India, Bangladesh to combat terrorism, expand trade


New Delhi : India and Bangladesh Thursday decided to intensify cooperation in combating terrorism and to resolve other issues like their long-standing river water dispute that has dogged ties between the two countries.

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Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon held talks with his Bangladeshi counterpart Touhid Hossain on a wide range of bilateral, regional and global issues here in a “friendly atmosphere” aimed at building “trust and understanding” between the two countries.

Speaking to reporters after the two sides ended their annual foreign office consultations, Menon said: “We are convinced that our security is interlinked and that terrorism will have to be tackled resolutely.”

“We discussed the issue of terrorism and how we both need to face it together,” he said at a joint press briefing with Hossain when asked whether the issue of alleged complicity of Harkat-ul-Jihad-al Islami (HUJI), a militant outfit which is suspected to operate from Bangladesh, was involved in recent terror attacks in India.

“The details, of course, are dealt with in other fora. We have other fora where we discuss these things, the home secretaries’ talks and so on. And we look forward to working together against terrorism,” he replied.

Underlining India’s commitment to strengthening ties with Bangladesh, Menon announced that Army Chief Deepak Kapoor and Home Secretary Madhukar Gupta will be visiting Dhaka soon.

Hossain agreed with Menon that terrorism was a global problem. “We have a mechanism for cooperation in this sector and we will continue to do that,” he underlined.

The long-standing cross-border river water dispute saw some progress with both sides deciding to hold the meeting of the technical committees.

“On the water issue we have agreed that the technical committees should sit very quickly to resolve one small issue that can be resolved quickly – the embankment protection of the rivers which has been harming the people on both sides of our border,” Hossain said.

The two top officials were also upbeat about expanding trade and economic ties between the two countries. Hossain said a bilateral investment and protection treaty (BIPA) was in “an advanced stage of finalization.”

“We believe that in the near future we will be able to do something on that,” he said.

“We did not shy away from discussing all issues which we consider important for the present and the future of the robust, friendly relations between Bangladesh and India,” Hossain said.

The annual foreign office consultations took place amid an atmosphere of hope created by the launch of the cross-border Friendship (Moitree) Train connecting Dhaka and Kolkata early this year and the restarting of rice exports by India.