Update September 29, 2020

Dhaka 7-22 am, 30-October, 2020

Bangladesh expects early signing of Teesta deal

Mirajul Moin Joy

Bangladesh and India on Tuesday agreed to resolve the water-sharing issues of common rivers, including Teesta treaty, and bring down border killings to a zero level, says Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen.

“We’re always hopeful about Teesta. The Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting will be held soon,” he told reporters while briefing them at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs after the 6th Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting.

Foreign Minister Dr Momen led the Bangladesh side while Indian External Affairs Minister Dr S Jaishankar led the Indian team at the virtual meeting.

Bangladesh laid emphasis on “early resolution” of the Teesta water-sharing issue apart from resolving water sharing of other common rivers, Dr Momen said.

Both sides underscored the necessity of early resolution of the Teesta water sharing and agreements on sharing over all common rivers.

The two sides also agreed to hold the long pending Joint Rivers Commission meeting soon at the ministerial-level to address outstanding issues on water resources cooperation.

Bangladesh also conveyed deep concern over deaths along the Bangladesh and India international border, said the minister, adding that both sides discussed sustainable repatriation of Rohingyas to their place of origin in Rakhine State.

“We want no death along the border. It’s a shame for both friendly countries like Bangladesh and India. It hurts our solid relations,” Dr Momen said.

The two ministers stressed the need for strengthening effective implementation of the Coordinated Border Management Plan.

The Bangladesh side highlighted that the “entire nation is deeply concerned” at the rise in the killing of Bangladeshi nationals by the Indian border force.

The Indian side agreed that the loss of civilian lives along the border is a matter of concern.

Both sides urged the border forces concerned to enhance coordinated measures to bring down border incidents to a zero level.

During the meeting, the Bangladesh Foreign Minister expressed the hope that as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council, India would play a more meaningful role in having a lasting solution to the Rohingya crisis, including their early repatriation to Myanmar, in a safe and sustainable manner.

Secretaries and high- level representatives from a large number of ministries and divisions of both the countries joined the meeting.

Although it was Dhaka’s turn to host the meeting, the meeting was held on a web platform due to the Covid-19 situation.

Covid-9, Mutual Issues

During the meeting, the two ministers reviewed and discussed the entire gamut of bilateral relations, including cooperation on connectivity, security, political issues, development, trade and investment, power and energy sector and people- to-people contacts.

Both sides expressed satisfaction that even during the current situation induced by the pandemic Covid-19, Bangladesh and India have maintained robust engagements.

The two Foreign Ministers recognised the positive trajectory of bilateral relations enjoyed by the two countries and exchanged gratitude with each other for maintaining the gesture of good neighborliness.

Against the backdrop of the ongoing pandemic, both sides discussed collaboration in the health sector, especially in terms of supply, delivery, distribution and co-production of Covid-19 vaccine.

The Foreign Minister of Bangladesh appreciated India’s assurance on prioritising Bangladesh for the supply of potential vaccine in the future.

Both sides agreed to jointly celebrate the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh and the fiftieth anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries.

It was agreed that virtual meeting at Prime Ministers level would be held in December 2020 between the two countries.

A number of programmes were proposed to be organised jointly to mark the two epoch events, such as revival of the historic Mujibnagar-Kolkata road, honoring the Indian war veterans, ceremonial military parades on December 16, organizing friendship fairs, year-long seminars in different cities of Bangladesh and India, and simultaneous launching of a website on 50 years of victory and friendship.

The two sides agreed to establish Bangabandhu-Bapu digital museums both in Bangladesh and India.

The Indian government would also release a commemorative stamp on the birth centenary of Bangabandhu on December 16, 2020 to pay their homage to the life and ideology of Bangabandhu, according to a joint statement.

The two ministers positively reviewed the possibilities of resumption of air connectivity, during the ongoing pandemic, through special air bubble arrangement with equal share of frequencies and routes by the carriers of the two countries.

The Bangladesh side requested the Indian side to reciprocally ease visa and land border restrictions for Bangladeshi nationals, particularly for medical patients and students enrolled in various educational institutions of India.

Trade Issues

The Bangladesh side thanked India for the concessions being provided under SAFTA.

However, various non-tariff barriers and lack of adequate trade facilitation is impeding flow of Bangladeshi products into India, particularly, the North East.

Bangladesh requested Indian side to address the issues of accreditation, certification, standardization, port restrictions and developing port infrastructure to enable exports of Bangladesh into India.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister requested his Indian counterpart to look into the export of essential commodities, such as onions by India, since this affected the domestic market of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh also stressed the equitable application of investment policies by India. Both sides discussed implementation of the development projects under Indian Linesof Credit in a timely manner.

A high-level monitoring committee was agreed to be formed with Secretary ERD and Indian High Commissioner in Bangladesh leading the committee on each side.

Enhancing cooperation on energy and power sector through facilitation of tripartite power-energy cooperation among Bangladesh-India-Nepaland Bangladesh-India-Bhutan was also discussed.

After the talks, both the ministers jointly unveiled two commemorative stamps as part of the celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.

The 5th JCC meeting was held in February 2019 in New Delhi.

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