LBA, Teesta, illegal immigration to figure during EAM’s visit

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External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj arrived here tonight on her first official visit abroad and will hold talks tomorrow with top Bangladeshi leadership on key bilateral issues including Land Boundary Agreement, proposed Teesta river pact and illegal immigration to India

Though there are no pacts to be signed and no big outcome expectations, the trip, which is termed as a “goodwill” visit, is aimed at taking forward the bilateral ties which are on a “positive trajectory” for past few years. 

The Indian side maintains they were not going with the “shopping list” and that the minister will review the status of bilateral ties and what to expect in the coming years. 

However, the Indian delegation, which is expected to raise issues like illegal immigration and market access, is also prepared that Bangladesh will raise the “touchy” issues of LBA and proposed Teesta river pact. 

Significantly, it was BJP‘s opposition, coupled with that ofTrinamool Congress and Asom Gana Parishad which prevented the previous Congress from formalising the land boundary agreement and signing the Teesta water sharing deal with Bangladesh. 

Ahead of her visit to Bangladesh, Swaraj spoke to West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee to tell her about the trip. 

According to official sources, Swaraj made a call to Banerjee to “touch-base” and tell her about the visit. 

The call assumes significance given that Banerjee’s party Trinamool Congress prevented the previous Congress-led government from signing the Teesta water sharing deal with Bangladesh. 

In 2011, Banerjee, then an ally of the Congress-led UPA, backed out from Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Bangladesh visit, opposing the Teesta water sharing treaty between India and Bangladesh, following which it was shelved. 

During the visit, Swaraj will hold discussions on bilateral issues with her counterpart A H Mahmood Ali and also call on President of Bangladesh Abdul Hamid and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. 

She will also meet Bangladesh’s opposition leader and former prime minister Khaleda Zia. 

The LBA, which is yet to be approved by Parliament, is aimed at redrawing the international boundary between India and Bangladesh by exchanging areas of adverse possession and enclaves along with population on either side, thus making the highly incongruous and porous Indo-Bangla border more manageable. 

This is Swaraj’s first stand-alone foreign visit after becoming the minister. She had accompanied Prime Minister Narendra Modi during his first official visit to Bhutan earlier this month.

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