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India, Bangladesh should explore new areas of cooperation to boost ties: IDSA report

New Delhi , Fri, 02 Sep 2011 ANI

New Delhi, Sep.2 (ANI): Stating that the significance of strong India-Bangladesh ties goes beyond the bilateral context, a four-member Institute of Studies and Analyses (IDSA).task force has made 20 recommendations, which they think can improve relations between the two South Asian neighbours further.


In their report titled "India and Bangladesh: Moving Towards Convergence", released ahead of Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh's two-day visit to Bangladesh on September 6 and 7, the task force said there were several areas where the governments of the two countries could enhance cooperation, including counter-terrorism, martime and border disputes, reduction iin trade deficits etc.


IDSA scholars, Dr Arvind Gupta, Dr Anand Kumar, Dr Smruti Pattanaik, Dr Sreeradha Datta and Dr Ashok Behuria said in their report that Prime Minister Singh's visit provides an opportunity to take India-Bangladesh relations to a higher trajectory and move towards a strategic partnership.


It recommends that both sides should explore new areas of cooperation on climate change, science and technology, IT and communication, space, medicine and health, disaster management, food and energy security etc.


It claims that Bangladesh has taken steps to address India's security concerns, while India has shown sensitivity to Bangladeshi concerns and come out with a comprehensive assistance and cooperation package for Bangladesh.


These moves, the report says have created the environment for transformation of India-Bangladesh ties.


The report, however, cautions against complacency and urges the two governments to maintain positive momentum in bilateral relations.


Among the key recommendations are:


1. The trade deficit of Bangladesh has been a long-standing issue in bilateral relations. Bangladesh, after having cooperated with India in security matters and the landmark visit of Sheikh Hasina, is now looking for a major concession to boost its trade. Though an FTA with Bangladesh is preferable, in the event of its not being realised in short term the government of India can think of making unilateral concessions. It can consider abrogating the negative list or at least make it as small as possible.


2. The legacy issues- demarcation of the land border, exchange of enclaves and adverse possessions, Teen Bigha corridor flyover, etc.- should be settled as a package.


3. Bangladesh would be seeking an agreement on river water sharing. Both countries have nearly reached an agreement on sharing of the water of Teesta and four other rivers. Minor differences should not be allowed to come in the way and an agreement should be signed.


4. Resolution of the maritime dispute is desirable. But given the high stakes for both sides we should wait for the decision of the tribunal and propose the joint exploration of hydrocarbon resources in the Bay of Bengal. Indian companies can also offer technical assistance to Petrobangla.


5. Security cooperation with Bangladesh is commendable. But there is need to institutionalise, it, so that it is not limited to any particular regime. Information sharing, joint patrolling etc. should be given top priority. The US-Mexico model on the joint management of border can be considered.


6. The Sheikh Hasina government has proposed a South Asia Task Force on terrorism. Bangladesh should play a lead role in this. A counter-terrorism centre based in Dhaka can be set up to help the task force,. India could offer to fund the centre.


7. Connectivity should be a top priority. Both countries should work to operationalise it as soon as possible. A public campaign as to why connectivity will be advantageous for the people on both sides can be launched.


8. India should persuade Bangladesh to acknowledge the problem of illegal migration. Both sides should try to create an environment where this issue can be amicably dealt with. Innovative methods like work permits can be considered.


9.A liberal visa regime to facilitate tourism, student exchanges, cultural contacts etc.


10. Educational links should be strengthened. Indian private universities could organise education fairs in Bangladesh so that more and more Bangladeshi students can use the facilities available in India. To foster academic research, both countries could consider setting up academic chairs in each other's countries.


11. The two sides can enhance cooperation in the military sphere, including in search and rescue, joint patrolling of piracy infested areas of the Bay of Bengal, capacity building, joint exercises etc. Defence cooperation will build mutual confidence.


12.India and Bangladesh should encourage people to people contacts.


The forward of the report has been written by IDSA Director General N. S. Sisodia. (ANI)


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