Border killing, JRC, trade to dominate talks with India

Jaishankar arrives tomorrow

Shahidul Islam Chowdhury | Published: 00:15, Mar 03,2021


Indian external affairs minister S Jaishankar will be in Dhaka tomorrow on a one-day official visit.

Jaishankar and his Bangladesh counterpart AK Abdul Momen are scheduled to have talks in the morning.

Reviving the ministerial-level mechanism of the Joint Rivers Commission for effective discussions on sharing the common rivers waters, bringing down border killing by the Indian Border Security Force, removing tariff and non-tariff barriers to exports from Bangladesh and extending rail services to Jalpaiguri in India are highly likely to dominate the talks, according to officials.

 ‘We have some expectations,’ state minister for foreign affairs M Shahriar Alam told journalists on Tuesday at the foreign ministry, adding that outstanding issues between the two countries would be discussed in the meeting of the foreign ministers for preparing deliverables for the visit of prime minister Narendra Modi.

Trade, connectivity, water sharing, supply of COVID-19 vaccine and  launching of train services would also be priorities in the talks, he said. 

‘India is unwilling to hold a ministerial meeting of the JRC anytime soon,’ a senior water resources ministry official said, adding that Bangladesh would seek to hold the long-pending meeting at the level of water resources ministers for expediting negotiations on sharing of waters of common rivers, including the Teesta River.

The 37th JRC ministerial-level meeting took place in New Delhi in March 2010. The 38th meeting, which was scheduled to be held in Dhaka before Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011, could not be held as India postponed the talks for an indefinite period.   

The two countries agreed on a formula on the sharing of waters of the Teesta River and initialled documents in this regard in 2010 for signing a full-fledged agreement during Singh’s visit in 2011.

India unilaterally postponed the signing before the arrival of Singh in Dhaka on September 6, 2012.

India also did not agree on talks of the water secretaries, which was expected to be held before the visit of prime minister Narendra Modi in the last week of March. 

The JRC is, however, working at the technical level on an early conclusion of the Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six other joint rivers, namely Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.

The two sides are also likely to assess modalities to streamline the process of granting approval to projects under the lines of credit, sourcing of raw materials, fulfilling the banking requirements and addressing the inconsistency in the calculation of grace period for paying back the LoC loans.

Over the past 10 years, the two countries have signed memorandums of understanding opening four lines of credit worth $ 8 billion, mostly loan, by India to Bangladesh to implement various projects and procurement in the areas of connectivity to improve networks of roads, railway, inland waterways, ports, shipping, power and energy, telecommunications, defence, ICT, education and health.

The meeting of the two foreign ministers would set the grounds for the prime-minister level talks between the two countries set for March 27 in Dhaka.

Jaishankar would also call on prime minister Sheikh Hasina before leaving Dhaka on Thursday evening.  

It would be the second visit by Jaishankar to Bangladesh as minister.

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