dhaka signed with New Delhi in presence of prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi in the Indian capital during her official visit to India, according to a joint statement simultaneously issued by both sides in the afternoon on the day.

India, under the MoU, would withdraw 1.82 cusec of water from the Feni River for supplying drinking water to the people of Sabroom town of Tripura.

The two PMs directed a technical committee of the Joint Rivers Commission to expeditiously exchange updated data and information and prepare a draft framework for interim sharing agreements for the six rivers, namely Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar and to firm up the draft framework of interim sharing agreement of the Feni River.

On the question raised by Sheikh Hasina on signing an agreement on sharing of the Teesta waters as agreed upon by both governments in 2011, Modi informed that his government was working with all stakeholders in India for concluding the agreement soonest possible.

They expressed satisfaction over the formation of a joint technical committee and formulation of terms of reference to conduct feasibility study for the proposed Ganges-Padma Barrage Project in Bangladesh for an optimum utilisation of the water received by Bangladesh as per the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty 1996.

The two sides inked another MoU on the standard operating procedures for the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports of Bangladesh  for movement of goods to and from India, particularly to and from the north-eastern region of India.

An agreement was signed between the two countries concerning the implementation of the three Lines of Credit (LoCs) committed by India to Bangladesh and officials of both sides were directed to expedite the implementation of the projects initiated under these LoCs.

Three other MoUs were signed – on cooperation between the University of Hyderabad and the University of Dhaka, renewal of the cultural exchange programme and cooperation on youth affairs.

The instruments were signed and projects inaugurated after official talks between the two PMs.

The two PMs recognised the need for increased cooperation in defence for a more integrated and secure neighbourhood and welcomed the initiatives for development of closer maritime security partnership.

They also agreed to expedite the work towards drawing upon a US$ 500 million defence line of credit extended by India to Bangladesh.

The two countries already made implementation arrangements in this regard in April 2019.

The two prime ministers agreed on the need for greater efforts to expedite a safe, speedy and sustainable repatriation of the displaced people of Myanmar from Bangladesh with improving the security situation and socio-economic conditions in Rakhine State.

The issue of updating the National Register of Citizens keeping at least two million Bangla-speaking people out of the list was also discussed, according to Indian sources.

India pointed out that it was an ongoing process directed by the court.

The two sides agreed on an expeditious commissioning of a joint study on the prospects of the two countries entering into a bilateral comprehensive economic partnership agreement.

In response to India’s request to withdraw the port restrictions on products being traded through the Akhaura-Agartala port, the Bangladesh side informed that the restrictions would be removed on most items of regular trade in the near future.

On Bangladesh’s request to consider addressing the issue of anti-dumping and anti-circumvention duties imposed on multiple products exported from Bangladesh to India, including jute products, the Indian side mentioned that ‘trade remedial investigations are carried out in accordance with the existing laws.’

The two PMs directed the officials concerned to speed up the establishment of a framework of cooperation in the area of trade remedial measures for cooperation and capacity building in this area, mainly meant among Bangladesh officials.

India did not agree to Bangladesh’s request for mutual recognition of certification of products on the grounds that both countries are common members of the Asia Pacific Laboratory Accreditation Cooperation and that Bangladesh has undertaken measures to put in place certain facilities for maintaining compatible standards, according to meeting sources.

The two PMs directed their respective border forces to complete border fencing in all remaining sectors along the international border between the two countries at the earliest for maintaining peace in the border area.

Both leaders reiterated their instructions to their respective border forces to enhance coordinated measures to work toward bringing border killings down to zero.

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

The two sides recognised that an increasing connectivity through air-, water-, rail- and roadway offers mutually beneficial opportunity for enhancing economic cooperation between Bangladesh and the north-eastern states of India and beyond.

They welcomed the decisions to operationalise the Dhulian-Gadagari-Rajshahi-Daulatdia-Aricha route (to and fro) and include the Daudkandi-Sonamura route (to and fro) under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade for extending transhipment facilities to transfer goods from one part of India to another part of the country.

Both leaders underlined the immense potential of movement of cargo using the inland water and coastal shipping trade.

The two PMs directed the relevant officials to accelerate the completion of modalities for the provision of railway rolling stock supplies by India to Bangladesh and on modernisation of the Saidpur workshop in Bangladesh.

They welcomed the decision to enhance the capacity entitlement in air services from the existing 61 services per week to 91 services per week with effect from the summer 2019 schedule and further to 120 services per week with effect from the winter 2020 schedule.

Both leaders directed the authorities concerned of both countries for an early conclusion of the MoU on mutual recognition of academic qualifications.

The two prime ministers jointly inaugurated the import of bulk liquefied petroleum gas from Bangladesh to north-eastern states of India, the Vivekananda Bhaban students hostel at Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka and the Bangladesh-India Professional Skill Development Institute at the Institution of Diploma Engineers Bangladesh in Khulna.

Modi, during the talks, appreciated the zero-tolerance policy of the Bangladesh government against terrorism and commended Sheikh Hasina for her resolute efforts to ensure peace, security and stability in the region.

Sheikh Hasina was mainly invited to India as the chief guest at the October 3-4 India Economic Summit organised by the World Economic Forum. The tour turned into a bilateral official visit with the invitation from Narendra Modi.

She called on Indian president Ram Nath Kovind on Saturday evening at his official residence in New Delhi while Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar called on the Bangladesh premier in the morning with reiterating his country’s commitment to take the relations with Bangladesh to ‘the next higher level’.

Indian Congress president Sonia Gandhi is scheduled to call on Sheikh Hasina today.

Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to return home on Sunday night.

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