Pending issues with Dhaka to be concluded early: India

Last Updated: Sun, Feb 10, 2013 22:01 hrs

Dhaka: Visiting Indian Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai Sunday conveyed India's assurance to Bangladesh that all pending issues, including the Teesta water sharing agreement, would be concluded "as early as feasible".

Mathai, who led the Indian delegation to the foreign secretary-level talks earlier in the day, said at a press conference: "We have an unwavering commitment to complete the agreements we have set ourselves to do but our commitment is not linked to any calendar, our commitment is to do it as early as feasible."

He was answering a query on whether it would be possible for India to resolve the two major issues - of signing the Teesta water deal and ratification of the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement during the tenure of the United Progress Alliance (UPA) government.

Asked whether there was any possibility to resolve the pending issues during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India in August, Mathai said: "We are still on course, discussing the dates when we will be honoured to receive the prime minister of Bangladesh, but our commitment (on early conclusion of pending issues) is not linked to any calendar, our commitment is to do it as early as feasible."

On the issue of border killings, over which Bangladesh has voiced concern, Mathai said: "This has to be seen in context of criminalisation of activities on the border. The reports which we have received is of extremely well-armed criminals on the border, and that is why our two governments have decided on a coordinated border management plan," he said at the joint press conference with his Bangladesh counterpart M. Shahidul Haque.

He said there are short and long-term measures to deal with the issues. "We're working on both."

Director General (EP) of the Foreign Ministry Shameem Ahsan, Indian High Commissioner in Dhaka Pankaj Saran, Deputy High Commissioner Sandeep Chakravorty and officials of the foreign ministry were present.

Asked how the extradition treaty inked between the two sides would help nab United Liberation Front of Asom (ULFA) leader Anup Chetia, who is in a jail in Dhaka, Mathai said: "I certainly do feel that it'll be possible to cover him under the treaty guidelines."

Mathai said there is no formal discussion between Bangladesh and India on financing the Padma multipurpose bridge.

"We haven't begun any formal discussion on Padma Project...I don't think a single partner would be adequate to deal with the project."

Mathai said the Bangladesh government was discussing various partners to finance the project. "If there is a consortium, the Indian companies would be happy to participate in it," he added.

He appreciated the Bangladesh government for its efforts to try the 1971 war criminals and said: "I must congratulate the Bangladesh government for having followed a judicial process and come to a judgment."

Earlier, addressing the gathering, he said: "India attaches the highest importance to its relations with Bangladesh, our close and friendly neighbour."

He said the two sides had concluded a "very productive round of discussions in a very warm and cordial atmosphere covering the entire gamut of bilateral relations and other issues of mutual interest".

The meeting provided the opportunity to prepare for the second meeting of the Joint Consultative Commission at the level of the foreign ministers.

Mathai and Shahidul Haque inked a memorandum of understanding on cooperation between the Foreign Service Institute of India and the Foreign Service Academy of Bangladesh.

Mathai said he hoped this would facilitate exchanges between the diplomatic services of their two countries

Shahidul Haque in his opening remark said they had held very productive discussions on the whole range of bilateral and regional issues.

"Security, connectivity, land boundary issue, water resources management, trade and commerce, power sector, science and education and cultural issues came for discussion during the meeting with the Indian foreign secretary," he said.

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