Dhaka: External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid met the Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday as part of the two-day official visit to the neighbouring nation. India and Bangladesh reviewed a range of bilateral issues at the second Joint Consultative Commission meeting.
Hasina said she hoped India would take a "liberal view" to resolve the longstanding Teesta river water sharing issue, even as Khurshid assured her India's support to further strengthen bilateral cooperation and taking forward the friendly ties. "We hope India will take a liberal view to resolve the problem" and initiate measures to sign the agreement, Hasina said, referring to the Teesta river water sharing issue.
The signing of the agreement on Teesta was delayed due to the opposition by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Khurshid also briefed Hasina about the "good meeting" of the Indo-Bangla Joint Consultative Commission he co-chaired with Bangladeshi counterpart Dipu Moni in Dhaka on Saturday.
He informed Hasina that President Pranab Mukherjee was looking forward to his visit to Dhaka planned in March. After the meeting which lasted about an hour, Hasina and Khurshid launched new buses, given to Bangladesh under the Indian dollar credit line, for local operations.
A total of 50 articulated buses, produced by Indian company Ashok Leyland, are being given to Bangladesh, of which 20 have already been delivered. Speaking on the occasion, Hasina said her government on Sunday received $50 million as part of the $200 million grant given by New Delhi to Dhaka. "This entire amount will be used to construct a bridge over river Padma," she said.
Referring to the long-pending Land Boundary Agreement between the two countries signed in 1974, she said, "We hope that the Indian Parliament, keeping in mind the problems faced by the people, will adopt the constitution amendment bill to ratify this agreement."
The crucial land boundary issue involves exchange of land involving 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. The issue has been hanging fire for several years as additional protocols for the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement had to be formalised.
The protocols were signed during the 2011 visit of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka. The Indian Cabinet has already approved a draft legislation to amend the Constitution to give effect to the agreement, which Khurshid earlier said would be tabled in the upcoming Budget Session of Parliament for adoption.
"We have initiated steps to enhance regional connectivity with our neighbouring nations. While Dhaka-Kolkata and Dhaka-Agartala bus services are already on, talks are going on to start Dhaka-Shillong, Dhaka-Guwahati and Dhaka-Kathmandu services," she said. Observing that such services would go a long way to enhance international cooperation and expanding business and trade with neighbouring countries, Prime Minister Hasina said her government was getting "all cooperation" from India now.
Khurshid said India had extended to Bangladesh the largest credit line of $1 billion ever given by India to any country. Pranab Mukherjee, as the former Finance Minister, had also extended $200 million grant.
He said the Indian government would continue to support Bangladesh's development and take all measures to further strengthen cooperation and friendly relations with it. Along with the 50 articulated buses, 88 air-conditioned ones would also be supplied by India to Bangladesh and the entire project would be over by April this year.
"It has given me immense satisfaction to see some of these buses plying on Dhaka roads... It is a symbolic iteration of Bangladesh's wheels churning towards progress," Khurshid said.
(With Additional Inputs From PTI)