The cabinet on Monday was informed that Bangladesh and India had agreed to conduct a joint survey afresh on the Muhurir char along the trans-boundary river in Feni to resolve the longstanding border dispute between the two neighbours.
The foreign affairs ministry raised the issue while apprising the cabinet of the prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s recent visit to India in its weekly meeting at the prime minister’s Tejgaon office.
‘The cabinet has been apprised of the prime minister’s October 3-6 visit to India and deals signed in New Delhi during the time. It was mentioned that both the sides agreed to conduct a joint survey to resolve the Muhurir char issue,’ cabinet secretary Mohammad Shafiul Alam told a press briefing at the secretariat after the meeting.
He said Bangladesh signed seven memorandums of understanding besides three agreements — one of them allowing India to lift water from the River Feni and another to establish coastal surveillance radar system along the Bangladesh coastline.
India continues to leave hanging the disputes about settling the boundary along the midstream of the River Muhuri despite repeated requests from Bangladesh.
Prime minister Sheikh Hasina last raised the matter with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi while having a ‘restricted meeting’ with him on October 5 at Hyderabad House in New Delhi during her official visit to India, according to officials.
‘We have still something to say about Muhurir Char, an issue I raised with the Indian prime minister,’ Sheikh Hasina said at a press conference on October 9 at Ganabhaban, her official residence in the capital.
She hoped that the matter would be resolved without any difficulty.
Earlier, Hasina had also raised the issue twice during her bilateral talks with Modi in Dhaka in 2015 and in New Delhi in 2017.
At the ministerial level, the issue of settling the Muhuri midstream dispute was last mentioned at the meeting of the home ministers of the two countries in August in New Delhi, only to have received an ‘assurance’ from the Indian minister.
The dispute over Muhurir Char surfaced after surveyors from both sides attempted to set the midstream of the River Muhuri.
The attempt was made after a protocol was signed by the two countries on settling the entire land boundary and subsequent ratification of the instruments by the two countries in September 2011 during the Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s term.
The two countries have settled all outstanding issues on boundaries except for Muhurir Char under the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and the 2011 protocol that came into effect with the exchange of the ratification instruments between the two sides.
The two sides demarcated the disputed Muhurir Char using wooden pillars about 200 yards away from Belonia land port in Feni.
The issue, however, could not be settled till date as the Indian authorities have been pushing for a fresh survey since 2016.
India demands that Bangladesh should accept the midstream of the meandering border river as it existed in 2011 for the resolution of the dispute while Bangladesh wants the issue to be settled according to the 1977-78 survey, done in line with the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement.
The argument for Bangladesh’s stance is that the Muhuri after the 1977-78 survey changed its
course inside Bangladesh, devouring a huge area in Feni due to a solid embankment and spurs built on the Indian side, according to officials.
Monday’s cabinet also approved a draft national policy regarding management of radioactive wastes and spent fuel for their safe disposal from two nuclear power plants being constructed at Rooppur in Pabna or any other establishments in future in the fields of health services and agriculture.
The cabinet secretary said Russia as per contract would take away spent fuel and other radioactive wastes from the under-construction Rooppur Power Plant for their safe disposal in keeping with the International Atomic Energy Agency, he said.
‘The polluter is to pay’ principle has been incorporated in the policy, he added.
Shafiul said the cabinet also approved ‘Bangladesh Engineering Research Council Bill 2019’ and Bangladesh Lighthouse Bill 2019. The Lighthouse Act of 1927 has been translated into Bangla without any significant changes, he added.
Want stories like this in your inbox?
Sign up to exclusive daily email
More Stories from Foreign affairs