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35 agreements with Bangladesh likely during Hasina visit, no word on Teesta yet

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New Delhi/Dhaka, April 5 : India and close neighbour Bangladesh are set to ink 35 agreements during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India beginning Friday, but would the all-important Teesta deal be on the table?

According to Bangladesh Foreign Minister A.H. Mahmood Ali, the agreements to be inked when Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hasina meet here on April 8 would be related to the establishment of border posts, information exchange, nuclear power, science, technology, electricity, energy and defence. But he declined to reveal if any agreement on sharing of the Teesta river waters, that has been hanging fire for years, would be on the table.

Hasina’s visit from April 7 comes seven years after her last bilateral visit to India in January 2010 and almost two years after Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June 2015.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee is to join a bilateral meeting between Modi and Hasina during which the issue of the Teesta water sharing and Ganges Barrage project are to be taken up, Bangladesh media said quoting Indian Ministry of External Affairs officials.

Amid speculation of a likely deal on Teesta during Hasina’s April 7-10 visit, Banerjee on Wednesday said there is no water in the river.

The West Bengal Chief Minister, whose cooperation is crucial for any river water agreement with Bangladesh, has maintained that she will prioritise her state’s interest while deciding on the proposed water sharing treaty.

She has also claimed the Centre has not consulted her over the issue.

“What will I do if there is no water? There is no water in the Teesta,” she said on Wednesday.

Banerjee is also scheduled to join a banquet dinner hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee in the honour of Hasina.

Ahead of her keenly-awaited visit, Hasina on Wednesday said that everything between Bangladesh and India would be dealt with maintaining friendly relations, and nothing detrimental to the country would be done.

At an event in Dhaka, Hasina said “vested quarters” had termed the 25 years Friendship Agreement, 1974 between the two nations as an agreement of slavery. But she said, Bangladesh gained more from the agreement including settlement of the land boundary issue.

She said that Bangladesh has been able to resolve the issue of land boundary with India keeping their friendship intact, and in a similar spirit, the issue of their maritime boundary was also settled.

She brushed aside the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party’s concerns on the deals to be inked and assured that her government would not sign any deal with India that may harm Bangladesh’s interest.

“Loquacious people will talk, but we (Awami League) can never harm our nation,” she was quoted as saying at her party office on Wednesday.

Hasina was earlier scheduled to visit India during last December but the visit was postponed as both sides could not agree on dates.

Foreign Secretary S. Jaishankar was in Dhaka in February and met the Bangladesh Prime Minister after which it was announced that the visit would take place in April.

Ahead of the announcement of the visit’s dates last month, Indian High Commissioner Harsh Vardhan Shringla in Dhaka said India attaches “highest importance” to the visit.

Hasina is the head of government of “a neighbouring friendly country with whom we share the longest land boundary. And both land and maritime boundary issues between the two countries have been resolved within a very short time”, he said.

India has also started transmitting additional power to Bangladesh and has set up the third Indian internet gateway in Agartala, Tripura, through Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh.

Islamist terrorism is also likely to come up for discussion during the summit. With the state of affairs as it is in Pakistan, India would not like to have a similar situation arising in its eastern neighbour where Islamist fervour, particularly of the Wahhabi kind, has been on the rise since 9/11.

Hasina has not hesitated in cracking down on Islamist terrorism in her country.

Sub-regional cooperation is another area that is likely to come up for discussion during the Modi-Hasina summit.

With the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc) becoming a virtually ineffective body mainly due to the tensions between India and Pakistan, New Delhi has been giving emphasis to sub-regional groupings within the SAARC and also to the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (Bimstec) regional grouping.

Bimstec comprises Bangladesh, India, Myanmar, Sri Lanka, Thailand, Bhutan and Nepal.

In fact, Hasina was among the leaders invited when India hosted the Bimstec Outreach Summit on the sidelines of the BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) Summit in Goa last year.

With China too cosying up to Bangladesh, New Delhi would like to see that balance of ties in the region is maintained.

President Mukherjee has also invited Hasina to stay at the Rashtrapati Bhavan during the visit.

India

President Kovind donates ₹5 lakh for Ram Temple construction

His Excellency Ram Nath Kovind along with his family donated in their individual capacity to the donation drive and conveyed their warm greetings for the nationwide fund campaign,” VHP President Alok Kumar said after receiving the donation from the President.

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New Delhi, President Ram Nath Kovind has given the first donation for the construction of the grand Ram temple at Ayodhya in Uttar Pradesh. He donated ₹5,00,100 to a joint delegation of office bearers of the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), the Vishwa Hindu Parishad (VHP) and the Ram Mandir Trust at Rashtrapati Bhavan on Friday.

With this donation by President Kovind, the fund collection drive for the Ram temple started across the country. The campaign will run till February 27.
“We went to President Ram Nath Kovind for the launch of the Ram Mandir Fund Donation Drive. He donated Rs 5,00,100 under the Shri Ram Mandir Fund Donation Drive which kicked-off across the country from Friday. His Excellency Ram Nath Kovind along with his family donated in their individual capacity to the donation drive and conveyed their warm greetings for the nationwide fund campaign,” VHP President Alok Kumar said after receiving the donation from the President.

