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India raises terror issue with B’desh
Rajeev Sharma
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 2
India and Bangladesh had their first bilateral summit meeting here this evening ever since Begum Khaleda Zia became Bangladesh Prime Minister in October 2001, but no breakthrough could be achieved.

This was despite the fact that the two sides signed two agreements in the presence of Prime Ministers Manmohan Singh and Ms Khaldea Zia for boosting trade and economic ties and jointly combating the menace of drug trafficking/abuse and agreed to operationalise the Sealdah - Jaidevpur train link.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh raised the issue of continued presence of terrorist infrastructure on Bangladeshi soil to which his Bangladeshi counterpart reiterated Dhaka’s oft-repeated denial. Begum Zia sought to assure Dr Manmohan Singh that no Bangladeshi territory would be allowed to foment terror in India.

The Bangladeshi assurance does not cut much ice here as New Delhi believes that a lot of north-eastern terrorist outfits are being given sanctuaries in Bangladesh. More than three years ago, New Delhi had given a list of over 200 India-specific terrorist training camps being run in Bangladesh.

At subsequent bilateral meetings, India had provided “evidence” in the form of maps and exact locations of these camps to the Bangladeshi authorities. Dhaka always dismissed these allegations as “baseless”.

The Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh have met twice earlier for a bilateral meeting ---- on the sidelines of SAARC and BIMSTEC summits-----but the two leaders have never had a formal bilateral summit. Though the Indian Prime Minister has apprised his Bangladeshi counterpart of India's concern on the issue of terrorism at earlier meetings, the very fact that Dr Manmohan Singh broached the subject this evening holds a special meaning.

During his talks with Begum Zia, Dr Manmohan Singh also raised the issue of transit rights through Bangladeshi territory for trade and transport. But here too he found himself up against the well-known Bangladeshi position. It has been Dhaka’s stated policy to link the Indian demand with transit rights with a whole lot of other issues.

From Bangladesh’e perspective, Begum Zia strongly raised the issues of Water and trade. Begum Zia pitched for a more comprehensive river water sharing formula. India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers. Dhaka's grouse is that while there is a water-sharing accord with regard to just one river — the Ganga — similar accords were urgently required for 53 rivers as well.

On the issue of trade, Begum Zia favoured India increasing its imports from Bangladesh substantially, though she scuttled New Delhi’s demand for transit rights for reaching out to other countries in the region.

On trade, it was noted that Bangladesh’s exports to India have been steadily rising. There is still trade imbalance which we recognize and are sensitive to Bangladesh’s concerns and there was a desire to address this issue with flexibility and with pragmatism. One way, as suggested by India, is by promotion of Indian investments in Bangladesh. India has already proposed for USD 2.5 billion worth of Tata investment in Bangladesh. On this, Dhaka’s non-committal view was that they were examining various proposals and certain matters needed clarification.

The two Prime Ministers covered the entire gamut of bilateral relations in their talks after which Dr Manmohan Singh hosted dinner for Begum Zia .

There was no formal briefing by the government or a joint media interaction by the two Prime Ministers. However, the Ministry of External Affairs said on terrorism, both sides agreed that India and Bangladesh are victims of terrorism and need to join hands in fighting this scourge.

On various other issues like water issues and security issues, it was felt that institutional mechanisms which are available for the two sides must be strengthened. For instance, the Home Secretary level meetings, which address the security issues, as well as the meetings of the Joint Rivers Commission should be held more regularly.

On Teesta river issue, they decided that the meeting can be held early.


Govt firm on women’s quota bill, says PM
Tribune News Service

New Delhi, March 21
The Prime Minister, Dr Manmohan Singh, today told the Rajya Sabha that his government remains firmly committed to early passage of the Women Reservation bill, providing 33 per cent reservation for women in Parliament and state legislatures.

Joining the Chairman of the Rajya Sabha, Mr Bhairon Singh Shekhawat, and the Leader of the Opposition, Mr Jaswant Singh, in bidding farewell to 58 retiring members, Dr Manmohan Singh said: “As giving farewell to the retiring women members of the House, I wish to assure all women in the country that our government remains firmly committed to ensuring that the women reservation bill is passed as early as possible.”

Dr Manmohan Singh’s assurance on the government’s intention to ensure early passage of the bill was prompted by Telugu Desam Party (TDP) member Vanga Geetha’s expression of regret that the bill was not passed during her term.

The Prime Minister made a mention of the memorable contribution to debates by CPM members Nilotpal Basu and Dipankar Mukherjee.

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