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DHAKA, APRIL 14, 2009: India yesterday proposed to Bangladesh to send a delegation to the construction site of the Tipaimukh Dam on the international river Barak, saying that the dam would not affect the lower riparian Bangladesh.

"We don't think it (dam) should have downstream effect," Indian External Affairs Secretary Shiv Shankar Menon told reporters after nearly two-hour meetings with Foreign Minister Dipu Moni, State Minister for Foreign Affairs Hasan Mahmud and Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain at the Foreign Ministry.

Menon, who came here late Sunday afternoon on a short notice, said:

"We welcome a Bangladesh delegation to see what it is exactly, rather than everybody commenting on something that they have not seen."

Allaying fears about the possible adverse impact of the dam on the ecology of Bangladesh, he said it is best to sit together "to explain to your people what we plan to do and you tell us what's your fear and what your worry is. This is a normal way between friends."

In response to the Indian proposal, Foreign Secretary Touhid Hossain said the proposal would be examined though it is a matter of another ministry (Water Resources).

He said New Delhi has no reservation if the proposed delegation consisted of both political and technical people as "they want to remove our concerns."

Dhaka earlier sought data and information from New Delhi about its Tipaimukh dam as many experts fear that the dam would have adverse environmental impact on Bangladesh, which share the same river basin with India.

Menon's sudden visit triggered wild speculations as the Foreign Ministry kept the local media completely in the dark. "I thought you knew it as media knows ahead of us," Touhid told reporters with a smile.

The Indian External Affairs Secretary said he had no specific issue on his agenda. "We are good friends and good neighbours" and it is part of ongoing dialogues on various issues between the two countries.

Menon, who also met with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Army Chief Gen Moeen U Ahmed said they had wide range of discussions covering issues of water, economy and trade, and how to improve the economic ties by removing trade barriers. He said he is very satisfied with the discussions and going back to Delhi with confidence.

Asked whether India wants to help reorganize BDR, Menon said the new BDR director general recently met with his Indian counterpart, BSF director general, in New Delhi and they had good discussions. Both the countries want peaceful border.

Asked whether India has any reservation about Bangladesh's plan to set up nuclear power plant, he said India would always be happy to see a prosperous Bangladesh.

Touhid said issues like connectivity to increase the bilateral trade and release of Indian and Bangladeshi citizens from the respective country's jails also featured in the discussion. However, he said, extradition of ULFA leader Anup Chetia did not come up.

Source: The New Nation

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