B’desh could use USD 200 mln grant for Padma Bridge: Mathai

Dhaka: India today allowed Bangladesh to divert USD 200 million grant from its USD 1 billion credit line to complete Dhaka's ambitious graft-hit Padma bridge project, which is now stuck up in a financial impasse.
"We haven't begun any formal talks on financing Padma bridge. If Bangladesh wishes it can use USD 200 million grant from India's USD 1 billion credit line," Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said during a joint press conference with his counterpart Shahidul Haque here.
Mathai said the Padma bridge project, which requires an investment of USD 3 billion, was a big project and no partner would alone be able to provide full finance.
He suggested Bangladesh to seek funds from other partners, but said India has no objection if Dhaka wanted to utilise the USD 200 million grant for the project.
Mathai's tour comes ahead of External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid's visit to Bangladesh. Khurshid will travel to Dhaka on February 16-17 to co-chair the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission Meeting to and review bilateral ties.
Later in a courtesy call on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office, Mathai said a process was underway for the speedy disbursement of the grant of USD 200 million.
"The Indian foreign secretary also apprised the Prime Minister that India is prepared to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement 1974 in the current session of Lok Sabha," a prime minister's office spokesman said.
Bangladesh on February 1 withdrew requests for a World Bank (WB) loan of USD 1.2 billion for the Padma bridge project months after the global lending agency suspended the credit deal over a graft controversy.
Earlier, the two foreign secretaries singed a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) to help each others' Foreign Service officials to avail quality trainings both at Indian and Bangladesh Foreign Service academies.
Haque told the briefing that all unresolved bilateral issues like Teesta water sharing treaty, LBA ratification in Indian parliament, removal of non-tariff barriers by India and proposed Tipaimukh Dam in Manipur came up for discussion.