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'India keen to develop links to Afghan'

December 19, 2002 18:53 IST

India is in touch with Iran and Afghanistan and other countries in the region and is developing projects to improve trade links, including ports, roads and other infrastructure, so as to facilitate more efficient movement of goods to Afghanistan, as a part of reconstruction assistance and commercial transaction, Minister of State for External Affairs Digvijay Singh told the Lok Sabha on Wednesday.

Responding to an unstarred question from C N Singh and Sadashivrao Dadoba Mandlik, if the Government was contemplating to form India-Iran-Afghanistan triangle to promote trade and if so what was the progress made so far in that direction, the minister said, "Government had facilitated the organization of 'Made in India' show in Kabul in September this year by the Confederation of Indian Industries."

"The exhibition introduced the Indian capabilities in the field of commerce and industry to the Afghan people and business community, as is was also being done by the Government's assistance programmes for Afghan reconstruction," Digvijay Singh said.

He also clarified that the officials of the two countries were working on finalization of a Preferential Trading Agreement.

Meanwhile, the Government also informed the House that a protocol has been signed between India and Bangladesh on inland water transit and trade.

Responding to a question from Bikram Keshari Deo and V Saroja, Digvijay Singh informed that the routes identified for cooperation under the protocol between India and Bangaldesh included Kolkata-Pandu-Kolkata via Haldia-Khulna-Chandpur, Kolkata-Karimganj via Haldia-Chandpur-Bhairab Bazar, Rajshahi-Godagari-Dhulian-Rajshahi and Karimganj-Pandu-Karimganj.

He said that the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade between India and Bangladesh was entered into on October 4, 1980 which has been periodically reviewed. Currently it was valid till February 3, 2003.

While rejecting that any agreement with Bangladesh regarding the use of Chittagong Port for transportation of commodities to the North East region of India existed, he said no Indo-Bangladesh joint-study group has been set up for exploring the prospects of bilatral trade betweenBangladesh and the North Eastern region of India.

He, however, admitted that a Joint Boundary Working Group to settle boundary related matters with Bangladesh has been set up.

Responding to a question from Amar Roy Pradhan and R L Bhatia demanding the composition of the JBWG between the two nations, Digvijay Singh said, "The teams may include all concerned agencies including representatives from the ministries of external /foreign affairs, home affairs, land, law, water resources and officers of land records, survey, border guarding forces from both sides, and the concerned state governments in the case of India."

He said the second meeting of the JBWG was held in New Delhi on March 26-27, 2002 in which the discussions covered all outstanding issues relating to the implementation of the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, 1974, including pending demarcation of the boundary, exchange of adverse possessions and enclaves.