New Delhi, Jan. 21: Setting aside differences and marking a forward movement in bilateral ties, India and Bangladesh today agreed to set up an eight-member committee of senior technical experts to prepare a draft interim agreement on sharing Teesta water.
The success of the two-day meeting of the India-Bangladesh Joint Committee of Experts meeting that began yesterday was evident from a joint statement issued this afternoon.
“The leaders of the delegation expressed satisfaction that a forward movement has been made in constituting the senior technical experts’ group which has been mandated to come up with recommendations in a time-bound manner to assist the JCE (joint committee of experts) in resolving the pending issues,” the statement said.
At a meeting on the sidelines of the Saarc summit in Islamabad earlier this month, Atal Bihari Vajpayee and his Bangladeshi counterpart Begum Khaleda Zia had agreed to settle all outstanding bilateral issues through mutual consultation and cooperation.
Unlike the last meeting between the neighbours’ water resources ministers in September last year, the experts held talks this time in an atmosphere of “cordiality, friendship and mutual understanding”.
At the September meeting, India’s proposed move to inter-link the Ganga and Brahmaputra acted as a spoiler and talks stalled at one point because of Delhi’s refusal to accept that Dhaka had legitimate grounds to express concern over the proposed move.
The meeting which almost ended in stalemate with the Bangladeshi delegation threatening to leave Delhi without signing the joint document, ended amicably after the Indian side assured the visitors that no steps on inter-linking would be taken without Dhaka being consulted.
Mindful of the sensitive nature of the matter, both sides took ample care at the just-ended meeting not to raise the river inter-linking issue.
Water resources secretary V.K. Duggal, who led the Indian side, said a joint technical group would undertake a scientific survey of water availability in the Teesta and submit a report by mid-May. The joint committee will meet after that to discuss the report before finalising the draft interim agreement.
“The outcome is very positive. We see this as a move forward,” Bangladesh water resources secretary Ayub Quadri said. Echoing him, Duggal said: “A positive forward step has been taken.”
The meeting took place at a time when Delhi has been demanding that Dhaka crack down on Northeast insurgents operating camps on its soil just like Bhutan had done recently.
Bangladesh did round up some people whom they preferred to term “criminals” but said there were no rebel camps on its territory. It added that Dhaka’s interests were not served by allowing any insurgents to operate from its soil.