Historic treaties

Historic treaties

The many political and economic agreements signed by India and Bangladesh during prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka have put an end to most of the irritants in their bilateral relationship. In spite of the momentum given to it by the visit of prime minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi last year, issues of discord like border disputes, sharing of river waters and economic co-operation had remained to be settled. It has taken time to resolve every issue.  But the failure to sign the treaty on sharing of the Teesta waters should not detract from the agreements reached on other issues. The most important among them is the border agreement. By deciding to implement the 1974 accord and agreeing on the specific issues the contentious border problem has been completely resolved.

The decision on mutual transfer of a number of villages and grant of citizenship rights to people in adversely held enclaves has removed a longstanding anomaly.  Many  people had to take circuitous routes and had to travel only during certain hours even to meet daily needs. Apart from liberalising the terms of the $ 1 billion line of credit given to Bangladesh, India has also given quota-free access to its market for 46 Bangladeshi textile products and 15 other items. This has been a major demand of Bangladesh where the textile industry is strong. It has always complained about its unfavourable balance of trade with India. India, which has a much larger economy, did well to be considerate to that country’s needs and sensitivities.

The prime minister’s visit would have been a comprehensive success if the agreements on the sharing of  the waters of the Teesta and a transit facility for India through Bangladesh to the North-Eastern states had also been signed. The water-sharing agreement was ready and would have been inked but for West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s last minute objection to it. The Centre has to be blamed for not communicating with the state government on the provisions of the draft treaty in time, even though the state was aware of them. Efforts must be made to sign the treaty soon, after removing the West Bengal government’s reservations. It will pave the way for regular transit of people and goods from India through Bangladesh, which gives enormous economic benefits to West Bengal also, apart from the North-Eastern states. A close and friendly relationship with Bangladesh is also essential for India’s national security.

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