India, Bangladesh sign MoUs, exchange strip maps
Dhaka: In a major step forward to resolve the land boundary issue, India and Bangladesh on Saturday exchanged maps of demarcated stretches, as New Delhi said it was ready to release USD 50 million out of a USD 200 million credit line to Dhaka.
The strip maps were exchanged by External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid and his Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni, as they discussed a wide spectrum of issues at the second meeting of the Indo-Bangla Joint Consultative Commission here.
The two sides also readied themselves to launch the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, besides signing MoUs on several issues including amending the double taxation avoidance treaty, opening of additional border haats in Tripura and Meghalaya among other things.
"We are ready to release the first tranche of USD 50 million from the total of USD 200 million line of credit (to Bangladesh)," Khurshid said, detailing the series of MoUs and agreements signed by officials from the two countries.
The symbolic exchange of strip maps, carried out in accordance with the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) of 1974, pertain to adverse possessions and un-demarcated stretches.
The crucial land boundary issue involves exchange of land in 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves to India.
The issue has been hanging fire for several years as additional protocols for the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement had to be formalised.
The protocols were signed during the 2011 visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka.
The Union Cabinet on Wednesday cleared the constitutional amendments required for ratification of these protocols, a move that would facilitate the implementation of the LBA.
Maintaining that the amendments would be placed in the upcoming budget session of Parliament, Khurshid said, "We hope it will be actually passed by Parliament in this session itself, if all goes well".
To a question about the opposition by BJP to the LBA, he said the agreement was of mutual interest and a win-win situation for both the nations.
"We are moving forward with full consultations with all the stakeholders and expect the cooperation of all political parties including the BJP. It is the vision of our great leaders and reflects the collective aspirations of the people," he said.
Asked about the pending Teesta river water sharing issue, stalled due to the opposition by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, he said "I have great regards for the Chief Minister. She is also a good friend of Bangladesh and is conscious of her responsibilities... We will ensure that West Bengal is fully with us. We are committed to the issue".
He also sought joint participation of Bangladesh in the Tipaimukh project and also invited investments by Dhaka in the project.
Khurshid also handed over a solar lamp to his Bangaldeshi counterpart. During Manmohan's visit here in September 2011, he had announced that India would provide 2800 solar lamps to the beneficiaries of the Sidr cyclone shelters.
So far, 1185 solar panels and lamps have been installed in Morelganj (608) and Sharonkhola (577) Upazillas in Bagerhat District of Bangladesh. The project is in advanced stage of implementation.
An MoU for the establishment of India-Bangladesh Foundation with the objective of enhancing linkages between the two countries, particularly through economic, scientific, educational, technical and cultural co-operation and the promotion of greater understanding between the peoples of the two countries was also signed.
The activities of the Foundation would be financed through revenues from a Trust Fund to be set up through grants made available by the two sides and administered by a Board of Directors with the High Commissioners of India and Bangladesh co-Chairpersons of the Board.
This is Khurshid's maiden visit to Bangladesh after taking charge of the External Affairs Ministry last year. His last visit to Bangladesh was in May last year as the Minister for Law and Justice and Minority Affairs.
The meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) comes weeks after the two nations signed a landmark extradition treaty and a liberalised visa agreement.
JCC, which was set up during Singh's visit in 2011, met for the first time here in May last year.
The commission aims at jointly coordinating and overseeing implementation of initiatives taken by the two governments and "explore newer avenues for cooperation".
The Indo-Bangla ties have been on the upswing since Sheikh Hasina came to power in 2009. With greater cooperation, economic activity between the two nations has also grown. In 2011, India had pledged to invest USD one billion to build infrastructure in Bangladesh.