The joint statement has been published a day after the summit talks between the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India. A few aspects of the statement may warrant discussion.
While the memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed on the common river Kushiyara may not be a significant agreement, it is undoubtedly positive. After all, it has been signed 12 years after minister-level talks of the Joint Rivers Commission. However, the on-going process of exchanging data and information on the rivers of the two countries, must be completed. This has been continuing for 30 years. There needs to be some tangible action. But it is totally unacceptable that the Teesta issue remains hanging in the air, even though the matter had been finalised 11 years ago. There were even no assurances about Teesta this time. Prime minister Narendra Modi had given assurances in this regard at the last two meetings, but this year he said nothing on this head. The joint statement indicates that Teesta has gone into cold storage.
After the summit meeting between the prime ministers of the two countries, the joint statement mentioned sub-regional cooperation regarding connectivity. But all the agreements are between Bangladesh and India. Only the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) motor vehicle agreement has been mentioned. This has been stalled because of Bhutan for long. Since the other three countries are in consensus, where is the constraint in implementing this? There are several positive aspects in railway development. This too is basically between Bangladesh and India. In other words, there is nothing specific about sub-regional cooperation regarding connectivity.
Supply of essential commodities from India to Bangladesh has been mentioned. This is in place at the moment too. Bangladesh's requirements are obvious. Since a large volume of the essential commodities come from India, Bangladesh faces a crisis if supplies are suddenly halted. India said it will try to ensure that this doesn't happen. If warnings can be issued in advance by both sides, the situation can be brought under control. If we are informed in advance that crops in India are being damaged, we can ensure supply of the product from other sources in keeping with our demand. I find this to be particularly important.
Not even one single death along the border is acceptable. The joint statement said that both sides will make an effort in this regard. It is not about both sides. BGB doesn't shoot and kill people. It is for India to take measures. If India has correct and strong political directives, this will come to a halt at the ground level.
The Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) is good, undoubtedly. But the business community and all other relevant quarters must be included in such an agreement. It would not be right to sidestep them.
* This opinion appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ayesha Kabir