Sunday, February 25, 2024

N-E border issue tops the agenda

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PM with Mukul, others leaves for Dhaka today

From CK Nayak

 NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s maiden state visit to Bangladesh brings hopes for settlement of nearly half-century-old disputes including vexed boundary problem with Meghalaya in presence of Chief Minister Dr Mukul Sangma.

An agreement on boundary demarcation including the 6.5km border in Meghalaya sector will be signed during the visit, official sources said here on Monday.

“It is a partnership which can have a profound positive impact on the South Asian region as a whole”, Dr Singh said in a statement prior to his departure for Dhaka on Tuesday on a 2-day visit.

“This will help in bringing the fruits of cooperation to people on both sides of the border,” he said.

India’s partnership with Bangladesh was important for the stability and prosperity of the Northeastern states, Dr Singh said adding that the fact that he would be accompanied to Dhaka by Chief Ministers of all the Northeast states neighbouring Bangladesh “reflects our desire to have across the board engagement with Bangladesh so that the fruits of our cooperation are available to people on both sides of the border”.

Terming the current Indo-Bangladesh relationship as “extraordinary” the Prime Minister said his visit would provide an opportunity to review the progress achieved in the implementation of the decisions taken during the historic visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India last year.”It is a matter of satisfaction that we have made concrete progress in several areas such as security, boundary issues, water resources, power connectivity, improvement of border infrastructure, trade facilitation and economic cooperation,” he said. Addressing media persons on the eve of the visit, Foreign Secretary, Ranjan Mathai said that a number of agreements will be signed during the two-day visit. He sounded positive on the agreements on demarcation of the boundary and exchange of enclaves. While agreements on sharing of Teesta river has virtually been put to cold storage the proposed transit agreement seems to have been watered down.There will be “exchange of letter” which will serve as a roadmap for how India and Bangladesh are going to establish regional connectivity based on the existing transit-related protocols. It is expected that entire boundary issue including the 6.5 km land in Meghalaya sector in adversely possessed land will be settled since the whole stretch has been mapped, sources said. Defending New Delhi’s stand on the boundary issue in Meghalaya and Assam sectors, Mathai said there is no question of loss or gain. “The issues date back to 1974 and have to be resolved with a spirit of give and take and overall bilateral relationship,” he said.

Similarly on exchange of enclaves where India is bound to lose more land to Bangladesh, the Foreign Secretary said such problems have their roots even to the time of partition. On boundary and enclaves issues he said that both the countries are walking the last mile and the last mile is the best mile.

Interestingly, the Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka on Monday met the leader of the BNP Khalida Zia to formalise her meeting with Dr Singh. The Prime Minister besides having delegation and one to one meeting with Sheikh Hasina will also call on the Bangladeshi President.

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