India, Bangladesh working on finalising agreements on rivers other than Ganges water-sharing: Shringla

Indian Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla today said his country and Bangladesh “are working on finalising agreements on rivers other than the Ganges water-sharing and exchanging best practices in areas of river embankments and addressing salinity of rivers”.

He, however, did not name the Teesta river water-sharing accord which has been held up for more than a decade due to the opposition of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, reports our News Delhi correspondent.

“India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers which are part of our shared resources and responsibilities. The historic accord on Ganga water sharing has stood the test of time. We are now working on finalising agreements for other rivers and exchanging best practices in the areas of river embankments and addressing salinity of rivers,” Shringla said during an interaction with Bangladesh delegation led by State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shariar Alam at the 10th India-Bangladesh Friendship Dialogue organised by the NGO India Foundation in Shimla.

India and Bangladesh were close to inking the deal in September, 2011 when Mamata opted out at the eleventh hour of a delegation led by the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka. She has not changed her stance since then.

Pointing out that the impact of climate change is felt in both India and Bangladesh, Shringla called for more comprehensive cooperation in water conservation, fisheries, flood management and pollution in rivers.

“Greater synergies in climate action, preserving shared natural heritage such as Sundarbans etc. are also required,” he added.

The high-level delegation from Bangladesh includes ministers, MPs and political leaders, former High Commissioners to India, diplomats, academics and intellectuals.

The Indian Foreign Secretary “stressed on the importance of nurturing and upholding the spirit of the 1971 liberation war, especially at a time when radical and anti-liberation forces try to destabilize our region for their own interests.”

He said vibrant people-to-people ties are key to India-Bangladesh relations and India has started rolling out the 1,000 Suvarna Jayanti scholarships announced by Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his visit to Bangladesh last year.

“This will offer several opportunities to students from Bangladesh for studying in prestigious institutions in India,” he added.

Shringla said effective management of India-Bangladesh border “is key to facilitating economic linkages and people-to-people contact and what is needed is to work closely to strengthen border infrastructure to ensure smooth transit of goods and people while ensuring that illegal activities are kept under check”.

“An example of this approach is our objective of establishing additional border haats,” he added.

Referring to bilateral trade, Shringla said it has witnessed a quantum jump with exports from Bangladesh, for the first time, and expected to cross USD two billion this year.

In this context, he called for early conclusion of a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Cooperation Agreement saying this “is vital to enhancing this momentum in trade.”

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