Dhaka to raise border killing, Tipaimukh, Teesta issues in foreign secretary-level talks in Delhi

The Daily Star July 22, 2012

Dhaka will ask New Delhi why killing of Bangladeshis continue at the borders despite India’s repeated assurance that it will not happen again and also seek a clarification about delays in the joint survey for the Tipaimukh dam project.

At the annual Foreign Office Consultation (FOC) in New Delhi on next Tuesday, Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes, who will lead the Bangladesh delegation, and Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai will discuss all aspects of bilateral relations.

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Foreign ministry officials said Dhaka would raise a host of issues, including early signing of a deal on the Teesta river water sharing, implementation of land boundary agreement, Indian position on present state of disbursement of $1 billion Indian Line of Credit, and matters related to trade and commerce between the two countries.

India will mainly push for transit and transhipment and signing of an Extradition Treaty with Bangladesh.

Quayes is expected to depart for New Delhi on Monday with a delegation comprising senior officials of the ministries of foreign, home, commerce and water resources.

The last FOC was held in Dhaka on June 6, 2011.

“The Indian government has clearly assured us of taking all necessary measures to stop border killings, but the reality is that the Indian Border Security Force has so far killed 151 Bangladeshi nationals in different frontiers during this Awami League-led government,” said a senior official at the home ministry.

Though the killing of innocent Bangladeshi citizens reduced in the recent months, Dhaka wants a complete end to the killings. Eleven Bangladeshis have been killed by BSF between January and June this year, according to home ministry figures.

Meanwhile, officials at the foreign and water resources ministries have expressed their dismay as the Indian side was yet to form an expert committee to conduct a joint survey at the proposed Tipaimukh dam site to assess its possible adverse impact on Bangladesh.

In February this year, Bangladesh formed an expert committee when there was an indication that the expert committees of both the countries will sit for discussion in New Delhi in June with a view to conduct the survey during the monsoon.

Bangladesh handed the list of its expert committee members over to India in February. Officials said they were yet to receive any list from India.

However, sources at the Indian side claim that they have also formed an expert committee and a meeting would be held at the convenience of the two countries.

Foreign ministry sources said Dhaka already finalised its agenda for the talks and would seek updates from India on the Teesta agreement, which was scrapped at the last moment due to opposition by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Officials said though Dhaka assumed that India may not implement the protocol to the agreement concerning demarcation of the Land Boundary of 1974 in the current Congress-led regime, it will continue to press the issue. The agreement includes demarcation of 6.5km land border and exchange of 162 enclaves and adversely possessed lands.

Duty-free access of more Bangladeshi products into the Indian market and removal of tariff and non-tariff barriers will also come up for discussion.

The officials said the bilateral talks would also focus on the current state of implementation of 10 agreements, protocols and MoUs signed during the visit of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka on September 6-7, 2011.

They said the FOC would provide the two sides with an opportunity to take stock of the progress of implementation of decisions taken in light of the joint communiqués issued during the two prime ministers’ visits to each others’ countries. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited New Delhi in January, 2012.

The foreign secretaries will also review the efforts so far made in pursuance of last year’s Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development between the two countries.

They will also discuss issues to further expand the areas of bilateral, regional and sub-regional cooperation for mutual benefits of the two countries.

A joint press conference on the FOC is expected to be held in the Indian capital on conclusion of the talks on Tuesday.

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