New Delhi, July 17 : Foreign Secretaries of India and Bangladesh today described terrorism as a global problem, and added that the governments of both countries have been discussing counter-strategies to neutralise this menace at both the bilateral and multilateral levels.
Addressing a joint press conference here this afternoon after a day-long Foreign Office consultations, India's Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon and his Bangladeshi counterpart Mohammad Touhid Hossain said: "We are convinced that our security is interlinked, and that terrorism will have to be tackled resolutely."
Menon said: We discussed the issue of terrorism and how we both need to face it together. The details, of course, are dealt with in other fora. We have other places where we discuss these things, the Home Secretaries' talks and so on. And we look forward to working together against terrorism.
Concurring with Menon's views, Hossain said: "I fully agree with what he (Menon) has said. I just have to add one thing that we think this is a global problem. We have a mechanism for cooperation in this sector and we will continue to do that."
The two officials also confirmed that they had discussed a number of other issues of mutual interest to both countries in great detail and in a candid manner.
Both replied in the affirmative that the issue of water sharing was taken up among others, and Foreign Secretary Hossain said that both sides were in agreement for the setting up of a technical committee "to resolve the issue of embankment protection of the rivers which has been harming the people on both sides of our border."
India and Bangladesh share a 4,096-km land and riverine border, of which West and East Bengal share 2,216 km.
India and Bangladesh have repeatedly accused each other of constructing concrete embankments on the Mahananda River, which causes massive soil erosion, and therefore, loss of territory.
Both sides claim their respective embankments are temporary protective structures while accusing the other of putting up concrete structures.
In fact, the confrontation over the embankment issue took an ugly turn on several occasions in the past and has also sparked off skirmishes between the Bangladesh Rifles and the Border Security Force, leading to the deaths of innocent civilians.
The idea of converting temporary embankments on both sides into permanent structures was mooted at previous meetings of the Joint River Commission and was also proposed by the two countries Water Resources Ministers last year.
Both countries share 54 common rivers, including the rivers Ganga and Brahmaputra. Foreign Secretary Menon described the talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart as having "covered all aspects of our relations."
He said India and Bangladesh share a common cultural heritage and historical bonds, and therefore, New Delhi would always remain committed to strengthening its relationship with Dhaka.
"We had a very good discussion today where we discussed our trade and economic relations, our political relations, common security issues, water issues and the other aspects where we would like to carry our relationship forward," Menon said.
He said that since April last year, the relationship between India and Bangladesh has been extremely productive, and substantiated this view by highlighting important achievements:
Among them he said were the start of the Maitri Express between Kolkata and Dhaka in April 2007 and the visit of the Chief of Army Staff of Bangladesh, Lt. Gen. Moeen U. Ahmed.
He said that the importance attached to Bangladesh could be gauged by the fact that External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukherjee had visited Bangladesh twice in the last year, as also by the fact that Indian had come to Bangladesh's assistance with alacrity when that country was hit by a series of natural disasters.
Menon said that Army Chief General Deepak Kapoor would be visiting Bangladesh soon, as also Union Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta.
"We both exchanged views on how to deal with some of the humanitarian aspects, water resources issues for instance; and we are trying to enhance cooperation in agriculture and in science and technology. I am confident that this round of Foreign Office Consultations helped build trust and understanding between our two countries, and we look forward to continuing this process," Menon said.
Bangladesh Foreign Secretary Hossain said he was delighted to visit to New Delhi, and described his talks with Menon as very useful and constructive.
"We did not shy away from discussing all issues which we considered important for the present and the future of the robust, friendly relations between Bangladesh and India. Our discussions have been candid, comprehensive and forward-looking. I have every reason to believe that ours has been a useful round of discussions which would enable us to continue to work constructively in the days and years ahead to enrich our already close bilateral relationship," he said.
When both were asked about the status of the bilateral investment protection agreement (BIPA), Hossain and Menon said discussions on it were at "an advanced stage of finalization" and "we believe that in the near future we will be able to do something on that."