Bangladesh can’t live with doors closed, Hasina tells critics


Dhaka: Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Saturday strongly defended the deals she signed in New Delhi earlier this week, telling critics that the country “in this day and age cannot remain with doors closed”.

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She urged opposition parties that have threatened a mass agitation to participate in the parliament sessions instead of making comments on her India visit outside of the house.

Three treaties and two memoranda of understanding (MoUs) were signed between New Delhi and Dhaka during Hasina’s four-day state visit to India early this week, the first since she took office a year ago.

At a media conference called to explain the outcome of her talks with the Indian leadership, Hasina said that her New Delhi trip was successful in the areas of trade, connectivity and power.

Bilateral talks for sharing of the Teesta river waters would take place “immediately”, she told the critics, who have said that she got “only assurances” on river water sharing that is crucial to the country’s farm development.

Earlier, India’s Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen said Dhaka had sought next month’s dates for a meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC), the bilateral mechanism that works on sharing of waters of some 50 rivers the two South Asian neighbours share.

Highlighting a crucial power agreement signed during her visit, Hasina said, “India will provide us 250 MW of electricity. Talks also were held on constructing a joint power plant.”

Maritime boundaries with India will also be determined without delay, Hasina said.

Hasina sought to refute criticism on providing access to India, Nepal and Bhutan to the Chittagong and Mangla ports.

“We have taken initiatives to prepare and develop the Chittagong and Mongla ports so that India, Nepal and Bhutan can start using the ports. At present, only 40 percent of the ports have been used and if we develop the ports, we will be benefited,” Hasina said.

“India will assist us improving Bangladesh Standards and Testing Institution (BSTI), an international-level institute,” Hasina said on a key issue related to export of Bangladeshi goods to India.

On Delhi’s plans to construct a dam on the Barak river at Tipaimukh in northeastern India, Hasina reiterated the assurance she received that India would not do anything that would harm Bangladesh.

The prime minister said her talks with Indian leaders over the border issue were also positive.

“We also asked India to take initiatives to stop killing BDR (Bangladesh Rifles) personnel and innocent Bangladeshi people on the borders,” she said.

In the face of opposition moves to protest the India deals and force the government to annul them, leaders of 14 parties that form the ruling alliance attended the media interaction.

Earlier, in view of the prime minister’s press briefing, Bagladesh National Party (BNP) chief and Leader of the Opposition in parliament Khaleda Zia deferred her announcement of an agitation.

Zia, who is engaging other opposition groups and her Islamist allies to protest the deals and to demand their annulment, will now make the announcement on the agitation Sunday.

Commenting on the Delhi parleys, BNP standing committee member Lt Gen (Retd) Mahbubur Rahman said, “We have given everything but we could not achieve anything.”

The BNP wanted concrete solution to longstanding unresolved issues like rightful water sharing of 54 common rivers that flow from India, maritime boundary and land border among other political and economical affairs, he said.