Delhi keen to sign coastal shipping deal, renew trade agreement


Diplomatic Correspondent

India is keen to sign an agreement on coastal shipping and renew a bilateral trade agreement with Bangladesh. Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar expressed intent on the agreements at a meeting with the prime minister, Sheikh Hasina, at her parliament office Monday, according to the PM’s press secretary AKM Shameem Chowdhuri. Jaishankar handed over a letter of the Indian prime minister Narendra Damodardas Modi to Sheikh Hasina, Chowdhuri said while briefing reporters. Modi, in the letter, expressed intent to visit Bangladesh at the earliest and wanted to know when Sheikh Hasina would visit New Delhi, he said. Hasina also wanted to know when and how Bangladesh can get more power from India, and from Bhutan through India. Jaishankar assured her his country was working to increase power supply to Bangladesh. He also informed the PM the progress on the projects under the Line of Credit between the two countries was ‘good’. In the meeting with the PM, none of the sides raised the much talked about issues of enactment of Land Boundary Agreement by India and signing of an agreement by the two countries on sharing the water flow of the river Teesta, a senior government official said. The trade agreement is set to expire on April 1, 2015. Jaishankar was in Dhaka on a less than 24-hour official visit on an invitation of his counterpart M Shahidul Haque. The two secretaries joined a one-on-one meeting before formal official talks between the two sides at the foreign ministry. Jaishankar also called on the foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali at his office. Haque briefed reporters about the meetings held at the foreign ministry. He said the two sides discussed about the need for signing an agreement on sharing the water flow of the river Teesta and stopping increasing killing of Bangladesh nationals along the border by Indian Border Security Force. When asked about the Indian response on Teesta, Haque said, ‘their feedback was positive’. Asked if Bangladesh raised the issues of enactment of land boundary agreement by Indian authorities and recent increase of border killing by either Indian Border Security Force or by civilians of the country, he said these issues were ‘discussed’. Replying to a question from New Age on the possibility of increasing export from Bangladesh, Haque said Bangladesh handed over a list of para-tariff barriers [imposed by India]. ‘They [India] agreed to a quick response [about the list],’ he said, ‘the next phase of discussion would be started after getting their response.’ Haque said there was no scope for detailed discussion on different issues as ‘it was a goodwill visit’. The issues would be discussed in detail during the ‘foreign office consultation’ and meetings of the joint consultative committee, he said. Replying to a New Age question after the meeting with the foreign minister, Jaishankar said, ‘we want more cooperation.’ He did not elaborate the modalities of ‘more cooperation’. Asked for a clarification if Jaishankar meant for cooperation ‘from Bangladesh’ or ‘with Bangladesh’, an Indian diplomat told New Age the secretary was talking about cooperation between the two countries. The two sides also discussed how the SAARC could be strengthened overcoming its ‘limitations’, Haque added. Haque received Jaishankar at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. Haque hosted a lunch in honour of his counterpart at the state guest house Padma where ambassadors and high commissioners of the SAARC countries were present. Jaishankar will leave Dhaka for Islamabad Tuesday morning. He has been undertaking visits to four countries in the first phase of the ‘SAARC Yatra’ in accordance with directives from Modi. Before arriving Dhaka, Jaishankar was on a one-day visit to Thimphu in Bhutan. He is also set to reach Kabul, capital of Afghanistan, Thursday.