New Delhi, India (BBN)-Bangladesh is pressing India to use one of the warmest patches in their relationship’s history to iron out niggles, including legacy challenges like water sharing, months after a historic land boundary agreement that ended a Partition-era dispute over tiny patches of territory.
Foreign secretary S. Jaishankar will tomorrow host his Bangladesh counterpart Shahidul Haque for key foreign office consultations that are also aimed at urgently pursuing new investment projects, transit deals, access to ports and easier visa norms, senior officials have told The Telegraph.
The two diplomats are unlikely to delve into the Teesta water sharing agreement held up because of opposition from Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee, the officials said.
Both New Delhi and Dhaka are willing to wait for the Assembly polls in Bengal this summer.
But Bangladesh has made clear in the lead-up to the meeting between the two foreign secretaries that it plans to push for a joint river basin management mechanism far broader in its ambit than the resources of any one river.
“Bangladesh government wants to set up a joint basin management method with India for reasonable use of waters of the common rivers flowing between the two countries,” Bangladesh high commissioner to India Syed Muazzem Ali told reporters in Agartala, where he was visiting, earlier this week.
“If India and Bangladesh properly exploit the waters, share other products and help each other, both neighbours would achieve a win-win position.”
India too is keen to resolve lingering disputes with Bangladesh- and settle the Teesta water sharing agreement, officials said.
But New Delhi has long held that while working towards resolutions of historic differences, the neighbours must also work to enhance their trade, connectivity and people-to-people relations.
India is keen on transit access through Bangladesh to connect its Northeast to the Bay of Bengal and to Myanmar.
Two gestures from New Delhi over the past two years helped assuage Dhaka’s concerns that India wasn’t delivering on its commitments.
First, India decided not to challenge an international tribunal’s order demarcating the maritime boundary between the neighbours in a manner that favoured Bangladesh.
Then, last summer, the Narendra Modi government convinced Mamata to drop her opposition to the land boundary agreement – a pact India and Bangladesh had committed to in 1974 but that New Delhi had been unable to push through domestically.
The final agreement was formally signed when Modi visited Dhaka last May.
The goodwill from those gestures has carried in its jet stream a series of investments proposals.
Bangladesh announced its readiness to collaborate with India to set up a special economic zone and a supply chain for the manufacture and export of apparel – an industry where Bangladesh is second only to China.
Industrialists Gautam Adani and Anil Ambani last week announced $11 billion worth investments in the power sector for Bangladesh, during a trip to Dhaka by senior executives from their groups for a business conclave.
Adani plans to set up two 1600 MW power plants- one in Bangladesh, and another in India, but providing power to the neighbouring nation.
The Reliance Anil Ambani Group has also proposed a 3000 MW power plant in Bangladesh- fuelled by liquefied natural gas.
Both countries have also indicated moves to liberalise their visa regimes.
In December, India waived fees for applicants from Bangladesh and 47 other less developed countries for business and employment visas.