12:00 AM, February 17, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, February 17, 2013

Teesta deal soon

India assures again; parliament to ratify land boundary deal in next session

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Diplomatic Correspondent

Salman Khurshid

Indian External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid yesterday gave assurance that the next budget session of the Indian parliament would ratify additional protocol for the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement.
He also said the Teesta deal would be signed soon.
He made the remark at a joint press conference with Foreign Minister Dipu Moni at the end of the second meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission yesterday.
Ratification of the protocol would pave the way for exchanging 162 enclaves/exclaves and adversely possessed land and demarcate 6.5 kilometres of the border.
The commission meeting ended with the signing of two Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) -- one on the construction of Akhaura-Agartala rail link and another on the setting up of think tank Bangladesh-India Foundation.
At the meeting, a protocol on an addendum to the Avoidance of Double Taxation Agreement between the two countries was inked. The two sides also exchanged all the signed Strip Maps of the land boundary as part of the implementation of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement and its 2011 protocol.
Replying to a question about the possibility of amendment to the Indian constitution to implement the land boundary protocol when main opposition BJP is opposing it, Khurshid said “… we should not jump to any conclusion about any major group of India opposing it.”
“We are moving forward with full concentration and full involvement of all stakeholders,” Khurshid said, adding that it was his duty to ensure that the amendment bill is passed in parliament with cooperation of all parties, including the BJP.
He, however, said it required two-thirds majority of the House to pass the bill. He said the budget session of parliament would commence in the last week of this month. “If all goes well, we hope the bill would be passed in this parliament session,” he told journalists.
He said he informed Dipu Moni that the Indian cabinet had approved the constitution amendment bill.
On the commission meeting, the Indian minister said he appreciated that both sides have shown utmost sensitivity towards each other, in requirements and aspirations.
On Teesta water sharing deal, which has been stalled due to the opposition of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Khurshid said, “I would like to reassure you that India remains committed to an early resolution of the issue of sharing Teesta waters. Consultations are on amongst stakeholders in India,” he said.
Asked whether the Indian government has reached an understanding with Mamata Banerjee on the water-sharing formula, he said Teesta is a water issue and it is directly associated with West Bengal and “we have to ensure that West Bengal is fully on board with us”.
“West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is a good friend of Bangladesh. She is conscious of her responsibilities on her shoulder and the responsibilities on her shoulder are very high,” he added.
“I can assure you that there is no lack of goodwill and sense of friendship for Bangladesh and that's what will prevail,” he said.
He said India and Bangladesh have already exchanged data on the flow of Teesta at Dalia and Gazaldoba in the Joint Technical Meeting held in Kolkata.
Khurshid said they were committed to resolve the land boundary and Teesta issue.
On the Tipaimukh project, he reiterated that the Indian prime minister's proposal for joint participation and Bangladesh taking a stake in the project. “We are also happy to note that the second meeting of the sub group on Tipaimukh was held in Dhaka early this month,” he added.
In reply to a question whether the issue of transit came up for discussion, Foreign Minister Dipu Moni said all issues including the transit matter came up for discussion. She said a joint working group was on it.
Asked about the youth upsurge at Shahbagh demanding a ban on Jamaat-e-Islami, the Indian minister said he loved to see the young engaged in the democratic process.
He said when the new generation is engaged in a democratic process in a country it gives a tremendous insight on democracy. The young generation may have their own view about democracy but it revives strong feelings and faith in democracy.

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