Mamata confident of breakthrough in LBA during Bangladesh visit


Posted on 20th Feb 2015 11:43 am by mohit kumar

Kolkata, Feb 19 (IANS) Hours before her maiden visit to Bangladesh as the West Bengal chief minister, Mamata Banerjee Thursday remained mum on the contentious Teesta water sharing deal but exuded confidence of a breakthrough in the land boundary agreement.

"I won't say anything on Teesta. If you have questions on other issues, you can ask," Banerjee told media persons at the state assembly premises.

Banerjee said she has assured External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj that West Bengal and Bangladesh - who share the common language Bengali - were continuing to build bridges.

"We have already informed the central government about our willingness for the settlement of the land border agreement. We have told the centre about preparing a rehabilitation package for the enclave dwellers. We are very positive about the issue being settled this time," Banerjee said.

Once the land boundary agreement (LBA) is passed, India will cede 111 enclaves measuring 17,160 acres to Bangladesh and receive 51 enclaves covering 7,110 acres. More than 51,000 people reside in these enclaves.

"We need to think and plan about the enclave dwellers. We have sent a proposal of rehabilitation package for the enclave dwellers to the central government," said Banerjee, who had earlier opposed the pact only to make a U-turn after the BJP-led central government expressed its eagerness to ratify the agreement.

"Sushma Swaraj also called me up to offer her best wishes. I assured her we will continue our efforts of building bridges," said Banerjee, who heads the Trinamool Congress.

The Teesta water sharing pact has been put on hold after the Trinamool's strong opposition, over fears that the treaty could spell disaster for northern West Bengal.

In September 2011, Banerjee had embarrassed then prime minister Manmohan Singh by pulling out of the prime minister-led delegation to Bangladesh over the water sharing agreement, forcing India to drop it from the agenda.

During her three-day trip to the neighbouring nation beginning Thursday, the chief minister will meet Bangladesh President Mohammad Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

"Besides having a one-to-one meeting with Hasina, I will also meet the president and their external affairs minister. A business delegation is accompanying us and we will have a business meet there.

"Our Singapore visit was very fruitful which was evident during the Global Business summit here. We hope our Bangladesh visit will also be very fruitful," Banerjee said.

The chief minister, who is undertaking the trip on an invitation by Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, will attend the main function at Dhaka's Shaheed Minar on the occasion of Mother Language Day Feb 21, which commemorates the martyrdom of Bangladeshi youths during the Language Movement in 1952.

Banerjee is also scheduled to address a business conclave organised by the India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry (IBCCI) in association with the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) and the Indian Chamber of Commerce (ICC), Kolkata.

She would be visiting the Bangabandhu Memorial Museum in Dhanmondi and also be present at a reception hosted in her honour by India's High Commissioner to Bangladesh Pankaj Saran.

State Urban Development Minister Firhad Hakim, Tourism Minister and playwright Bratya Basu, actors-turned-MPs Deb and Moonmoon Sen, and business magnates Harsh Neotia and J.P. Choudhury are part of the entourage.

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