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India committed to Teesta treaty, land accord with Bangladesh

August 10, 2012 15:59 IST

India has assured Bangladesh that agreements on the Teesta Water Treaty and demarcation of land boundaries will soon become a reality.

This assurance was given to Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina by Rural Development Minister Jairam Ramesh who visited that country early this week.

"Of course, there were concerns on Teesta and land boundary agreement that were raised by Bangladesh and I reassured the prime minister that our government is committed to both these agreements becoming a reality soon," the minister told PTI.

On Teesta river treaty, which has been put on hold after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee expressed some reservations, Ramesh said he has assured Hasina that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh "is in touch with the West Bengal Chief Minister" to address the concerns raised by her.

"We are working with the West Bengal Chief Minister to address their concerns. We recognise the importance of the Teesta and Land Boundary Agreements," he said.

On the Land Boundary Agreement, he said, "We are hoping that we will be able to introduce the Constitutional Amendment Bill" in the current session of Parliament.

The Indian government has to get the agreement ratified by Parliament before implementing it as it involves exchange of land.

At a meeting between Foreign Secretaries of the two countries here last month, Bangladesh had conveyed its unhappiness about non-implementation of the land boundary agreement.

Bangladesh had also raised the issue of Teesta water-sharing which could not be signed last year because of strong opposition by UPA constituent Trinamool Congress.

The agreement on demarcation of the border and exchange of enclaves, over which the two sides had reached an accord in 1974, will cover 111 enclaves in India and 51 on the other side in which about 51,000 people reside.

The people in the enclaves will be given the right to continue to reside there itself or choose the country of residence, it is learnt.

Ramesh termed as "very productive" his visit to Bangladesh where he met with the prime minister, the foreign minister, the health minister, the environment minister and the rural development minister.

Officials said though his visit from August 4-6 was to attend the international conference on poverty alleviation, the real objective was to meet senior ministers and convey to them India's desire for strengthening bilateral relations.

"There were broad ranging set of discussions on bilateral issues. I also met with a cross section of Bangladesh businessmen who are doing business in India. And basically, the idea was to continue the process of strengthening the bilateral relationship after prime minister's visit to Dhaka in September, 2011 and Pranab Mukherjee's visit in May 2012," Ramesh said.

On trade relations with Bangladesh, the Minister said Bangladesh's export to India last year was around USD 500 million and all import duties on exports from Bangladesh have been abolished except for alcohol and cigarettes.

"Bangladesh's exports to India attract no import duty. We have to buy more from Bangladesh. We are also now permitting Bangladesh FDI in India.

"Originally, four years ago, it used to be in the negative list. Now, we are permitting. We welcome Bangladesh investment in India," he said.

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