Teesta pact, border killings on agenda for India-Bangladesh talks

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, New Delhi
  • Updated: Jan 31, 2016 09:10 IST
Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a meeting with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi during his visit to Dhaka last year. (AFP File Photo)

Delayed water-sharing pact on Teesta and border killings are the key issues for Dhaka as foreign secretaries of India and Bangladesh meet here on February 1 to take stock of their bilateral ties.

Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque will arrive in India for a three-day visit on Sunday. He will call on external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj and meet national security adviser Ajit Doval besides holding talks with his Indian counterpart S Jaishankar.

The meeting between the two officials will review the progress in the ‘roadmap’ that the two sides agreed on during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Dhaka last year.

Ahead of the meetings, Dhaka has been urging India to take immediate progress on the Teesta water issue as well as the shooting down of Bangladeshi nationals straying across the Indian border.

Indian officials said the Teesta water pact can go ahead only with the consent of the West Bengal government. Though chief minister Mamata Banerjee had accompanied Prime Minister Modi to Dhaka, the state government has not given its consent for sealing the water sharing pact.

The meeting also comes ahead of two Indian states—Assam and West Bengal—that border Bangladesh preparing to go for polls, which has an inevitable impact on various bilateral initiatives.

Dhaka is also concerned about the ‘border killings’ incidents being on the rise. Indian official figure says 21 persons in the category of cross-border criminals were killed by the BSF along the Bangladesh border. 16 out of 21 were allegedly cattle smugglers. But Bangladeshi official figures say more than 40 people lost their lives in Indian firing in 2015.

The BJP government going strict on the cattle smuggling along the border has become an issue for Bangladesh both in terms of rising demand for legal trade and weaning away people from smuggling.

“Without supply from the Indian side, the beef price has shot up in Bangladesh. That in terms encourages smuggling of cattle, making it a dangerous game for all involved”, said an official on conditions of anonymity.

The two sides will also look into various ongoing projects in Bangladesh with Indian assistance.

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