12:50 AM, July 27, 2013 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:16 AM, July 27, 2013

Manmohan repeats old pledges

Gives no specific timeframe for Teesta agreement; BJP support for land boundary deal unlikely

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Pallab Bhattacharya, New Delhi

Foreign Minister Dipu Moni calls on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the latter's office in New Delhi yesterday.Photo: PID Foreign Minister Dipu Moni calls on Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at the latter's office in New Delhi yesterday. Photo: PID

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh yesterday assured that India would do nothing to harm Bangladesh's interests on the issue of waters, but gave no indication when the much-expected Teesta water-sharing deal would be signed.
The assurance came when visiting Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni called on him at his official residence in the afternoon.
Manmohan also said he intended to take the bilateral Land Boundary Agreement to parliament for approval, but senior BJP leader Arun Jaitley in a meeting with Dipu Moni in the evening did not give any categorical assurance that his party would support this agreement.
Implementation of the land boundary deal by India depends on approval by its parliament with two-thirds majority, for which BJP's support is essential.
The Indian constitution has to be amended before signing the deal, as it envisages swapping of land spread over 161 adversely-held enclaves by India and Bangladesh.
India's ruling Congress-led UPA lacks two-thirds majority on its own in either House of Parliament -- Lok Sabha and Rajya Sabha.
BJP, as also Asom Gono Parishad, a political party of Assam and BJP's ally, has been opposing the land boundary agreement on the grounds that India will be conceding more territory to Bangladesh than getting from it.
During the nearly 40-minute meeting that began at 1:00pm, Manmohan told Dipu Moni that his government was seeking a national consensus on the Teesta water-sharing issue.
Sources said Manmohan reiterated to Dipu Moni India's vision on water resources and asserted nothing inimical to Bangladesh's interests would be done.
Manmohan added that water continued to flow to Bangladesh and data-sharing in this regard was also taking place regularly, the sources said.
A proposed deal on Teesta water-sharing was held up by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in September, 2011 when she opposed it at the eleventh hour and pulled out of the Indian prime minister's entourage to Dhaka on an official visit.
Asked if Jaitley gave any categorical assurance to her about BJP backing the land boundary agreement, Dipu Moni told reporters that the BJP leader told her that he would consult his party colleagues and firm up a response.
Replying to a question about land boundary agreement, she, however, said: "I thought I have got a very positive response from both the Indian prime minister and the BJP leader."
Asked again specifically about Jaitley, she said: "I thought his response was very positive."
Dipu Moni said the Indian PM conveyed to her that New Delhi was "totally committed" to implementing all the decisions taken during the visits of the two prime ministers in the last four and a half years.
"He [Manmohan] has assured that India will not do anything to harm the interests of Bangladesh," she said.
She added the two countries had brought to near-completion the Teesta water-sharing and land boundary agreements and that they were now waiting for results.
Replying to a question about BJP's stand on the land boundary deal, she said, "Sometimes domestic political compulsion does not allow one to see the larger picture. But I think that across the board, all political parties in India should support the land boundary agreement.
"We must be able to resolve these two issues and put them behind us. We now have a good opportunity to do so and it will be good not only for India and Bangladesh but for the entire neighbourhood."
Manmohan suggested that Bangladesh join as a stakeholder in the Tipaimukh multipurpose project in northeastern state of Manipur surrounding which there has been widespread concern about the possible effect on water flow downstream, Indian official sources said.
The sources added that during the meeting, Manmohan underlined that India-Bangladesh trade had grown impressively and that exports by both countries to each other had risen significantly.
Exports from Bangladesh to India last year stood at $565 million, the highest ever to India.
In the meeting, there was recognition of cooperation in power sector, and by September 2013, 500 MW of power would be flowing to Bangladesh with inter-grid connectivity, the sources said.
India's state-owned National Thermal Power Corporation-assisted power project in Khulna would be initiated by September, 2013, they added.
There was also discussion on Indian financial assistance to Bangladesh. It was noted that the $1 billion Line of Credit by India to Bangladesh had been flowing in a satisfactory manner, including the $200 million grant of which $150 million has already been provided to Bangladesh.

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