External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj on Wednesday held talks with her Bangladeshi counterpart Abul Hassan Mahmood Ali on key bilateral issues, including Land Boundary Agreement and proposed Teesta river water sharing deal, during which the Indian side also raised the matter of illegal immigration.
Swaraj, who arrived on Tuesday late night, was assisted by Foreign Secretary Sujatha Singh and senior ministry officials during her talks with Ali at the Foreign Office.
Ali welcomed Swaraj after which both the ministers talked about the weather condition, which was very humid. The two leaders talked in a restricted format before the delegation level deliberation.
Though there are no pacts to be signed and no big expectations, the trip, which is termed as a ‘goodwill’ visit, is aimed at taking forward the bilateral ties which are on a “positive trajectory” for the past few years.
Among other issues the meeting also discussed ways to enhance cooperation in important areas including economic. On the touchy issues of LBA and Teesta river, the Indian side may not have “clear answers” but the effort would be to assure Bangladesh side of Indian government’s positive intention.
Significantly, it was Bharatiya Janata Party’s opposition, coupled with that of Trinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad which prevented the previous Congress-led United Progressive Alliance government from formalising the land boundary agreement and signing the Teesta water sharing deal with Bangladesh.
According to official sources, Swaraj made a call to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to ‘touch-base’ and tell her about the visit. The call assumes significance given that Banerjee’s party Trinamool Congress prevented the previous UPA government from signing the Teesta water sharing deal.
The Indian side maintains they were not going with the ‘shopping list’ and that the minister will review the status of bilateral ties and what to expect in the coming years.