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India to go ahead with fencing of border with Bangladesh

Sunday 7 August 2005

India to go ahead with fencing of border with Bangladesh

Dhaka, Aug. 7 (PTI): Making it clear that India would go ahead with the fencing of the over 4000-km border with Bangladesh, External Affairs Minister K Natwar Singh, today said this would help curb activities like smuggling and illegal migration and contribute to peace and tranquility for people living in these areas.

"A strong fence is useful for both sides to achieve their common objectives for mutual benefit," Singh , who is on a three-day visit here, said in an interview to Bangla daily ’Jugantor’.

Due to the porous nature of the borders, there was considerable cross-border criminal activity which included illegal trade in arms and explosives, counterfeit currency, trafficking in narcotics and trafficking of women and children, he said, noting these problems posed a threat to the social and economic well-being of both India and Bangladesh.

"We have seen that in those areas where a fence is in place, there has been a sharp decline in illegal cross-border activities," he said.

There have been differences on the 1975 guidelines under which defensive structures within 150 yards of the borders have to be demolished.

"The border management authorities in both our countries share the common objectives of ensuring peace and tranquility and facilitating interaction between our two friendly people while doing their utmost to prevent illegal cross-border activity," Singh said.

On the proposed gas pipeline between Myanmar and India via Bangladesh, Singh said Indian experts were examining the most efficient and feasible ways of importing gas from Myanmar.

"The gas pipeline through Bangladesh is one of the options being actively considered. This is a commercial project to be implemented by an international consortium," he said.

Singh discussed the tri-nation project during talks with Bangladesh Finance Minister Saifur Rahman. Dhaka has agreed in principle to allow the 290-km pipeline through its territory but has imposed certain conditionalities.

It wants India to establish a direct road linking Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan and address the issue of trade imbalance.

Rahman said the ministries concerned would hold detailed discussions with the Indian side to make the pipeline project a reality in line with Bangladesh’s position on the issues. "We have to see mutual benefit of both the countries and that is the main point to strengthen relations further."

Asked whether the twice-deferred SAARC Summit, now slated to be held here in November, would be postponed, the Minister said the dates have already been announced.

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, "is eagerly looking forward to visiting Dhaka for the Summit," he said.

Singh said SAARC has a very important role to play in the comprehensive development of South Asia in this globalised economy and in fostering an atmosphere of mutual trust and harmony among the member states.

India, Singh said, would like to see SAARC evolve into an effective organisation, through which regional cooperation in social, economic, cultural, educational, scientific, technological and other agreed spheres could be facilitated and infrastructural development promoted for mutual benefit.

"SAARC countries should concentrate on the benefits of cooperation to achieve collective prosperity," he stressed.

Observing that the northeastern states of India were fast becoming an important bridgehead in its trade relations with Myanmar and China, he said the long Indo-Bangla boundary was a "border of friendship and an open door for unhindered cooperation".

The re-opening of the trade route from China to Sikkim through Nathu La pass also threw open immense trade possibilities between China and India, and beyond this, for regional cooperation, the minister said.

Contending that integration of infrastructure in South Asia was essential to generate and sustain growth levels necessary to achieve mutual prosperity, he said "we must learn from the experiences in cooperation not only in other parts of the world but also in our own. But European Union and ASEAN offer outstanding examples".

"India and Bangladesh would benefit from modernisation and improvement of our shared river, road and rail linkages," he said.

The Minister was of the view that a bilateral Free trade Agreement would lead to an expansion of trade with significant mutual benefits on the lines of a similar India-Sri Lanka FTA which has triggered exponential growth in Sri Lanka’s exports to India.

On the proposed river linking project, Singh said this was still at a conceptual stage. India’s focus was on the southern Peninsular rivers, which do not affect water flows in Bangladesh, as they originate in central and western India and then flow into the sea.

"If at any stage, we do consider any proposal affecting river flows into Bangladesh, India will consult and fully take into consideration the view of Bangladesh," he said, adding this assurance has been conveyed at the highest level by Indian leaders to their counterparts in Bangladesh.

"It is important that we avoid sensationalising the issue," he said.

See online : The Hindu

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