Confident on Teesta, PM gives $5-billion to Bangladesh

New Delhi: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday expressed the firm belief that there will be an early solution to the issue of sharing waters of the Teesta river with Bangladesh while announcing $5-billion lines of credit to the eastern neighbour.

"Along with our shared land boundaries are our shared rivers," Modi said while jointly addressing the media with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina following bilateral talks here.

"They sustain our peoples and their livelihoods. And, the one that has attracted the greatest attention is the Teesta," he said.

He said this was "important for India, for Bangladesh and for India-Bangladesh relationship".

"I assure you and the people of Bangladesh of our commitment and continuing efforts. I firmly believe that it is only my government and Excellency Sheikh Hasina, your government, that can and will find an early solution to Teesta water sharing," Modi said.

He also appreciated Bangladesh's efforts to contain radicalism and religious extremism and said: "We have the greatest admiration for Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's firm resolve in dealing with terrorism. Her government's ‘zero-tolerance' policy towards terrorism is an inspiration for all of us."

At a separate event to honour Indian martyrs in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War, without naming Pakistan, Modi said that "there is an ideology in South Asia which promotes terrorism, and thus obstructs growth in the whole region".

In his statement to the media, he announced a line of credit of $4.5-billion for the implementation of projects in priority sectors for Bangladesh.

He announced a separate line of credit of $500 million to support Bangladesh's defence-related procurement.

India and Bangladesh signed 22 agreements following Saturday's talks.

Stating that energy security was an important dimension of the two countries' development partnership, Modi said:  

"Today, we added an additional 60 MW of power to the 600 MW of power already flowing from India to Bangladesh. The supply of another 500 MW has already been committed from the existing inter-connection."

After having jointly launched with Sheikh Hasina train and bus services between Kolkata and Khulna in Bangladesh and restoring the once defunct Radhikapur-Biral rail link between the two countries, Modi expressed the hope for early implementation of the Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement and said that "this would usher in a new era of sub-regional integration."

The Indian Prime Minister also called for business and industry of both the countries to work towards diversifying bilateral commercial engagements.

"Our agreement to open new border haats will empower border communities through trade and contribute to their livelihoods," he stated.

On her part, Sheikh Hasina appreciated Modi "for his dynamism and innovative ideas that are not only taking India forward but adding value to our our bilateral relationship".

She also reiterated her commitment for a peaceful border with India free of crime.

At the event to honour the Indian martyrs, she said: "I am grateful to the government and people of India for their contribution to Bangladesh's War of Independence. Many Indian soldiers sacrificed their lives... We will always remember them with gratitude."

Later, briefing the media, Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar said that the $4.5-billion credit line is one of the biggest credit lines ever offered by India to any country.

He said that 17 projects have been identified for utilisation of the new line of credit. India had earlier extended two lines of credit of $862 million and $2 billion to Bangladesh .

Of the 22 agreements signed, Jaishankar said nine agreements are on development of trade, four agreements on high technology covering civil nuclear cooperation and space, and five agreements on defence cooperation.

A joint statement issued later in the day said that "the two Prime Ministers reiterated their strong commitment to combat terrorism in all its forms and manifestations, and stressed that there can be no justification whatsoever for any act of terror".

"Prime Minister Hasina requested Prime Minister Modi for conclusion of the Interim Agreement on Sharing of the Water of Teesta as agreed upon by both governments in January 2011," it stated.

"Prime Minister Modi reiterated that his government is working with all stakeholders in India for an early conclusion of the Agreement."  

The Bangladesh Prime Minister arrived here on Friday on a four-day visit to India. This is her first bilateral visit to India in seven years after her visit in 2010.

Earlier on Saturday, she was accorded a ceremonial welcome at Rashtrapati Bhavan. In the evening, she called on Vice President Hamid Ansari.

IANS