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Thursday, May 30, 2024

India offers support for Bangladesh’s Teesta reservoir project: Foreign Minister Mahmud

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DHAKA, May 9: India has offered its support to construct a reservoir on the cross-border Teesta River in Bangladesh, foreign minister Hassan Mahmud said on Thursday, after visiting foreign secretary Vinay Mohan Kwatra met him and called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina here.

The sharing of Teesta waters has remained a contentious issue between New Delhi and Dhaka, which largely prompted Bangladesh to undertake the initiative to construct the reservoir. Beijing immediately extended its willingness to support the project.

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After his meeting with Kwatra, who arrived here Wednesday evening, Mahmud told reporters, “You know we have taken on a big project on the Teesta. India wants to finance that. We said the project will have to be in accordance with our needs, it must fulfill our needs.”

The minister, however, did not elaborate on the Indian proposal, which came months after Dhaka said it would take into consideration the “geopolitics” regarding a Chinese proposal to build the reservoir on the Teesta that enters into Bangladesh from India.

Kwatra called on Prime Minister Hasina earlier in the day but there was no official briefing on the meeting. However, sources said, he invited the prime minister to visit New Delhi, her first trip to India after her ruling Awami League party returned to power for the record fourth consecutive term on January 7.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi was the first world leader to congratulate her on her re-election.

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Asked whether the Bangladesh premier would go first to New Delhi since Hasina was also supposed to visit China, Hassan said the proximity of New Delhi was closer than Beijing and she is likely to visit India before going to the Chinese capital.

“Elections are underway in India. When the new government will be formed, then the date will be finalised for the visit,” he said.

The last bilateral engagement between the two prime ministers took place during the G20 Leaders Summit in September 2023, where Bangladesh was a guest country.

Chinese ambassador in Dhaka Yao Wen earlier said his country awaited the end of the election process in Bangladesh to carry on talks on the development of the Teesta basin’s part in Bangladesh.

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India is said to have conveyed its reservations to Bangladesh over China’s involvement in a major project near its strategic Siliguri Corridor, also known as the Chicken’s Neck, a narrow land mass that connects mainland India with its North Eastern states.

Asked how far Dhaka would take into consideration India’s objection over China’s involvement in the project, a foreign ministry spokesperson earlier this year said, in such a case Dhaka would “take into cognizance the geopolitical issues” in proceeding with the proposal.

The Bangladesh foreign minister said during his talks with Kwatra, the issue of border killings also came up and added there was no dearth of willingness at the “government and political level” to end border killings of Bangladeshis.

The minister said easing the visa regime was also an issue of his talks with Kwatra as a large number of Bangladeshis visit India for medical treatment, while the top Indian foreign ministry official assured him of greater efforts to ease the process further.

Mahmud said they also discussed both physical and people-to-people connectivity with India and discussed cooperation from India to import hydropower from Nepal and Bhutan through India. (PTI)







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