Monday, 30th October 2017

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Jaishankar briefs Dhaka on Kashmir position

Foreign secretary-turned-foreign minister ticks all the right boxes that are crucial for New Delhi-Dhaka bilateral relationship

By Devadeep Purohit in Calcutta
  • Published 21.08.19, 2:42 AM
  • Updated 21.08.19, 2:42 AM
  • 2 mins read
  •  
S Jaishankar in Dhaka on Monday. (PTI)

External affairs minister S. Jaishankar on Tuesday apparently apprised the Bangladesh leadership of India’s position on Jammu and Kashmir after ticking all the right boxes that are crucial for New Delhi-Dhaka bilateral relationship.

The foreign secretary-turned-foreign minister who is in the Bangladesh capital on a two-day visit met his counterpart A.K. Abdul Momen on Tuesday.

He also called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and handed over an invitation letter from her Indian opposite number Narendra Modi to visit the country.

Sources aware of what transpired at the meeting between Jaishankar and Momen said after discussions on all the bilateral issues and modalities of Hasina’s impending India visit in October, he had briefly touched upon the Kashmir issue.

“His main point was that Kashmir was India’s internal issue and the recent moves of the government in the valley were in accordance with provisions in the Indian constitution,” said a source in Dhaka.

At a joint news conference after the meeting of the two foreign ministers, Jaishankar was asked if Kashmir had come up for discussion. But he didn’t comment.

In the evening, when this newspaper asked the same question to Momen over the phone, he replied: “There was no official discussion on this.”

The stress on “official discussion” in the response dropped hints that the matter could have come up briefly when the two foreign ministers met.

Another source said: “Bangladesh has always maintained silence on the Kashmir issue irrespective of the government in Dhaka. And if you ask me, Kashmir can never come in the way of India-Bangladesh relationship. Maybe because of all the attention that developments in the valley are drawing and Pakistan’s attempts to take it up in international forums, the Indian foreign minister may have briefly touched upon the issue.”

According to sources in Dhaka, though India doesn’t owe any explanation to Bangladesh on Kashmir, it is a good idea to brief the neighbours.

Jaishankar also met some eminent citizens of Bangladesh over lunch where he praised achievements made by Bangladesh in recent years.

At the joint news conference, Jaishankar said the ongoing National Register of Citizens exercise in Assam was “an internal matter for India”.

He also touched upon the other contentious issue and said water resource was an “important subject” for Bangladesh and both the countries were looking forward to make progress towards finding a mutually acceptable formula for the 54 rivers that the two countries share.

“We are ready to make a start wherever possible. We have a position and you are aware of that. We have a commitment on that position and that does not change,” he said when asked to comment specifically on the Teesta, indicating Delhi’s previous position that it was ready to sign the deal once the Bengal government agreed to it.

The stress on India’s commitment on the Teesta was seen as a positive development by many in Dhaka.

“The meetings went off much better than expected. Our leader shares a special relationship with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the meetings were a reflection of that,” said minister Momen.