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Indian PM wraps up visit to Bangladesh without breakthrough in major disputed issues

(Xinhua)

08:45, September 08, 2011

DHAKA, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) -- Most political analysts in Bangladesh are terming the Indian prime minister's visit as almost fruitless and meaningless as both the neighbors have not seen any major development in major disputed issues.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh arrived in Dhaka Tuesday morning, starting a 2-day official visit to Bangladesh. This is the first visit to Bangladesh by an Indian prime minister in 12 years.

Bangladesh and India have failed to sign agreements on transit and Teesta and Feni rivers, the most sought after takeaways from Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh, striking a blow to their bilateral ties, leading English newspaper The Daily Star reported on Wednesday.

It said Manmohan's visit and his official talks with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Tuesday were overshadowed by New Delhi's last-moment dramatic decision against signing the Teesta water- sharing treaty in the face of stiff opposition from chief minister of Indian province of West Bengal.

Hours before Singh's arrival in Dhaka, Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Mijarul Quayes summoned Indian High Commissioner Rajeet Mitter to the Foreign Ministry Office demanding an explanation why New Delhi backed out from an earlier commitment to sign the Teesta accord, it added.

Apart from this, the report said the Teesta failure blocked the hoped-for deal on sharing another Feni river waters and signing a "letter of exchange" containing Dhaka's consent to let India use Chittagong and Mongla ports to carry goods through Bangladesh territory.

A senior government official familiar with the deal signing processes had earlier told Xinhua that agreement on land demarcation, water resources management, market access free from tariff and non-tariff barriers, power purchase were crucial to Bangladesh, while transit and security, among others, were prime concerns of India.

On the concluding day of his two-day visit on Wednesday, Singh said in delivering a speech at Bangladesh's largest Dhaka University that establishing relations of friendship and trust with neighbours, particularly with Bangladesh, and the creation and consolidation of a peaceful and prosperous regional environment in South Asia are the highest priority of his government.

Singh's nearly half an hour speech at the Senate Auditorium of Bangladesh's largest public university in capital Dhaka not only touched upon regional issues but also covered almost entire gamut of Indo-Bangla bilateral relations, which reportedly suffered a fresh blow following New Delihi's last-moment dramatic decision against signing a major river's water-sharing treaty.

Singh said, "I have often said that the people of South Asia are second to none when it comes to their talent, their enterprise or their ability to cope with adversity. But to realize the potential of the region we have to believe in the power of cooperative effort. We have to learn to trust each other and work with each other in our enlightened self-interest."

Singh said Bangladesh, an influential member of the Islamic world and the largest troop contributor to United Nations peacekeeping operations, has much to say and contribute in the comity of nations and the affairs of the world. India will support Bangladesh's efforts to play its due and commensurate role in regional and global affairs, he said.

Bangladesh has firmly rejected extremist ideas and achieved success as an open, moderate and vibrant society and democracy, he said, adding "We must join hands to meet the challenges of equitable social and economic development. We must fight poverty, hunger and disease."

He said it is imperative for India and Bangladesh to find new pathways of cooperation to deal with the common challenges of development. Bangladesh and India on Tuesday signed a "Framework Cooperation Agreement for Development" along with a number of agreements, protocols and Memorandum of Understandings, but a much- expected treaty on sharing of waters of the common river Teesta and protocol on the use of Bangladesh's Chittagong and Mongla seaports by India were not signed.

"I was hopeful that during this visit we would be able to come to an agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta. Both sides worked very hard to arrive at a solution that would be acceptable to all. Unfortunately these efforts did not meet with success within the time available," Singh said in his Dhaka University speech.

He expressed the hope that they can make an irreversible shift in India-Bangladesh relations through their various steps. "We seek to build our relations on the basis of equality, mutual benefit and respect for each other."

Terming the sharing of Teesta water, the most important issue for the government, Bangladeshi Finance Minister AMA Muhith Wednesday anticipated that it will take up to three months to ink the Teesta deal which has been postponed amid objections from chief minister of Indian province of West Bengal.


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