http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=115789&date=2010-10-27 The Indo-Bangladesh bilateral relationship is poised for further expansion, reinforcing the links of cooperation and collaboration between the two countries. The developments for forging a better understanding between the governments of India and Bangladesh have been positive since the accord of January last which the policy-makers in New Delhi prefer to describe as a 'landmark'. This accord is reflected in the joint communiquÃ© issued on the occasion of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's visit to India. This communiquÃ© has been termed by Indian Finance Minister, Mr. Pronab Mukherjee, as "comprehensive", forward-looking and path-breaking. And Indian External Affairs Minister, Mr. S. M. Krishna, has reiterated New Delhi's commitment to implementing the vision which the Indian Prime Minister, Dr. Manmohan Singh, and his Bangladesh counterpart, Sheikh Hasina have set out for bilateral relations. Both the Indian Prime Minister and the Indian External Affairs Minister take a strong note of the recent developments relating to the bilateral relationship between their country and Bangladesh. They have also underscored very strongly the need for doing all the 'do-ables' to make the partnership between the two countries a 'win-win' case for both sides. In 'free and frank' discussions with a group of Bangladesh editors and senior media persons in New Delhi early this month, the Indian leaders expressed their will and determination to promote close understanding and cooperation with Bangladesh for mutual benefit under today's vastly-changed global and regional circumstances. The issues relating to trade and investment, para- and non-tariff barriers, sharing of waters of the common rivers, security cooperation, regional collaboration, etc., figured in the discussions at both ministerial and official levels in New Delhi during the week-long visit of the Bangladesh team of editors and senior journalists from both the print and electronic media. There were exchanges of views with some senior Indian media persons at different meetings in both New Delhi and Chennai. There is now a perceptible change in the mindset of the Indian officials, media personalities and people in business circles about nurturing and promoting Indo-Bangladesh bilateral cooperation in the mutuality of interests of the two countries. The developments in bilateral relationship between Bangladesh and India in 2010 bear out the spirit of new cooperation. Besides the signing of the US$1.00 billion line of Indian credit for a range of projects including railway infrastructure, supply of broad gauge (BG) locomotives and passenger coaches, procurement of buses, dredging operations etc., India, as noted by its finance and external affairs ministers and also by Indian Foreign Secretary, Nirupama Rao, has agreed to provide transit for Bangladesh to Nepal and Bhutan and to undertake joint ventures to build thermal power plants in Bangladesh. The NTPC, a "Maharatna" enterprise of the government of India, set in motion its initial round of works following the signing of an MoU (Memorandum of Understanding) with Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) for mutual cooperation in development of power sector in Bangladesh. The NTPC, a mega public enterprise of India, has already made its global footprint. It is setting up a 500-MW coal-based thermal power plant in Sri Lanka through a joint venture with Ceylon Electricity Board. Furthermore, it is pursuing coal block acquisition in Indonesia, Australia and Mozambique, besides negotiating with the government of Qatar for investing in its gas projects. About the terms of the US$1.00-dollar bilateral loan to Bangladesh, the Indian Minister for Finance Mr. Pranab Mukherjee told the Bangladesh team of senior journalist that the amount of loan for which the bilateral agreements was signed in Dhaka during his visit to Bangladesh early August "is the largest ever given by India to any country". "It will pave the way for the implementation of mutually identified infrastructure development projects for implementation in Bangladesh", he said. The Indian side saw no reason to consider the line of credit as being unfavourable to Bangladesh. The Indians maintain that its modalities of disbursements and forms are very much favourably comparable to any other such agreements in place at the bilateral level between any two countries. Meanwhile, the MoU that was reached between India and Bangladesh on Border 'Haats' (traditional commodity markets) in the border areas of the two countries in New Delhi on the 23rd of this month is yet another agreement that would help fulfil one of the broad goals and objectives set forth earlier by the leaders of the two countries. Both India and Bangladesh had agreed to set up border 'haats' along their international border in the Indian Meghalaya state and in Sunamgonj and Kurigram districts of Bangladesh when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited New Delhi in January this year. Indications that were given in New Delhi during the visit of the team of senior journalists from Bangladesh were that trading in border haats would be held once a week in two frontier locations and conducted in currencies of the two countries, involving farm and home-made items produced within a 10-kilometre radius of the border haats to be set up within five kilometres of the border. No individual will be able to trade items, valuing over $50, at such haats. Considering the large-scale informal trade that takes place across the border of the two countries, the accord on border haats, if implemented properly, would be considered a forward-looking step to bring the flows of related goods within the ambit of the formal sector of the two economies. In a separate move, India has withdrawn its earlier decision about flow of private investment from Bangladesh. The Indian side told the Bangladesh media team that the restriction on flow of capital by Bangladesh private investors for making investments in India has recently been withdrawn. Along with Pakistan, Bangladesh was earlier placed in the negative list of countries from which no such flow of private capital was allowed in India for making investments there. A well-known Bangladesh business firm having investments in food and allied sector within the country has, thus, been permitted to set up plants in one of the Indian 'seven sisters', according to officials in the Indian Ministry of External Affairs. On the bilateral economic front in particular, the Indian side indicated about making steps sooner rather than later to grant duty-free access to more Bangladeshi products to facilitate export of a sizeable quantity of cotton despite the ban that India clamped last April on export of the item in view of the global shortage and overheated international market. Similarly, steps are afoot to supply 0.3 million (3.0 lakh) tonnes of rice and 0.2 millin (2.0 lakh) tonnes of wheat which India promised to supply to Bangladesh in spite of a ban in India on exports of such essential commodities. In the meantime, India has agreed to revive Land Customs stations along Tripura and Mizoram border, complete the laying of electrification cables for enclaves of Dahagram and Angarpota, build a bridge over the Feni river at Sabroom-Ramgarh and strengthen other border infrastructures, and to provide cooperation for upgrading the standards and certification procedures. However, a broad framework of agreement for sharing of waters of the common rivers remains yet to be put in place. Water is a problem in India as well and inter-state disputes over sharing of waters of the rivers that flow within India are a cause for wider concern there. As far as Bangladesh is concerned, the Teesta water sharing is particularly a pressing issue. Both India and Bangladesh exchanged drafts on this in the meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission that was held in the first half of this year after a gap of several years. The next elections in the Indian state of West Bengal are likely to delay any deal on the sharing of the Teesta water. However, works on river embankment on both sides started sometime ago. On its part, India takes a positive note of Bangladesh's efforts for security cooperation that New Delhi, for understandable reasons, considers critically important "to root out the forces of extremism and terrorism" as "insurgents" and "insurgent groups" have "the potential" to affect the bilateral relations. India would like to remain closely engaged with Bangladesh in the latter's efforts "to tackle this menace". About the para- and non-tariff barriers to export of Bangladesh goods to the Indian market, the Indian side apparently demonstrated a more pragmatic attitude than they used to do before. It is worth noting that some senior Indian journalists likened the case of Bangladesh on the issue to that of India's growing trade imbalance with China.