India and Bangladesh took a significant step towards finalizing a land boundary agreement (LBA), with visiting foreign minister Salman Khurshid and his counterpart Dipu Moni exchanging strip maps of the boundary areas. Talking to journalists later, Khurshid said the government had readied the constitution amendment bill and it would be placed in Parliament during the budget session, beginning February 21.
The two sides also signed three other agreements like a memorandum of understanding (MoU) on the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, establishment of an India-Bangladesh Foundation and an amendment to the double taxation avoidance agreement (DTAA) to bring it in line with OECD requirements.
The two sides exchanged 1,114 maps, leaving another 34 to be exchanged. It is only after they have been exchanged and agreed upon (and the constitutional amendment passed) that the boundary can be legitimized. Khurshid’s visit is also a precursor to the first foreign visit by President Pranab Mukherjee to Bangladesh, scheduled for the first week of March.
India has also invited Bangladeshi companies to invest in the development of the Tipaimukh Dam with both countries jointly reaping the benefits of the project. Bangladeshis have been opposed to the project, though India has ferried legislators and journalists to view the site. Indians are also at pains to point out that Tipaimukh was originally the brainchild of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, who said the flow of water into Bangladesh should be regulated so as to spare them the ravages of floods. The Akhaura-Agartala rail link is important to establish connectivity with India’s northeastern states.
In addition, Khurshid announced that two new border haats would be set up on the Bangladesh-Tripura border, and state-owned Numaligarh Refinery was in talks with Bangladesh to sell gas here.