‘Solve Teesta water-sharing issue with Bangladesh at the earliest’
An Indian parliamentary standing committee has recommended that India resolve the long-festering Teesta river water-sharing issue with Bangladesh “at the earliest” for improved bilateral ties and “initiate meaningful dialogues” for this.
The committee, in its report submitted to parliament on Wednesday, asked the External Affairs Ministry “to initiate meaningful dialogues with Bangladesh on a regular basis to arrive at a consensus in the Teesta matter and the progress/outcome may be informed to the committee.”
The committee, which comprises members of the Lok Sabha and the Rajya Sabha, also suggested that India-Bangladesh Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement (CEPA) be finalised at the earliest and implemented early within a timeline, reports our New Delhi correspondent.
It also feels that the benefits of India-Bangladesh development partnerships with Bangladesh can best be reaped through timely and effective implementation of development projects and urged the Indian External Affairs Ministry to take effective steps for timely completion of all these projects including projects taken up under Lines of Credit through regular and intensive monitoring.
“The committee feel that the benefits of our development partnerships with Bangladesh can best be reaped through timely and effective implementation of these projects. They, therefore, urge the Ministry to take effective steps for timely completion of all the projects including projects taken up under Lines of Credit through regular and intensive monitoring,” said the report.
As per the ministry, a joint study report on the CEPA has been finalised and the negotiations would be commencing soon.
Responding to this, the parliamentary committee said it desired that the Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement with Bangladesh, be finalised at the earliest and commence negotiations on the same for its early implementation within a time frame.
The committee also urged the Indian government to open more integrated check posts as well as border haats, wherever required, and upgrade the existing ones.
The committee is concerned to note “the recurring instances of cross border terrorism, illegal migration, smuggling of fake currency and trafficking in drugs and weapons from across Bangladesh border and the Ministry of External Affairs has been raising the issue of illegal migration but with no outcome and the bilateral institutional mechanism has also not been capable enough to tackle the situation.”
The committee, therefore, “wants that the existing bilateral institutional mechanisms to control all these issues should be strengthened to make it effective” and that the “MEA should work in close coordination with the Ministry of Home Affairs and the state governments concerned to address the issue of illegal migration by monitoring the demographic changes taking place in India-Bangladesh border villages and other parts of the country due to such migration and take up the issue of repatriation of such illegal migrants with the government of Bangladesh at the highest level for an early resolution.”
The committee observes that apart from ongoing cooperation in areas such as connectivity, security, water-sharing and energy, cooperation in peaceful uses of nuclear energy, space cooperation and new technologies have been identified as the areas for further strengthening of India’s relationship with Bangladesh under the Neighbourhood First Policy.
The panel expects the Indian government to come up with fresh mutually beneficial initiatives in these areas and implement the same for enhanced bilateral ties and growth and prosperity of both countries.
It notes that concessional credits amounting to almost $10 billion have been extended to Bangladesh, including Lines of Credit (LOC) worth $7.862 billion comprising around 25% of India’s entire LOC portfolio. These include LOCs of $862 million (LOC-I), $2 billion (LOC-II), and $4.5 billion (LOC-III) covering 42 projects across a wide range of sectors.
Out of the 42 projects covered under the three LOCs, 14 projects have already been completed; eight projects are currently under execution, seven projects are under tendering and 13 are under preparation stage, according to the committee report.
Besides, concessional financing scheme of $1.6 billion is also being provided to Bangladesh. In addition to LOCs, India has also been providing grant assistance to Bangladesh for various infrastructure projects including construction of Akhaura-Agartala rail link, dredging of inland waterways and construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline for supply of high-speed diesel into Bangladesh.
Seventy-four high-impact community development projects including construction of student hostels, academic buildings, skill development and training institutes, cultural centres, orphanages as well as various heritage restoration projects have also been funded by India.