India, Bangladesh land pact an example of mutual respect: Army Chief

This comes at a time when ‘certain’ countries are trying to alter status quo by force, says Manoj Naravane

The historic land boundary agreement between India and Bangladesh has set a unique example on resolving border disputes through mutual negotiations at a time when “certain” countries are trying to alter the status quo by force, said Army Chief Gen. Manoj Naravane on Wednesday without naming anyone.

His comments come in the backdrop of continuing negotiations between India and China for disengagement and de-escalation towards ending the ongoing stand-off in eastern Ladakh.

Speaking at a seminar on ‘India-Bangladesh: 50 years of friendship’ organised by the Centre for Land Warfare Studies, Bangladesh High Commissioner Muhammad Imran noted that water sharing was an “emotive issue” in Bangladesh and called for attention on resolving the outstanding issues.

“The historic land boundary agreement between our nations has set a unique example on how to resolve border disputes through mutual negotiations and a concerted outlook. This at a time when certain countries are trying to alter the status quo by force, bypassing traditional norms and protocols and with complete disregard to the territorial integrity of others,” Gen. Naravane said. “Such agreements as that between ours epitomises the three ‘Ms’ — Mutual respect, [mutual] trust and [mutual] commitment to the rules-based order.”

India and Bangladesh have resolved both the land and maritime boundary issues by mutual agreement.

This year marks the diamond jubilee of the 1971 war and also 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between India and Bangladesh. Coinciding with it, Gen. Naravane released a book ‘Bangladesh Liberation @ 50 years: ‘Bijoy’ with synergy, India-Pakistan war 1971’, a compilation of personal accounts of the war by veterans from both sides.

Expansion of ties

Talking of the bilateral relationship, Mr. Imran said it had expanded in recent years and stated, “On water sharing, we have settled the Ganges water issue through the 30-year treaty. But there are few other common rivers which also require attention. Water sharing is an emotive issue in Bangladesh and it must be addressed on a top priority basis with compassion…”

In the meantime, Mr. Imran said that on India’s request, Bangladesh had allowed India to withdraw water from a major common river Feni for the benefit of people of Tripura. The Teesta river water sharing agreement has been long pending between the two countries.

Observing that there were issues in the bilateral relationship in the past, the envoy said that under the present Government of Sheikh Hasina the relationship had made progress. On the bilateral trade, Mr. Imran noted, “Trade has reached $10 bn though there is some uneasiness in Bangladesh over exports to India which constitute only one tenth of total trade and there is trade imbalance in favour of India.”

Construction of monument

To honour the Indian soldiers who lost their lives in the Liberation War, Bangladesh has announced the construction of a monument at Ashuganj, bordering Tripura. “The Indian Army fought with our independent freedom fighters to liberate our motherland,” Mr. Imran said.

Counter-terror cooperation

Talking of the bilateral military cooperation, Gen. Naravane pointed out that together India and Bangladesh contributed the largest number of troops to United Nations Peace Keeping operations. He said counter-terrorism was an area which had seen increased cooperation between the two Armies.

Bangladesh’s strong stand against terrorism resonated with India’s own resolve to counter terrorism in all forms, Gen. Naravane observed. “We are conscious of Bangladesh’s efforts to deny space to terror groups that are carrying out subversive activities against India,” Gen. Naravane stated. “In turn we too continue to prevent any terror outfit to use our soil against the interests of Bangladesh.”

The Bangladesh envoy too referred to this issue and said India had experienced adverse situations in some of the States close to Bangladesh but since assumption of power in 2009 the Government of Prime Minister Shiekh Hasina had offered all support. “It ensured that no one gets to use Bangladeshi soil to harm any neighbouring country. Bangladesh has resolved to not tolerate terrorism, radicalism in any form and not to allow her soil to be used for this purpose.”

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