Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday said there was nothing to hide in the agreements which have been signed with India during her four-day tour of New Delhi.
“I don’t do politics for personal interests. The interests of the country and its people, as well as the dignity of the nation, are very important for me,” she said.
The Prime Minister was speaking at a press conference at the Gono Bhaban on her just-concluded India visit.
Hasina said all the agreements were inked following approval from the cabinet. “So, these are all open documents.”
About the possibility of signing the Teesta water sharing deal, she said nobody would be able to hold water in the upstream.
The barrage at Gajaldoba in the upstream of the Teesta caused a real problem in the natural flow of common rivers. But during the pre- and post-independence period, no government in Bangladesh raised their voice against the barrage, she told journalists.
As a reprisal act, Bangladesh constructed the Teesta barrage, obstructing the flow of the river, which was a great mistake and the country became a victim of the wrong decision, the PM added.
She said Bangladesh would wait for the signing of the Teesta agreement as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee didn’t discard the possibility of striking the agreement.
Mamata stressed the need for linking other rivers to increase the flow and proposed conducting a feasibility study on river linking, she said.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi assured that the deal would be inked during the tenure of the incumbent governments of the two countries, Hasina told her audience.
“So, we will wait and take our own steps for dredging the Teesta and the Brahmaputra to enhance their storage capacity and use the water in need.”
The PM said she accepted Mamata’s proposal to purchase 500 MW more electricity from West Bengal and was waiting for the chief minister’s next response.
About her government’s policy on the relations with India and China, she said Bangabandhu’s policy “Friendship with all, malice to none,” was the guiding principle of its foreign policy.
“India and China might have problems in their bilateral relations, but Bangladesh would maintain good relations with every country.”
Bangladesh, said the Prime Minister, needed to have good relations with all countries for its rapid prosperity as the nation lost much time to develop after the killing of Bangabandhu.
Hasina said the business delegation, which accompanied her to India, found opportunities and trade partners and a total of 12 MoUs were signed under which huge Indian investment would come to Bangladesh.
About conferring awards on the fallen Indian soldiers during the Liberation War, Hasina said the event elevated Bangladesh’s position to a new height as a nation.
She said she had official talks with the Indian premier and meetings with President Pranab Mukherjee and Vice-President Hamid Ansari.
Hasina said 11 agreements and 24 MoUs were signed between the two countries about cooperation in various sectors. Among those were 13 deals and MoUs on cooperation on economy and investment of $9 billion.
She said after the bilateral talks, the two sides issued a 62-point joint declaration which contained clear guidelines on existing and future relations between the two neighbours.
The Indian premier pledged to stand by Bangladesh on the issue of Genocide Day when she raised the issue saying that Jatiya Sangshad unanimously passed a bill declaring March 25 as the Genocide Day.
Modi also announced that India would grant five-year multiple-entry visa to freedom fighters as well as provide free medical treatment to 100 freedom fighters every year, she said.
About the signing of MoUs with India on defence framework, the PM said such MoUs were nothing new as cooperation in military areas among nations was quite common.
“Even we procure many items from Pakistan. Bangladesh has such agreements with China, Belarus, France, Kuwait, Russia, Turkey, Singapore, South Korea, Turkey, the USA and the UK.”
Hasina said a process was underway for signing such agreements with Bahrain, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Italy, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, Malaysia, Palestine, the Philippines and Russia.
Bangladesh inked its first defence agreement with Turkey in 1981 and the defence pact with China was signed keeping the people in the dark, she told journalists.
“Nobody knows when the agreement was signed and what it contained,” she said, adding that those who inked the agreement secretly were talking much about the defence agreement with India.
According to Hasina, the MoU was signed for arranging military training, seminars, exchange of visits, joint exercise, a celebration of events on Liberation War, excursion, exchange of trainers and observers, procurement of military equipment, monitoring the peacekeeping activities, training on disaster management and cooperation in the areas of medicare facilities.
She said a consensus with neighbouring countries was very crucial for modernising the defence forces and their institutions.
The interest rate of the credit to be available under the MoU would be only 1 percent and the loan would be payable in 20 years, said the premier. Under the MoU, Bangladesh would pick its items without Indian inference.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Law Minister Anisul Huq, Foreign Minister AH Mahmood Ali, Liberation War Affairs Minister AKM Mozammel Haque, Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmood, and State Minister for Foreign Affairs Shahriar Alam were present.