Guwahati, Thursday, September 8, 2011
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PM's Dhaka visit: Teesta didn't happen, but a lot else did

 NEW DELHI/DHAKA, Sept 8 (IANS): The two-day visit of Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh, the first by an Indian prime minister in 12 years, helped resolve a festering boundary row and saw both countries inking pacts on various issues. Teesta accord didn't happen, but experts here said Thursday that though there may be disappointment, "look at how much has been done".

External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna and Chief Ministers Tarun Gogoi of Assam, Manik Sarkar of Tripura, Pu Lalthanhawla of Mizoram and Mukul Sangma of Meghalaya too were at Dhaka, a rare move that shows the significance of the Sep 6-7 visit.

Deb Mukharji, a former Indian high commissioner to Bangladesh, told IANS "a number of very positive things have happened" during the trip while Arvind Gupta of the Institute of Defence Studies and Analyses stressed that one should take a long term view as there had been "incremental progress".

The two countries signed a framework agreement on cooperation for development and a protocol on demarcating their land boundary, a pact to facilitate overland transit to Nepal and on conserving the Royal Bengal Tiger and the Sundarbans.

There were Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) in fisheries, cooperation between Dhaka University and Jawaharlal Nehru University, cooperation between Doordarshan and Bangladesh Television and between the fashion technology institutes of the two countries.

The Teesta water accord did not happen after West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee protested against it, a move that clouded the visit.

Manmohan Singh Wednesday expressed his disappointment at the failure of two countries to sign the Teesta water accord and told officials to "intensify their efforts towards finding a viable formula which does not cause undue distress to all those, in India or in Bangladesh".

The Teesta, which begins its journey in Sikkim, flows through north Bengal before entering Bangladesh. India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers.

"One should take a long term view" of the two-day visit, Gupta told IANS.

Describing the visit as "effective", he suggested that the Teesta issue should be sorted out soon and "it should not be made as a one point agenda".

While noting that India and Bangladesh have made "incremental progress", Gupta said that such kind of problems can arise in future too.

"(There is a) bit disappointment...(but) look at how much work has been done," he said and added that the land boundary issue being resolved was a big moment.

India and Bangladesh share over a 4,000 km long boundary.

In trade too, there was progress, he added.

The growing trade deficit between India and Bangladesh was addressed during the trip. The gap was $1,998.58 million in fiscal 2006-07 and reached $4,057 million in 2010-11.

Deb Mukharji agreed with Gupta.

Mukharji said "a number of very positive things have happened".

"Several issues pending for a long time were resolved," he added.

The former high commissioner to Bangladesh said that Teesta was on top of the Bangladesh agenda.

Though "it fell through at the last minute", he said he hoped "Delhi would get active on it".

Mukharji said that there was a "lot of progress" and "all this is positive".

Bangladeshi media, though, has not taken kindly to the Teesta accord not getting signed during the current trip of the prime minister.

Daily Star said: "The long-term and short-term fallout from the less than expected success of the Hasina-Manmohan summit will take some time to be gauged. But there is no hiding from the fact that failure to agree on the most important item of the agenda has dealt a severe blow to the prospect of growth of our bilateral relations."

New Age was even more critical.

Manmohan Singh's visit "in all practical purposes, proved to be an anti-climax, anything but a diplomatic jackpot or a watershed in Bangladesh-India relations that the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, herself and her government have sought to hype it up to be in the past 20 months or so", it said in an editorial.

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