India and Bangladesh will hold a meeting of Joint Consultative Commission (JCC) here on September 20 during which a number of bilateral issues including the contentious Teesta water agreement and the Land Boundary pact are likely to figure.
Addressing a press conference, External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj today said political consultations are underway on Indo-Bangla Land Boundary Agreement while government was trying to build a consensus for the Teesta pact.
“The Land Boundary Agreement was already introduced in Rajya Sabha and referred to the select committee. The select committee has been reconstituted now. Political consultations are underway,” she said replying to a question.
The agreement is aimed at settling the issue of enclaves and adverse possession along the 4,069-km border between India and Bangladesh and is seen as an important confidence building measure between the two countries.
The agreement provides for exchange of about 160 enclaves between the two countries. The Trinamool Congress has been maintaining that it will not allow territories of West Bengal to be transferred to Bangladesh.
Both the issue of LBA and Teesta pact were discussed during Swaraj’s visit to Bangladesh in June which was her first stand alone trip after becoming External Affairs Minister.
“As regards to Teesta, we are trying to develop a consensus,” Swaraj said.
The Teesta deal was set to be inked during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in 2011 but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee.
The Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs every year.
Replying to a question on extradition of jailed ULFA leader Anup Chetia who is languishing in a jail in Bangladesh, Swaraj said she had raised the issue during her visit and hoped he will soon be sent to India as promised by the Bangladesh government.
Asked about 39 Indians who were kidnapped in Iraq’s Mosul city, Swaraj said government was not in direct touch with them but maintained that they were not harmed.
40 Indian construction workers were kidnapped from Mosul in June. One of them had managed to escape from custody of the captors.
On Fiji’s upcoming elections, Swaraj said India will send a four-member panel to that country to witness the polls slated for September 17.
Asked about situation in Afghanistan, she India had not favoured any presidential candidate and that it will work with whoever emerges victorious.
When asked about Indian clergyman Alexis Prem Kumar who was kidnapped by unidentified gunmen in Afghanistan in June, Swaraj said he was alive and government was trying to ensure his release.
On a query about exploitation of Indians in Gulf countries by recruiting agents, she said a new law is being drafted to streamline the entire immigration process.
Asked about India’s effort to seek permanent membership in the UN Security Council, Swaraj said that G-4 countries will be meeting on the sidelines of UN General assembly meeting to discuss the reforms in UN Security Council.
She hoped that the global body will see an expansion on its 70th anniversary next year, in which India will find a place as a permanent member.
She also talked about government’s approach being proactive, tough and sensitive in dealing with foreign policy issues.