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Bangladesh springs conditionsfor India-Myanmar gas pipeline

From The Financial Express, India
June 24, 2005
link to this article.

Bangladesh on Thursday expressed its Opposition to India's ambitious project to interlink rivers and put conditions for allowing a gas pipeline between India and Myanmar through its territory.

Dhaka also sought expediting of work on settlement of the boundary dispute for which the two sides agreed to revive the joint working group (JWG) and decided to hold meetings to sort out differences over fencing being carried out by India.

"There is a lot of concern in Bangladesh about the inter-linking of rivers project of India," Bangladesh foreign secretary Mohd Hemayetuddin said a day after conclusion of his two-day talks with his Indian counterpart Shyam Saran in the Capital.

Noting that it was not some "anti-India sentiment", he said the project would "affect the interests" of his country. "It is a matter of our survival," he said, adding Bangladesh shared 54 rivers with India and the inter-linking project could divert water at the cost of his country.

Pointing out that the matter was raised with the Indian side at the talks, Mr Hemayetuddin said New Delhi had given an assurance that it will take no step that is detrimental to the interests of Bangladesh.

The Indian side, he said, has assured to hold consultations with Bangladesh on the matter if required.

Mr Hemayetuddin also favoured water-sharing agreements on six major rivers, including Teesta. The two countries already have such an agreement on river Ganga.

He said water resources ministers of the two countries will meet soon in Dhaka which could be followed by a meeting of the joint rivers Commission.

On the proposal to construct an India-Myanmar gas pipeline passing through Bangladesh, the foreign secretary said his country was not averse to it but wanted India to "sort out certain things".

He identified three major issues which it wanted New Delhi to address - reduction of trade imbalance, providing corridor for Nepalese goods to Bangladeshi ports and access to hydro-electric potential in Bhutan.

India has a large advantage in balance of trade vis-a-vis Bangladesh, he said and added that New Delhi had expressed its sincerity to address the issue of imbalance.

Bangladesh, he said, favours reduction of tariff barriers as one of the steps to address the issue trade imbalance.

On his meeting with commerce minister Kamal Nath, Mr Hemayetuddin said "a basket of items" have been identified for consideration for preferential treatment to the Bangladesh.

He also virtually ruled out Bangladesh giving gas to India saying Dhaka would first have to assess how much reserves it has for several decades and how it can take care of its own needs.

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