B'desh-India political relation right for negotiations

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Dhaka, Dec 11: Bangladesh Foreign Advisor Iftekhar Ahmed Chowdhury today said the current Dhaka-New Delhi relations are at appropriate level to begin serious negotiations of the various issues through bilateral mechanisms created for those purposes.

In his inaugural remark, made at the 16th Bangladesh-India dialogue at Brac-In, he said the present warmth in the relationship flowed from the acceptance by India of an ''asymmetrical higher degree of responsibilities in the conduct of bilateral relations, often without reciprocity'' and its understanding of Bangladesh's need to evolve policies that would enable her to live in concord with, but distinct from, her larger neighbour.

These have created a favourable impact of Bangladesh's public opinion and a drive to address and resolve outstanding issues, the Advisor said, adding, ''Both parties realise that if there are hills to climb, waiting would not make them any smaller.'' Among trade issues, Dr Chowdhury said it is necessary to address early the questions of market access for Bangladeshi products into India to make up for the existing large trade imbalance, and also the removal of non-trade barriers.

He said the resolution of water distribution issues, including on Teesta and other rivers, were also awaited. Possible diversion of water from Tepaimukh was a matter of concern not just for Bangladeshis but also for many Indians.

The Advisor said subjects such as Climate Change, were of critical importance to both countries and should be jointly considered. He informed the conference that Bangladesh's offer to host a SAARC Ministerial Meeting on Climate Change next year has been accepted by all concerned.

''Sometimes it is simpler to tackle the easier issues earlier,'' Dr Chowdhury said, adding ''this is like plucking low hanging fruit first. This improves the environment to take up more complex subjects thereafter.'' He also cited 'energy' and 'connectivity' as important areas and invited the civil society to make recommendations in those areas.

''In south Asia we pride ourselves in having the world's most vibrant civil society. It is natural for our governments to have ideas and suggestions from them on how to move ahead to match the aspirations of our peoples,'' Dr Chowdhury said, speaking to the media afterwards.

Professor Rehman Sobhan, chairman CPD and former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh Dev Mukherjee co-chaired the inaugural session.

A 10-member Indian delegation led by Mr Mukherjee is participating in the three-day dialogue designed to make recommendations for cooperation in disaster management, water resources development, development of the energy sector and cooperation in communications, trade and investment.

Prof Sobhan called for collective approach to find a shared solutions to the problems caused by climate change and flooding.

Mr Mukherjee also suggested efforts to deal with issues of trade, investment and connectivity for mutual benefit, adding, ''what is good for Bangladesh is good for India.''


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