India pledges to ratify border treaty with Bangladesh

Dhaka (The Daily Star/ANN) - India has informed Bangladesh that it would place the historic Mujib-Indira treaty of 1974 in its parliament for discussion about its ratification.

The assurance came following a formal request made by Home Minister Shahara Khatun during her February 24-25 visit to India when she met Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Finance Minister Pranab Mukherjee and her counterpart P Chidambaram.

Former Indian prime minister Indira Gandhi signed the treaty with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on May 16, 1974 to settle border issues between the two neighbouring countries. Bangladesh has ratified the treaty, amended the Constitution accordingly, and gave Berubari to India, but India is still to ratify it.

The home minister yesterday presented the outcome of her India visit at the weekly cabinet meeting. Cabinet Secretary Mohammad Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan later briefed reporters on the meeting.

Shahara in a written report at the meeting said New Delhi has assured Dhaka of handing over Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's convicted assassins captain Majed and risalder Moslehuddin, now hiding in India.

The cabinet secretary said the home minister seriously protested the border killings during her visit and the Indian authorities assured her of taking necessary measures to this end.

The home minister also raised difficulties the Bangladeshis face in getting Indian visa every day and urged the authorities to make the process simple. Taking it positively, the Indian authorities assured her of resolving the problems, Musharraf added.

As Shahara requested them to take measurers so that Bangladeshi businesspersons can open bank accounts in India and open offices there, the Indian side has assured her to take necessary measures in this regard, informed the cabinet secretary.

Besides, both Bangladesh and India have agreed to work together to combat terrorism and border crimes including arms and drugs smuggling and women and children trafficking, he said.

Yesterday's cabinet meeting also approved the draft of Code of Civil Procedure (Amendment) Bill, 2012 aiming at quick disposal of pending civil cases. Musharraf said disposal of civil cases will be quicker once the bill is passed in parliament. Currently, there are 6.34 lakh cases pending with the lower court, he noted.

The meeting also approved amendments to the Income Tax Ordinance, 1984.

Explaining the amendment, the cabinet secretary said artistes of radio, television, theatre and film whose honorarium is below 10,000 taka (US$122) do not have to pay 10 percent tax at sources from now on.

Those who will buy programmes at less than 10,000 taka would not have to pay tax at sources as well, he added.

Border issues

As India proposed to erect barbed-wire fences at 167 spots along the Bangladesh-India border, the Bangladesh home minister told them that previous rules and regulations on constructing the fences should be followed, said the cabinet secretary during yesterday's press briefing.

She also informed the Indian authorities that the Border Guard Bangladesh, instead of the land ministry, will supervise demarcation of border through construction of pillars when the Indian side made a proposal to this end.

Meanwhile, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar told the state assembly yesterday that Bangladesh had agreed to allow India to erect barbed wire fencing on the zero line in some selected places but turned down India's proposal to construct the fence on the entire border.

Replying to a question asked by opposition Congress member Gopal Roy, if the state government had asked the central Indian government to take up with Bangladesh so that fencing could be constructed on the zero line, the chief minister said the neighbouring country had agreed to allow India to erect barbed wire fencing on the zero line in some selected places only.

To adhere to the India-Mujib pact and guidelines formulated in 1975 for border management, India constructed fencing 150 yards away from the zero line to check smuggling, illegal migration and cross border movement of Indian insurgents.

The chief minister, who is also the home minister, said many district and sub-divisional towns, markets and even Agartala airport have fallen within 150 yards of the Indo-Bangladesh international border.

He said at least 50,000 people of 8,750 families were affected as their agricultural and homestead land fell on the other side of the fence.

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