Indo-Bangla JCC Meet: Fresh push for water-sharing deals likely | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, September 29, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:59 AM, September 29, 2020

Indo-Bangla JCC Meet: Fresh push for water-sharing deals likely

Dhaka may give a fresh push for water-sharing deals of Teesta and other common rivers during the Bangladesh-India Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) meeting scheduled to be held today.

To this end, Dhaka may propose a meeting of the Joint River Commission (JRC), the dedicated bilateral arrangement for discussing the water-sharing issues, which has not met since 2010, said officials concerned.

Border killings may come up as another issue of importance from the Bangladesh side, they said.

Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen and his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar will lead their respective delegations in the virtual meeting.

This year, Dhaka is hosting the sixth JCC meeting, an annual foreign minister-level event that reviews the bilateral relations. Last year, the JCC meeting was held in New Delhi on February 8.

"The two sides will review the recent developments in various sectors of Bangladesh-India bilateral engagements. They may discuss common programmes during Mujib Borsho and Mahatma Gandhi's birth anniversary," said a foreign ministry official.

Other issues to be discussed include trade, border issues, energy, connectivity and Rohingya repatriation, he told The Daily Star.

Officials said Bangladesh and India have been enjoying very friendly relations over the years but the water-sharing issue, specifically of the Teesta, and border killings by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) remain major irritants.

According to rights body Ain o Salish Kendra, border killings rose from 15 in 2018 to 43 last year. At least 29 Bangladeshis were killed in the first seven months of this year. In a recent meeting, the BSF assured the BGB of bringing down the border killings to zero.

Bangladesh and India failed to sign the Teesta water-sharing agreement due to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's last-minute opposition during then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka in 2011. Even today, the issue remains unresolved.

Bangladesh and India have 54 common rivers. Of them, only the Ganges water-sharing treaty was inked in 1996.

In August last year, water secretaries of both countries held a meeting in Dhaka and spoke of water-sharing deals on six small rivers -- Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.

A Bangladesh official of JRC said data on water availability of these rivers until 2018 has already been exchanged between the two countries. The technical committee under the JRC will analyse it before signing a framework agreement. The JRC meeting at the quickest possible time is important, he said.

Meanwhile, there are Indian concerns over a move for Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project with a $983.27 million Chinese loan, Indian media reported.

From the Indian side, reviewing the progress of projects under India's line of credit (LoC), cross-border connectivity initiatives and energy pipelines will be high on the JCC agenda.The JCC meeting will also take up the issue of air bubble flights which will help the businesses, students of the two countries and also facilitate the travel of people needing medical treatment in India as regular flights are now suspended due to Covid-19.

"There may be an announcement of flight operations between India and Bangladesh after the JCC meeting," an official said.

The meeting will finalise the programmes on the occasions of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's birth centenary and the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence next year.


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