July 14, 2024, 7:47 pm

Teesta comes to the fore again with PM Hasina set to visit India

  • Update Time : Friday, June 14, 2024
  • 16 Time View
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  • ‘Bangladesh-India relations is now example in world’
  • ‘We hope to get our fair share’

UNB, Dhaka:

Foreign affairs experts at a roundtable on Friday expressed their optimism over an added momentum in Bangladesh-India relations in the new tenure under the leadership of two prime ministers, giving a new beginning with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s full-fledged bilateral visit to India after Eid-ul-Azha.

They noted that Bangladesh-India relationship is now an example for the entire world and the beauty of this relationship is its continuity addressing issues through discussions.

Former foreign secretary Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury, former ambassador Munshi Faiz Ahmad, Executive Director of Centre for Alternatives (CA) Prof Imtiaz Ahmed, Prof Shahab Enam Khan of Jahangirnagar University’s Department of International Relations, President of the Press Club of India Gautam Lahiri, senior Indian journalist Devadeep Purohit, DCAB President Nurul Islam Hasib, among others, joined the event moderated by Bhorer Kagoj Editor Shyamal Dutta.

“Bangladesh-India relations is now an example in the world,” said former state minister for Foreign Affairs Md Shahriar Alam while speaking as the chief guest at the discussion titled “New Governments in Bangladesh and India: A New Beginning to Further Develop the Relations” hosted by the daily Bhorer Kagoj at its office.

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He said there was a discussion on a bilateral visit apart from the recent visit of Prime Minister Hasina to India to take part in the oath-taking ceremony of her Indian counterpart.

“The visit is taking place. We are very happy,” Shahriar said, highlighting achievements made over the last 15 years.

He said there was a 33-point joint statement issued during the state visit of prime minister of Bangladesh to India in September 2022 where issues like Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), energy cooperation, people to people contacts, broader connectivity and others were mentioned.

Shahriar said the upcoming visit of the prime minister will help advance the relations on those areas.

He hoped that the next meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) will be held soon, noting that the 38th meeting of the JRC was held in New Delhi in August, 2022 wherein various matters pertaining to cooperation in water resources sector were discussed.

Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) has been functioning since 1972. It was established with a view to maintain liaison in order to ensure the most effective joint effort in maximising the benefits from common river systems. The JRC is headed by water resources ministers of both the countries.

During the bilateral visit which is likely to take place on June 21-22, the two countries are expected to sign a number of MoUs and agreements and there is an issue of making announcement on some areas of cooperation, according to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

In his opening remarks, moderator Shyamal Dutta said the two countries have new elected leaderships and there is willingness from the both sides to make relations deeper as the relations as seen to be passing through a golden chapter.

Shamsher Mobin Chowdhury highlighted the importance of the relations and hoped to see some progresses in terms of water sharing of common rivers during the new tenure of the Indian government.

He also talked about the renewal of the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty. “We hope to get our fair share.”

Earlier, in 2022, the two leaders welcomed the formation of a Joint Technical Committee to conduct a study for optimum utilisation of water received by Bangladesh under the provisions of Ganges Water Sharing Treaty.

Shamsher said it has been proved that Bangladesh is the most trusted neighbour of India. “If we can share blood in 1971, I believe we can share water, too.”

Prof Imtiaz said both Bangladesh and India are benefiting from the decolonisation and the two countries need to bring in new dimensions in the growing relations.

“I think we need to bring something new in our relations. We have long been talking about Teesta water sharing and border killing issues,” he said.

Prof Imtiaz laid emphasis on enhancing people to people relations, noting that there is a need for growing South Asian minds.

He talked about the project – Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project – an idea came from Bangladesh where China has shown interest.

Prof Imtiaz also referred to Bangladesh Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud’s remarks regarding India’s interest in the same project.

“I think it is possible to transform the geopolitics of conflict to geopolitics of cooperation. Because, India has good relations with China in many areas including in trade,” he added.

Munshi Faiz said it is an opportunity for India to take the leadership by taking all onboard as it has a desire to take leadership role in regional and global level.

He said there might not be water adequately in Teesta but it is important to share whatever available to use. “We need to find solutions where problem lies.”

Regarding Teesta project, the former ambassador said it was not China’s own proposal but they showed interest at the request of Bangladesh.

Prof Shahab, who is also executive director and CEO at Bangladesh Center for Indo-Pacific Affairs, said Bangladesh is receiving huge Line of Credits (LoCs) from India but its execution is slow.

“Huge LoC is coming which is very impressive. Money is there. Political commitment is there. But in terms of execution, I think two countries need to be more pragmatic,” he added.

The expert said Chinese delivery of projects is very fast, even the US is also very fast. “The US remains the largest investor till now and China remains the largest trading partner of Bangladesh.”

Gautam Lahiri said the two countries resolved the land boundary issue after many years and he hoped that there will be a solution regarding Teesta at some point.

There is a need for expediting the discussion regarding CEPA, he said, adding that “We should not waste time. We need to move fast.”

Gautam said efforts are needed for water management and there can be dredging efforts in Teesta jointly to avoid flooding.

He said India believes that Bangladesh will not do anything that may harm India’s interest and Bangladesh needs India’s cooperation to fulfill its goal of becoming a Smart Bangladesh.

Gautam hoped that the upcoming visit of PM Hasina will be a milestone in Bnagladesh-India relations.

Describing Bangladesh as an important force under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh BHasina, journalist Devadeep Purohit said the elephant in the room is Teesta.

He said it is very important to save the river as there is no adequate water in it. “We need strong pragmatism to take the relations to the next level and there is genuine love and affection for Bangladesh.”

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