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India to address water issue in fair, equitable manner: Akbaruddin

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Staff Reporter
Describing water a ‘sensitive subject’, India has said the issue needs to be addressed following a fair, equitable basis and in a manner that none of the parties concerned feel that their interests are being harmed.
"We’re committed to giving it due attention. And the External Affairs Minister made it very clear to the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh that India is conscious that this is a matter of priority for Bangladesh," said Indian official spokesperson Syed Akbaruddin in New Delhi on Saturday.
Joint Secretary (Bangladesh and Myanmar) of the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) Sripriya Ranganathan was also present at the press conference arranged after the third Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting.
Akbaruddin said Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj clarified to the Bangladesh Foreign Minister that has given the principles that India requires a political consensus to be worked out and that the process is under way, according to the Indian MEA website.
“While that process is under way, the waters of the Teesta flow unimpeded. It’s an issue that touches on the lives and the livelihoods of people in ways that few other things touch upon," he added.
Responding to a question on the status of the land boundary issue between India and Bangladesh, the spokesperson said he thinks it is no surprise that the Bill for this was introduced in the Rajya Sabha and therefore it has not lapsed.
The External Affairs Minister, Akbaruddin said, has informed her counterpart that this Bill was referred to the Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on External Affairs consists of members of both the Houses. The Committee has only recently been reconstituted because there is a new Lok Sabha and new membership of the Lok Sabha, he said.
The External Affairs Minister informed that now that new Standing Committee is constituted, the Bill has been given to those new members of the Lok Sabha who have been nominated to the Standing Committee on External Affairs and the process of political consultations is under way.
Once the Standing Committee gives its report, it will go through the normal process of Parliament.
Responding to another question on Jamaat funding issue, Akbaruddin said he has been hearing these reports only in the media. "Let me clarify this once and for all. I can confirm today that there was no such report of the type you are mentioning that was raised that there is something happening here and the Bangladesh Minister asked."
He said this issue did not figure in the diplomatic discussions.
Asked whether there is any possibility that Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Dhaka soon, the spokesperson said, "Yes, the Bangladeshi Prime Minister has previously invited the Prime Minister, as has an invitation gone from us for Sheikh Hasina to visit here at an early date.”
At this stage, the Spokesperson said, these are issues that will be discussed a little later. “But I can confirm to you that both have agreed to meet on the margins of the United Nations General Assembly when both will be present there during the last week of this month.”
The Spokesperson said three broad themes -- commercial ties, connectivity, and cooperation -- were focused on during the Joint Commission meeting. “By cooperation I mean in areas of development partnership as well as in newer areas.”
Responding to a question, he said the Bangladesh Foreign Minister informed the External Affairs Minister that Bangladesh is ready to provide a location of a Special Economic Zone (SEZ) where Indian businessmen can invest, from a list of sixteen locations that they have provided.
“We’ll certainly examine this and respond. This we see as an extremely positive development which will also in part address issues of balance of trade,” said the Spokesperson.
He said the Maitri Express will have an additional coach which will provide for additional people to travel between India and Bangladesh which will be beginning from September 23.
“We’re also working on the possibility of increasing its frequency between India and Bangladesh,” said the spokesperson adding that ‘currently there are two trains a week, and the expectation is that if we can sort all this out there would be perhaps three train journeys a week.’