As India extended a $2 billion Line of Credit (LoC) to Bangladesh on Saturday to develop its infrastructure and signed 22 agreements, Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday almost took a leaf out of former PM Manmohan Singh’s book to address Dhaka’s concerns on Teesta and trade imbalance.
Singh had in 2010 announced a $1 billion LoC, the largest extended to any country in a single phase at that time.
With West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in town, Modi sought to soothe Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on Teesta as he said that “rivers should not become a source of discord”. He said he was confident that with the support of the state governments in India, they can reach a “fair solution” on Teesta and Feni rivers.
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“Our rivers should nurture our relationship, not become a source of discord. Water sharing is, above all, a human issue. It affects life and livelihood on both sides of the border. I am confident that with the support of state governments in India, we can reach a fair solution on Teesta and Feni Rivers,” Modi said.
In September 2011, with Mamata cancelling her trip at the last minute, Singh had said: “Our common rivers need not be sources of discord, but can become the harbingers of prosperity to both our countries.”
While Modi on Saturday only pushed for a “fair solution”, Singh had then said that they have decided to continue discussions to reach a “mutually acceptable, fair and amicable arrangement” for the sharing of the Teesta and Feni river waters.
On the issue of trade imbalance, Modi said he was “conscious” of the huge trade imbalance and will do everything India can to bridge the deficit.
“I am conscious of the huge trade imbalance, despite duty free and quota free access to Bangladesh in India on all but 25 items. Yet, I have assured the Prime Minister that we will do everything we can to bridge the deficit. Indian investments in Bangladesh will help. I will also try to make trade smoother and easier, including at the border. The agreement on standards and testing is a step in that direction,” Modi said.
In 2011, Singh had said that India was “fully alive” to the problem of trade imbalance. “India is fully alive to the problem… I am pleased to announce that, with immediate effect, we will provide duty free access to the Indian market to 46 textile tariff lines as requested by Bangladesh.”