Saturday, July 02, 2005

ASSESSMENT: Bangladesh-India relations need new impetus

Whatever sincerity Bangladesh has got for maintaining good relations with India for mutual benefit evaporates due to lack of similar desire or feeling from the Indian side as it has been observed from the beginning of the birth of Bangladesh. In the initial years, the bilateral trade turned to be a flop when officially the export of much-liked fish from Bangladesh through Benapole was discouraged. The bilateral trade over the period has now been in highly imbalanced position as the informal trade, in fact, commands three-fourth of the total business. To overcome the nagging issue, Bangladesh's repeated requests of duty-free access for some selected commodities went unheeded even though the successive Indian governments had agreed and accepted. The Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission, better known as JRC, could not ensure sharing of water of the international and common river, the Ganges even after India's controversial construction of the Farakka Barrage. The issues of sharing of other 53 common rivers are going to face the same fate as India is now planning to go ahead with its own river-linking project with a view to having total control over the South Asian river system. India, as closest neighbour, does not feel even to consult the co-riparian countries having rights over the common rivers in this regard. India is trying to impress Bangladesh that before they take up the project they would discuss with us. It reminds one of how even the assurance that was given by India at the highest level of ensuring Bangladesh's share of water of the Ganges before commissioning of the Farakka Barrage was totally ignored.

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