12:00 AM, February 07, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 07, 2013

Final push for Teesta deal

Diplomatic efforts on to settle unresolved issues; Pranab due next month; PM goes to India in Aug

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Rezaul Karim

With both governments stepping into the final year in office, Dhaka and New Delhi are making one last effort to seal the unresolved deals on issues including the Teesta water share.
To win public support ahead of the next general elections, the Awami League and Indian Congress are keen to ensure spectacular developments in areas like sharing of water resources, regional connectivity or transit and power exchange, diplomatic sources say.
Foreign ministry officials of the two countries are busy holding meetings to make meaningful the visits of Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai on February 9-10, External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid on February 16-17 and Indian President Pranab Mukherjee on March 3-4.
Meanwhile, an advance team from New Delhi along with officials of High Commission of India in Bangladesh met with the foreign ministry officials yesterday to discuss about the upcoming visits, especially the visit of the Indian president.
Dhaka has planned to confer "Bangladesh Swadhinata Sammanona" to Pranab at a grand Bangabhaban ceremony on March 3 for his outstanding contribution to the Liberation War, 1971.
New Delhi, on the other hand, has invited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to pay her second state visit to India in August, foreign ministry sources say.
This visit is likely to be marked by signing of the much awaited Teesta deal, stalled due to last moment u-turn by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during Indian PM Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh on September 6, 2011.
A highly placed source told The Daily Star yesterday, “Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh is seriously hammering on the Teesta water sharing accord and it will be ready before Hasina's visit.”
Hasina made her first bilateral visit to India on January 10-13, 2010. She also visited Agartala on January 11-12 last year to receive honorary Doctor of Literature degree from the Tripura University.
Diplomatic sources add that India believes it is important for the Awami League to show the people some tangible gains from recent cooperation with India. For this, the only way is to solve the longstanding issues like Teesta and land boundary agreement.
India has already confirmed that it would export 250 MW power to Dhaka at a concessional rate from July by speeding up constructing an inter-grid facility.
The full-range of bilateral issues will be discussed at the annual Indo-Bangla Foreign Office Consultations (FOC) to be held in Dhaka on Feb 9-10.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Shahidul Haque and his Indian counterpart Ranjan Mathai will lead the delegations of their respective countries at the consultation.
Some key issue like the agreement on Teesta, ratification of land boundary agreement, Tipaimukh dam, connectivity, trade and investment as well as the upcoming visits will be top on the agenda at FOC.
These issues stemmed out of the 2010 and 2011 joint statements issued during the visits of the two prime ministers.
Two secretaries, however, will hold talks on full range of bilateral affairs. They will finalise also the agenda of second Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting and initiate the groundwork for the visits of Pranab and Hasina.
Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid will travel to Dhaka for two days to review bilateral ties that received a boost after both the countries on January 28 signed a landmark extradition treaty that was in the works for three decades.
Dhaka and New Delhi are expected to ink during the JCC meeting five bilateral documents including a proposal to amend the existing double taxation avoidance agreement to make it more up-to-date and flawless.
Dhaka will also press India to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974 and the protocol inked on September 6, 2011 to demarcate 6.5 km boundary, exchanges of 162 enclaves and adversely possessed lands. This is still awaiting ratification from Indian Parliament since it requires a constitutional amendment.
Though the purpose of Khurshid's visit is to co-chair the JCC meeting with her Bangladesh counterpart Dipu Moni, he will also do the groundwork for the visits of Pranab and Hasina.
This will be Pranab's first foreign visit since taking over as the president in July last year. Dhaka University will confer Doctor-of-Laws degree on the Indian president at its 47th convocation on March 4.
His last visit to Bangladesh was as finance minister on May 5-6, 2012, on the occasion of joint celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Nobel laureate Rabindra Nath Tagore.

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