Eastern Times Correspondent, Dhaka, 27 December : Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Vikram K Doraiswami has said they want to move “very quickly” on water sharing of six common rivers during the celebratory year of 2021 showing that the spirit of partnership and sharing between the two countries remains very strong.
“We see no barrier to sharing (six common rivers) water with Bangladesh. I think we can move very quickly. The main thing is to come up with data,” he told UNB in an interview.
The High Commissioner said water is a sensitive topic for everybody and they all need water; and laid emphasis on harmonization of data from both sides.
“So, we have to be sure; and your side will have to be sure that data is harmonized.”
Doraiswami said the technical committee-level meeting is likely to be held in the first week of January and then the two countries can put together a broad framework of sharing water.
After the technical committee meeting, water resources secretaries will hold a meeting with the intention that both sides will try and finalize this within this celebratory year so that they can show that the spirit of sharing of partnership remains very strong.
“We’ve to share the waters. We’re friends. We’re neighbours. I think this will move very quickly,” said the High Commissioner expressing his optimism to hold the Joint Rivers Commission meeting in 2021 if the pandemic allows.
He said, “We’re fully in support of holding JRC if the pandemic allows.”
During the December 17 virtual Summit, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina highlighted the need for the early signing of an interim agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both the governments in 2011.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has reiterated India’s “sincere commitment” and continued efforts of the government of India in that regard.
The two leaders underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers — Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
The Bangladesh side also requested the Indian side to inform its border authorities concerned to allow excavation work of the remaining portion of the Rahimpur Khal for utilization of Kushiyara River waters for irrigation purposes.
The Indian side was also requested to provide early concurrence on the proposed MoU to be signed between the two countries for monitoring the withdrawal of water from the Kushiyara River by both sides, pending signing of the Treaty/Agreement over sharing Kushiyara River water.
The two leaders recalled the positive contributions of the Joint Rivers Commission and looked forward to the next round of Secretarial level JRC meeting at the earliest.
Responding to a question over border killing, the High Commissioner said human life is precious and they cannot and should not have anybody being hurt or killed but the problem is that it is happening on both sides of the border.
He said 90 percent of the incidents happen between 10pm to 4am and the intention of the border forces is not to hurt people.
“We agree that no life should be lost on both sides,” the High Commissioner said adding that larger economic development must happen.
Doraiswami said they can do far more coordinated patrolling on the border, exchange of intelligence, and acting on both sides based on intelligence sharing between the border forces — BSF and BGB.
“We need to involve civil administration, too and brief people on both sides daily, particularly during winter season saying that do not go across the border, do not cut the fences, it is risky and it could lead to fatal accidents,” he said adding that this also can be done in a coordinated manner.
The High Commissioner laid emphasis on border haats which will encourage people to do things legally. “Let’s recognize that there’re common ecosystems that must be supported. It’s a human problem. It’s a law-and-order problem. That means both sides must work together.”
During the December 17 Summit, both leaders also agreed that the loss of civilian lives at the border is a matter of concern and directed the border forces concerned to enhance coordinate measures to work towards bringing such border incidents to a zero level.
The leaders stressed full implementation of the ongoing Coordinated Border Management Plan. Both sides noted with satisfaction the recent stepped-up efforts of the two border guarding forces against smuggling of arms, narcotics and fake currency and to prevent trafficking, particularly of women and children.
Under India’s Neighbourhood First Policy, India assured that vaccines would be made available to Bangladesh as and when produced in India; and reiterated the highest priority India attaches to Bangladesh.
The two countries also noted the ongoing bilateral collaboration between the private sectors in this area.
India also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production while Bangladesh appreciated India’s conducting capacity building courses for medical professionals in Bangla language.
“You’ve your own regulatory process for the vaccine, as soon as your regulator clears the vaccine, our regulator will do the same. I think the agreement has already specified how much vaccine will be delivered each month,” said the Indian High Commissioner.
Doraiswami said they would be happy to do more, if possible, not just the supply of vaccine but they are ready to do a medical trial to go to the production phase and co-production.
Apart from India, he said, only Bangladesh has the capacity to produce vaccines in South Asia. “These’re the things we can do together.”