By Anisur Rahman
(Eds: Updating with details from Joint Statement)
Dhaka, Mar 27 (PTI) Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday reiterated India's "sincere and continued efforts" to conclude the long-pending Teesta water-sharing agreement in consultation with relevant stakeholders during his talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina.
Briefing reporters on Prime Minister Modi's two-day visit to Bangladesh, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said the Teesta issue was discussed during the talks between the two leaders.
"Prime Minister Modi reiterated India's sincere and continued efforts to conclude this agreement in consultation with relevant stakeholders," he said in response to a question.
The Indian side also requested for early finalisation of the draft of the interim agreement for sharing of water of Feni River, pending with the Bangladesh side which had been agreed upon by both sides in 2011.
"River water cooperation is something that will continue...we have extensive cooperation," Shringla said.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Hasina underscored that to alleviate the sufferings and save the livelihoods of millions of people dependent on the Teesta river basin, it is necessary that Bangladesh receives its fair share of the Teesta waters, the draft agreement of which has already been agreed upon by both Governments in January 2011, according to a Joint Statement issued after the talks.
"The two leaders directed their respective Ministries of Water Resources to work towards an early conclusion of the Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six common rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar," it said.
Two countries are currently cooperating on 56 rivers that flow between them. The cooperation in the area is very diverse as the use of water for drinking, irrigation and how we can work together to control flood and pollution, he said.
"We just had a meeting of the water-resources secretaries of the two sides in New Delhi... It was an excellent meeting. We are meeting and are talking about all the important issues, including the Teesta issue," Shringla said.
The Teesta river originates in Sikkim, flows through the northern parts of West Bengal, before entering Bangladesh and joining the Brahmaputra river.
The flow of the river is crucial for Bangladesh from December to March during which the country requires 50 per cent of the river’s water supply.
The Teesta deal was set to be signed during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September, 2011 but was postponed at the last minute due to objections raised by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Banarjee had expressed strong reservations against giving Bangladesh a greater share of water from the Teesta river.
The two prime ministers directed the Joint Technical Committee, formed for the purpose, to expeditiously commence the feasibility study of the Ganges-Padma barrage and other alternative options in Bangladesh for optimum utilisation of the Ganges waters received by Bangladesh as per the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty, 1996.
During the meeting, Prime Minister Hasina sought steps to bring down the "border incidents" to zero level, her Press Secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters.
Both leaders emphasised the importance of effective border management for ensuring a tranquil, stable and crime free border, the Joint Statement said.
Bangladesh has repeatedly complained that villagers along the borders were often killed by Indian border guards.
During the talks, Hasina expressed her concerns about the "border incidents" which she said increased in recent period, Karim said.
Both sides agreed that any death at the border is a matter of concern and directed the concerned border guarding forces to enhance people-oriented measures for ensuring border security and bring down such death of civilians to zero, the Joint Statement said.
Bangladesh has reiterated the request for 1.3 km Innocent Passage through river route along with River Padma near Rajshahi District, on humanitarian grounds. The Indian side has assured to consider the request, the Joint Statement said.
The Indian side requested for completion of border fencing at all pending sectors at the international border at the earliest, beginning from the Tripura (India) - Bangladesh sector. Bangladesh side assured to look into the matter, the Joint Statement added. PTI NSA/AR ZH AKJ AKJ