Vinod Bansal, the VHP national spokesperson, told that a massive public outreach campaign would be launched to cover 13 crore families across 5.25 lakh villages in the country for the construction of the grand Ram temple at Ayodhya. As many as 65 crore people from 13 crore families would be directly linked with the Ram Mandir fund donation drive.

The delegation to meet President Kovind comprised the treasurer of the Shri Ram Janmabhoomi Teerth Kshetra Trust, Govind Dev Giri Maharaj, VHP President Alok Kumar, Ram Mandir Construction Committee Chairman Nripendra Mishra and the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh’s Delhi state Head Kulbhushan Ahuja.

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Supreme Court to take up pleas connected to farm laws on Jan 18

The Supreme Court is likely to hear on Monday the pleas challenging the three farm laws and also the pleas seeking the removal of farmers camping at various Delhi borders.

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New Delhi: A bench headed by Chief Justice S.A. Bobde and comprising Justices L. Nageswara Rao and Vincent Saran will take up the petitions on January 18. On January 12, the top court stayed the implementation of the three farm laws until further orders.

The hearing assumes significance after Bhartiya Kisan Union President Bhupinder Singh Mann, a key member of the court-appointed expert panel, recused himself.

In a statement, Mann said he would give up any position to prevent farmers’ interests from being compromised.

He said that in view of the prevailing sentiments and apprehensions amongst the farm unions and the public in general, he is ready to sacrifice any position offered or given so as to not compromise the interests of Punjab and farmers of the country.

“I am recusing myself from the committee and I will always stand with my farmers and Punjab,” Mann added.

Apart from Mann, Shetkari Sanghatana (Maharashtra) president Anil Ghanwat, International Food Policy Research Institute’s Pramod Kumar Joshi and agriculture economist Ashok Gulati have been appointed by the apex court on the expert panel.

Staying the implementation of the farm laws, the top court had expressed hope that this step may help resolve the deadlock.

However, amid the ninth round of talks on Friday, Bharatiya Kisan Union (BKU) spokesperson Rakesh Tikait, who is part of the negotiations between farmer unions and the Centre, said the unions have made it clear that the committee formed by the Supreme Court is “not acceptable” to us.

Thousands of farmers, mainly from Punjab, Haryana and western Uttar Pradesh, have been agitating at various Delhi borders since November end.

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Accept mistake and repeal farm laws: Justice Katju to PM Modi

Markandey Katju also suggested that a statutory farmers’ commission be set up to deal with their problems

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The former Supreme Court judge, Justice Markandey Katju, on Thursday asked Prime Minister Narendra Modi to immediately repeal the three new farm laws through an ordinance and urged him to accept his “mistake” of hurrying the three laws through.

“All human beings make mistakes. By doing this, far from losing face, you will be applauded. If you do it your popularity, far from going down, will soar,” Justice Katju wrote in a letter to Modi. He also suggested that a statutory farmers’ commission be set up to deal with farmers’ problems.

Without such concessions, he contended, the protesting farmers’ plan to enter Delhi on Republic Day with their tractors and the likely police action could lead to another Jallianwala Bagh or massacres similar to Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg (January 1905) or 13 Vendémiaire in Paris (October 1795).

“Bloody Sunday” refers to firing by the Tsar’s forces on unarmed demonstrators in St Petersburg on January 22, 1905. Estimates of the death toll range from around 100 to 4,000.

On 13 Vendémiaire (first month in the French Republican Calendar) of Year 4 — or October 5, 1795 — revolutionary troops under Napoleon Bonaparte, then a general, quelled a rebellion by royalists. Some 1,400 royalists are estimated to have been killed.

Justice Katju, who was a Supreme Court judge till 2011, warned that angering the farmers, now united across castes and religions, could cost Modi politically and using violence against them could trigger turmoil in the states and affect the armed forces, whose personnel come mostly from farming families.

He wrote: “The farmers in huge numbers are presently camped at the border of Delhi but are determined to enter Delhi on 26th January and join the Republic Day parade with their tractors. This will obviously not be allowed by the Government, and consequently, violence in the form of police and paramilitary lathi charges and firing seems inevitable, and a Jalianwala Bagh type massacre (or like the massacre on Bloody Sunday in St Petersburg in Russia in January 1905, or as on Vendemiarie in Paris in October 1795) may ensue.”

Saying that he was sure Modi would like to avoid that, Justice Katju added: “The Government should issue an Ordinance immediately repealing the 3 laws. If you do this, you will be hailed by all for doing it. If anyone asks why the laws were made at all, you can say that we made a mistake, and we realise our mistake and are correcting it. All human beings make mistakes. By doing this, far from losing face, you will be applauded. If you do it your popularity, far from going down, will soar.

“Simultaneously, the Government should appoint a High Powered Farmers Commission having as its members representatives of the leading farmers’ organisations, government representatives, and agricultural experts, tasked with the duty of considering all aspects of the problems of our farmers, the principal one being that they are not getting adequate remuneration for their produce (because of which 3 to 4 lac farmers have already committed suicide).

“This Farmers Commission should hold several meetings, perhaps stretching over several months, and then the consensus which emerges, to which everyone agrees, should be enacted as a comprehensive law.”

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