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Talks with India can solve Tipaimukh row: Hasina

By Anisur Rahman in Dhaka
June 30, 2009 15:01 IST
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Bangladesh Premier Sheikh Hasina has said she hoped to resolve the Tipaimukh Dam issue with India through talks in co-operation with her arch-rival Khaleda Zia's Bangladesh Nationalist Party, which is opposed to the cross-border hydro-power project in Manipur.

"All the problems can be solved through talks. We have signed the historic Ganges Water Treaty, ensuring fair share of its water. We will be able to resolve the Tipaimukh issue also," Hasina told Bangladesh Parliament on Monday evening.

Zia, the leader of main opposition BNP, has sent a letter to Hasina, seeking her help in sending a separate delegation of her party, also including several experts, to the site of dam in Manipur.

Hasina had earlier said the BNP could join a parliamentary delegation or send a separate team to the site.

According to BNP sources, Zia in her letter said, she thought the national consensus could have been expressed "if we could all send a single team comprising technical experts to the site" on the common Barak River.

"But you have asked the BNP to send a separate team to Tipaimukh. We agree to your proposal in the national interest and will send a delegation consisting of technical experts," Zia wrote, asking the Premier to allow the opposition delegation to visit the site with the help of the Bangladesh foreign ministry.

Hasina, also the President of the ruling Awami League, said she was yet to read Zia's letter but if the leader of the opposition wants to include names from her party in the delegation to visit Tipaimukh, "they will certainly go."

"I am yet to go through it, I believe that co-operation of all is necessary to resolve any problem," she said.

Hasina, however, said she was not sure if the opposition was "shouting" over Tipaimukh dam issue to "find an issue" against her government and added that "I would have been happy if they (BNP) had raised their voice (against Tipaimukh dam) during their rule."

The Tipaimukh issue is now at the centre-stage of Dhaka-New Delhi relations as Foreign Minister Dipu Moni earlier this week asked India to suspend construction of the dam until a Bangladeshi parliamentary committee visited the site for an impact assessment as proposed by New Delhi.

Bangladesh recently decided to send a parliamentary delegation to the site along its northeastern frontier as suggested by Foreign Secretary Shivshankar Menon during a visit in Dhaka two months ago, while New Delhi said the dam was meant for producing hydro-electricity, not to withdraw water for irrigation purpose.

Zia last week sent a letter to Prime Minister Manmohon Singh urging him to stop construction of the dam, claiming it could affect ecosystem as well as livelihood in the region.

BNP last week also demanded "withdrawal" of Indian High Commissioner, Pinak Ranjan Chakravarty, for what it alleged his "objectionable comments" on the issue.

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Anisur Rahman in Dhaka
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