Water Sharing, Trade and Transit to Dominate Krishna’s Bangladesh Visit

New Delhi and Dhaka are slated to discuss several wide-ranging bilateral issues including water sharing, trade and transit and disbursement of the fund under $ 1.0 billion Indian credit line, during the forthcoming visit of foreign minister SM Krishna to Dhaka.

Krishna will lead a 20-member high-powered delegation, which is slated to arrive at Dhaka for a three-day beginning tomorrow. Krishna’s visit will aim to complete the groundwork for Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in late August or early September.

Signing of at least two agreements are on the cards during the foreign minister’s visit to Dhaka. These include deals on the repatriation of prisoners lodged in jails of both the countries and the detailed modalities as regards border trade operation are slated to be signed. As an imperative move, India and Bangladesh will begin border haats as a pilot project from 16 July. Dhaka is also likely to press for a duty-free export of 61 items to India.

As there has been insignificant progress on the part of New Delhi India to develop infrastructure in the land customs stations on the Indian side, Bangladesh would also pursue India to act fast for upgrading such stations so that the cross border export and import facilities between the two neighbours are smoothly facilitated.

Dhaka will also press India to take concrete action as regards the Teesta water sharing agreement. Bangladesh wants the two countries to have equal share at Gazoldoba which the sole release point of the Teesta waters to Bangladesh. India hasn’t yet taken a final call over the issue and much depends on the West Bengal government. However, with the change of guard in the state, the issue could be expedited soon.

New Delhi could have to brace up for a major disappointment as Dhaka is unlikely to commit to any specific date as regards the signing of the transit agreement. India, for long, has been asking Bangladesh to accord transit via the latter’s road, rail and water routes to the North East. Crores of rupees are wasted each year in transporting merchandise to the seven north eastern states via a roundabout way in the Bay of Bengal. But the Awami League government, under pressure from the opposition parties, is unlikely to extend that facility to India soon. Besides, it has also not worked out the fees that would be levied for using Bangladeshi infrastructure.

Krishna and his team is also likely to face some uncomfortable questions from the Bangladeshi press as regards Singh’s comments that no less than 25 per cent of the Bangladeshi population owe allegiance to Jamaat-e-Islami and hence they are  anti-Indian and that they are under the grip of the Pakistani ISI. While the Prime Minister’s comment isn’t entirely void of truth, its timing was undeniably inappropriate. It was also in violation of diplomatic protocols as Singh himself is about to visit Bangladesh.

Nevertheless, New Delhi is attaching much importance to its relation with Dhaka as a cooperative and friendly neighbour would be in its own interests.

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