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Dhaka, Delhi for interim deal to share Teesta, Feni rivers’ water

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Staff Reporter
Bangladesh and India on Saturday agreed to finalize an interim agreement for sharing the waters of the Teesta and Feni rivers.
Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali and his Indian counterpart Sushma Swaraj reached the decision at the third meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) held in New Delhi.
The two ministers noted that the ratification process following the signing of the Protocol to the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA), 1974 was underway.
The Protocol is expected to pave the way for the resolution of pending boundary-related issues, said a 36-point joint statement issued after the meeting.
Both sides stressed the importance of bringing about sub-regional cooperation in water resources management and power/hydropower and connectivity.
The Indian Minister expressed India’s appreciation for the cooperation extended by Bangladesh in security related matters, and welcomed Bangladesh’s assurance that its soil will not be allowed to be used for terrorism against any country, particularly India.
Acknowledging the importance of high-level visits for providing dynamism and sustaining momentum in bilateral relations, the two sides looked forward to visits of the President of Bangladesh to India, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India and the Prime Minister of India to Bangladesh.
The two ministers expressed satisfaction at the settlement of the maritime boundary between the two countries.
This development will enhance mutual understanding and goodwill, bring closure to the maritime boundary issue, and pave the way for cooperation in sustainable exploitation of the maritime resources of the Bay of Bengal, said the joint statement.
Both the ministers stressed the need for effective implementation of the Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP), including regular coordination and exchanges between nodal officers at different levels for better border management so as to prevent cross border criminal activities, illegal movement, incidents of violence and tragic loss of lives.
The Bangladesh Minister appreciated the measures taken by India to bring down the number of tragic loss of lives along the border.
Both sides agreed that the number should come down to a zero level. They also agreed on the need for early completion of fencing of remaining vulnerable patches along the border.
The ministers noted the various measures taken for enhancement of trade and investment between the two countries, and agreed that all barriers to trade should be removed.
The two sides agreed on the need to promote balanced bilateral trade and to address para-tariff and non-tariff barriers.
The Bangladesh side handed over a list of barriers to trade being faced by Bangladesh exports to India. Indian side agreed to examine the list. It was also agreed to increase Indian investments in Bangladesh. This would not only reduce the trade gap but also increase Bangladesh’s exports to third countries.
The two ministers also agreed to initiate talks for renewal of the bilateral Trade Agreement which is due to expire on March 31, 2015.
The two sides stressed the urgent need for the upgradation of infrastructure of the Land Customs Stations (LCSs)/Land Ports and Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) in a coordinated manner. While expressing satisfaction that the ICP at Akhaura-Agartala has been functional since November 2013, the two sides agreed on the need for optimising utilisation of the modern facilities created there.
They welcomed the progress of work of Border Haats at Kamlasagar-Tarapur, Srinagar-Purbomodhugram, Palbasti-Paschim Botuli and Kamalpur-Kurmaghat (along the Bangladesh-Tripura border), understanding between the two sides regarding opening four new Border Haats at Bholaganj-Bholaganj, Nalikota-Saidabad, Shibbari-Bhuyapara and Rinku-Baganbari(along the Bangladesh-Meghalaya border).
They also agreed to consider new proposals for setting up Border Haats along Bangladesh-India border that would contribute to the income generation and wellbeing of the people living along the border areas.
Both ministers noted the progress on the preparation of the Detailed Project Report (DPR) for the Inland River Port at Ashuganj and recognized the need for its expeditious construction.
The Indian side conveyed that the government of India has also agreed to prepare the DPR for the Rail Container Depot at Ishwardi as decided in the Inter-Governmental Railway Meeting. The issue of upgradation/ strengthening of the Ashuganj-Akhaura road was also discussed.
Both ministers emphasized the need for improving connectivity between the two countries. They welcomed the proposed trial run of Dhaka-Shillong Bus Service by 2014.
They also welcomed the addition of AC coaches to Indian Railways rake of Maitree Express from September 23, 2014 and increase the frequency of services from two round trips in a week to three round trips in a week within two months.
Both ministers welcomed progress in discussions between the two countries on commencement of coastal shipping operations.
They agreed that trial runs would be held in October 2014. They also agreed to expeditiously conclude a bilateral Coastal Shipping Agreement and agreed that the next round of Shipping Secretary level talks will take place in Dhaka in October 2014.
Both sides expressed satisfaction at the level of cooperation and achievement in the power sector.
They appreciated the establishment of grid inter-connection between Bheramara-Baharampur in October 2013 and supply of 500 MW of power from India to Bangladesh through bilateral power purchase agreements.
They expressed satisfaction at the steps being taken to operational the supply of 100 MW of power from Palatana Power Plant in Tripura to Bangladesh.
Welcoming the decision of the Joint Steering Committee on Power to examine the proposal for augmenting supply of power through the Behrampur-Bheramara grid inter connection from 500 MW to 1000 MW, they directed that the necessary technical reports be expedited.
Both countries also agreed to enhance cooperation in new areas, including nuclear science and technology, space, health, jute and textiles, renewable energy, maritime, fisheries, oceanography, meteorological, and other areas related to development of the blue economy of the region.
Recognizing the need for facilitating greater people-to-people contact, both Ministers agreed to increase diplomatic representations in each other’s countries.
Both ministers agreed to closely cooperate in the run up to the 18th Saarc Summit in Kathmandu in November 2014, and to ensure an outcome oriented Summit. Both sides agreed to continue to work closely in the process of finalization of the Post-2015 Development Agenda at the United Nations. The two Ministers welcomed the signing of the MoU on Nalanda University.
Both sides agreed to hold the next meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission in Bangladesh at a mutually convenient date to be decided through diplomatic channels.

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