Bangladesh MPs visit riot-hit Assam

assam violenceAssam Tribune GUWAHATI, Dec 1

Even as illegal cross-border migration from Bangladesh into Assam remains a largely unresolved issue with disturbing socio-political implications for the State, the Government of India has apparently not bothered to take it up with its Bangladesh counterparts all these years.

A visiting all-party delegation of Members of Parliament from Bangladesh said this during a press conference at the Guwahati Press Club today.

“The Government of India has never raised the issue of infiltration at diplomatic levels with Bangladesh…it has never asked Bangladesh to take back the migrants declared as illegal settlers by the Indian courts,” Rashed Khan Menon, among the most senior parliamentarians of Bangladesh, said while replying to a query from The Assam Tribune.

Another senior MP and former minister, Tofail Ahmed of the ruling Awami League also said that it was for India to raise the issue of Bangladesh accepting illegal migrants – if there was any – with the Government of Bangladesh. “But India has never discussed it at diplomatic levels with Bangladesh,” he said.

The 11-member delegation which is in India as part of a five-day India-Bangladesh Parliamentary Dialogue, New Delhi-Guwahati, organized by FICCI, dwelt on the prospects of building further upon the improving ties between India and Bangladesh – especially with the bordering North-east – on a range of issues from trade and commerce to river water sharing to enhanced people-to-people contact through road, air and waterways.

“There are many issues – including the disputed boundary portions – that need to be resolved. Unfortunately, the Parliament of India is yet to ratify the land boundary demarcation treaty of 1974,” Ahmed said.

Underling the importance of river water sharing as the two countries had 54 rivers in common, Ahmed sounded optimistic about resolving the issue of Teesta river water sharing in the near future.

“…it requires a bit of flexibility on the part of both governments in order to recognize each other’s interests and move forward,” he said.

Asserting that bilateral relations between the two were on a high trajectory, Ahmed said that with a democratically-elected Government in Bangladesh, the relationship had got a new momentum.

“India continues to emphasize its security concerns to Bangladesh, especially the use of Bangladesh territory by Indian insurgent groups and by terrorists of other nationalities. However, the Bangladesh Government at the highest level has assured that its territory would not be allowed for use by anyone to harm India,” he said.

On prospects of jailed ULFA leader Anup Chetia’s extradition to India, Ahmed said that the extradition process was being finalized and soon it would be possible to hand over the rebel chief to India.

On the growing trade ties between India and Bangladesh, the visiting diplomats said that the recent removal of duty and quota barriers by India for all goods except tobacco and alcohol had done a world of good to bilateral trade.

“Indo-Bangladesh bilateral trade has grown steadily over the last few years. In 2011-12, the two-way trade was over $5.24 billion, while India’s export to Bangladesh increased to $4,743.3 million and imports stood at $498.4 million,” Barrister Moudud Ahmed of Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), said.

The visiting delegation comprised Tofail Ahmed, Barrister Moudud Ahmed, Narayon Chandra Chanda, HN Ashequr Rahman, Advocate Tarana Halim, MK Anwar, Md Shahriar Alam, Rashed Khan Menon, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, Zafar Iqbal Siddique, Golam Mostafa and Rumana Mahmood.

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