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Bangladesh Demands Upgradation of Joint River Commission with India

NEW DELHI : Concerned over China’s activities on water diversion projects involving the Brahmaputra river, Bangladesh which shares 54 rivers with India has demanded upgradation of the existing Indo-Bangla Joint River Commission (JRC) to a river basin management system .

Addressing a meet the press programme at the Indian Women’s Press Corps (IWPC) here on Thursday, Bangladesh High Commissioner to India Syed Muazzam Ali said the crucial topic came for discussion between Prime  Minister Sheikh Hasina and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week when they met in West Bengal. Sheikh Hasina was on a two-day visit to West Bengal during which she also met State Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

Admitting that water sharing remains a "very sensitive’’ issue between the two countries, the High Commissioner said that Dhaka had also noted with concern China’s refusal to share data pertaining to rivers with India. ``Our Prime Minister also impressed upon Mr. Modi to undertake joint dredging operations in our rivers which should be taken up simultaneously. She also pointed to the need for upgrading the joint river commission to an institutional system of basin management which would take care of other related issues as well because there will be a better coordination,’’ he said.

As Bangladesh is keen to have an agreement with India on Teesta water sharing which remains blocked due to objections by West Bengal government, the High Commissioner expressed the hope that the State government would come on board after internal discussions with the Union government and Sikkim government.

External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj, in her annual press conference on May 28, had also said that it was important for West Bengal government to be on board for any agreement with Bangladesh on sharing of Teesta water.  

Asked if Teesta agreement could come about before December when general elections in Bangladesh are due, he said Dhaka would be looking at it in a positive way as BIMSTEC summit is also due to be held in November. ``We are trying to make right kind of progress on this issue as well as on repatriation of Rohingya refugees to Myanmar who have taken shelter in  Bangladesh,’’ he said.

On the status of Indo-Bangla relations, the High Commissioner said the bilateral ties were at an all time high level, adding that he could feel that the 1971 spirit was back.

Syed Muazzam Ali said that India and Bangladesh which has 4,000 km running border with India has settled land and maritime boundaries with India and gave the credit for it to the two Prime Ministers – Mr. Modi and Sheikh Hasina. He said that Dhaka has declared "zero tolerance’’ policy towards terrorism and added that a viable and secure Bangladesh would be to the advantage of India. "Similarly, a vibrant India will offer a great opportunity for economic development of Bangladesh,’’ the freedom fighter-diplomat said.

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