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Cooperation treaty with Dhaka during PM visit

Dhaka: India and Bangladesh are set to sign a landmark cooperation agreement covering a range of bilateral issues, and protocols to settle the protracted land boundary issues during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh`s visit.

The September 6-7 visit will also see the two sides `exchange a letter` on the use of two Bangla ports as transit points by India.

The two sides appear to have finalised details of the agreements to be inked during the two-day visit after National Security Advisor Shivshankar Menon made two quick visits to the country this week to iron out all the differences.

Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni said today that a comprehensive framework cooperation agreement will be inked between the two countries along with several other MoUs and protocols when Singh arrives here on September 6.

"This framework agreement will involve all bilateral issues like joint basin management (of common rivers), frontier problems and trade… this will also incorporate regional matters for cooperation among the countries in the region," she told a crowded press briefing at her office.

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The two sides will also sign an agreement on sharing of waters in the Teesta and Feni rivers and protocols on land boundary issues seeking to end the protracted problems of cross-border enclaves, lands in adverse possession and un-demarcated frontlines.

Bangladesh was insisting on signing a framework agreement on transit instead of a revised Indian proposal for inking a protocol on using the country`s two seaports. However, the two sides have now settled for `exchanging a letter` on transit.

Replying to a question, Moni said the two neighbours were unlikely to sign any transit agreement during the visit but instead exchange a letter on uses of Bangladesh`s two seaports of Chitagong and Mongla by India.

The letter, Moni said, would convey the affirmation of both countries on the existing connectivity or transit arrangements through different means while subsequent protocols would set the modus operandi for the use of the ports for transit.

The comprehensive framework cooperation agreement will be signed by Singh and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina.

This will be the first bilateral visit by an Indian Prime Minister since 1999.

Bangladesh and India had a 25-year Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace signed on March 19, 1972 but the two governments did not renegotiate or renew the treaty when it approached expiry in 1997.

Moni negated fears expressed by several independent experts and think tanks who said the transit modalities were being fixed without exhausting the due legal steps or international practices.

"Everything is being done following the legal procedures and international practices as a core committee and five sub-committees, also involving experts beyond the government, are working on the mater… nothing will be done beyond international practices," she said.

She said the two countries would also sign a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on bilateral railway connectivity, amending a previous one between the two state-run services to connect Nepal through an additional route.

The two premiers would also witness the signing of MoUs on renewable energy, fisheries resources, cooperation between Dhaka University and Jawaharlal Nehru University and state-run Bangladesh Television and Doordarshan.

Replying to a question she negated the possibility of signing any extradition treaty between the two capitals for exchange of wanted people of the two countries staying in each others territories.


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