India, Bangladesh close to sort-out boundaries dispute
18 February, 2013
DHAKA: India and Bangladesh took a significant step towards finalizing a land boundary agreement (LBA), with visiting Indian foreign minister Salman Khurshid and his Bangali counterpart Dipu Moni exchanging strip maps of the boundary areas, Indian media reported on Sunday.
Talking to journalists later, Khurshid said the government had readied the constitution amendment bill and it would be placed in Parliament during the budget session, beginning February 21.
The two sides also signed three other agreements like a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, establishment of an India-Bangladesh Foundation and an amendment to the double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) to bring it in line with OECD requirements.
The two sides exchanged 1,114 maps, leaving another 34 to be exchanged. It is only after they have been exchanged and agreed upon (and the constitutional amendment passed) that the boundary can be legitimized. Khurshid's visit is also a precursor to the first foreign visit by President Pranab Mukherjee to Bangladesh, scheduled for the first week of March.
India has also invited Bangladeshi companies to invest in the development of the Tipaimukh Dam with both countries jointly reaping the benefits of the project. Bangladeshis have been opposed to the project, though India has ferried legislators and journalists to view the site. Indians are also at pains to point out that Tipaimukh was originally the brainchild of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, who said the flow of water into Bangladesh should be regulated so as to spare them the ravages of floods.
The Akhaura-Agartala rail link is important to establish connectivity with India's northeastern states. Official sources said the new rail link would connect Agartala to Gangasagar in Bangladesh, making Tripura the second state after West Bengal to be connected to Bangladesh. Its an important link in the entire web of connectivity planned with Bangladesh. The rail link will feed into the Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) network.
India is interested in getting transit rights as well from Bangladesh. But Bangladesh has stalled progress on this until India delivers on either the Teesta river water sharing agreement or the land boundary agreement. Although the central government has been trying - without success so far — to get an assent from West Bengal CM Mamata Banerjee. But Khurshid, in unusually warm remarks, stood by Banerjee, and reaffirmed the government's commitment to getting it done. Later, a smiling Dipu Moni told reporters, "I think it will be done" , raising expectations that a deal may be in the offing.
In addition, Khurshid announced that two new border haats would be set up on the Bangladesh-Tripura border, and state-owned Numaligarh Refinery was in talks with Bangladesh to sell gas here.