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India shares info on Manipur project with worried Bangladesh

By Syed Tashfin Chowdhury
September 06, 2012 13:37 IST
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In a bid to sort out some thorny issues between India and Bangladesh -- including the delay in implementation of the land boundary agreement, signing of a deal to share water of the Teesta river, the Tipaimukh barrage project etc -- two advisers to Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina are currently visiting New Delhi.

International Affairs Adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi and Economic Affairs Adviser Dr Mashiur Rehman are expected to return to Dhaka on September 7. They are visiting Delhi on an invitation from National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon.

The invitation follows a meeting between Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina on the sidelines of Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Tehran on August 29. During the meeting, Dr Singh had assured Hasina that the Teesta water sharing agreement will be signed while a bill to amend the Constitution will be tabled soon to expedite implementation of the land boundary agreement.

The existing bilateral relation between the two neighbouring countries is quite friendly now with a number of initiatives underway from both sides and the initiation in joint consultative meetings on Tipaimukh Barrage project. However, delay in implementation of the boundary agreement signed last year and the signing of the Teesta River accord have been worrying both the governments.
Although Dhaka has tried to stick to its stance of "no transit without Teesta agreement", Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told an Indian newspaper in August that Teesta water sharing was not a precondition for transit but an accord on Teesta would help her administration go ahead to allow transit to India.

Further strengthening the bonhomie between the two nations is last week's development, when India handed over relevant project papers and documents related to the Tipaimukh Hydroelectric Project over Barak River in Manipur state, some 200 km east of the Bangladesh border.

Bangladesh has been concerned about the environmental and other consequences of the proposed barrage on its territory.
Following a two-day long meeting of the Indo-Bangladesh joint subgroup on the proposed dam project at New Delhi on August 27 and 28, Delhi handed over a copy of the Detailed Project Report of Tipaimukh project to Dhaka as the two countries finalised the Terms of Reference for a joint study on the dam's impact.

The joint study is likely to examine the location of the dam and its impact on catchment areas, flora and fauna, biodiversity and ecology while also evaluating the impacts on the availability of water in the Surma, Kushiara and Meghna rivers and the irrigation and environment of the lower riparian country of Bangladesh.

Though no impact assessment has been conducted yet, India has repeatedly assured Bangladesh at the highest level that it would not do anything in the project which would go against Bangladesh's interests.

India also said the barrage at the project site would release more water to Bangladesh during dry season and control the same during monsoon to save the lower riparian country from floods. India has also invited Bangladesh to buy a stake in the 1,500 megawatt Tipaimukh power project and get electricity.

During his visit to Dhaka in September 2011, Dr Singh had assured Bangladesh that New Delhi will not do anything in connection with the dam that will hurt the interests of the lower riparian country.

With the Tipaimukh barrage project being discussed, the two neighbouring nations now need to resolve issues on Teesta water sharing, the land boundary agreement for exchange of 162 enclaves between the two countries and a transit agreement, aimed at allowing India to carry its goods to northeast states from West Bengal through Bangladesh.

Additionally to these, Indian media has reported that Bangladesh has evicted all hideouts of Indian insurgents from remote areas of Bangladesh and handed over captured militants to India over the past three years, although the Bangladesh government has never acknowledged these reports.

India is also trying to improve its ties with major political parties of Bangladesh. As part of this initiative, Delhi recently hosted Bangladesh's former president Hussain Mohammad Ershad and also invited former prime minister and current leader of the opposition Begum Khaleda Zia, chief of Bangladesh Nationalist Party, to visit India in the near future.

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