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Experts term India's expected proposal for Bangladeshi land for airport expansion as unsual

  • Published at 05:49 pm August 4th, 2019
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File photo of Agartala airport Google Map

'India did not make any written proposal, and we have no plan to give any land,' says Civil Aviation secretary

India has not made any formal proposal regarding use of Bangladeshi land to expand the Agartala airport, adjacent to the India-Bangladesh border. 

Md Mohibul Haque, secretary of the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism, told Dhaka Tribune on Sunday, adding that the government does not have a plan to provide any land, if even asked by the Indian government.

Two former senior diplomats, and an international relations professor have described the Indian proposal, even if it was verbal, as very unusual, saying that this proposal should not be considered under any circumstances.

Meanwhile, people’s representatives, and inhabitants of the area adjacent to the Agartala Airport, expressed their vehement opposition to such a plan, and said they would resist any such move.

“Look, let me make it clear. India has not put forward any written proposal, asking for Bangladeshi land for the expansion of the Agartala airport, and the government has no plan to provide any land to India even if it asks,” Secretary Mohibul Haque said on Sunday.

“It was the then Indian Home Minister Rajnath Singh, who put this proposal verbally, in a meeting in Dhaka in July, last year. And, he was asked to send a written proposal. But, as far as I know, nothing has been sent from New Delhi,” he said.

The secretary continued: “My understanding is that, India did not ask for any land for acquisition or lease. What they asked for was that while landing or taking off, the aircraft may have to use Bangladeshi land, of course for a fee, in line with international practices, when the Agartala airport will be upgraded to an international one.

“We do not allow in our country any installations on the way of landing and taking off. According to the positioning of the runway of the Agartala airport, any installation on the path will hinder landing or take off.”

When asked if any homes of Bangladeshis will be dismantled in order to ensure that, Mohibul said: “As of now, it is out of the question as there is no proposal yet from India."

Foreign Minister Dr AK Abdul Momen told a small group of journalists that his ministry has not yet received any letter in this regard, and that he has no knowledge of it.

However, he said the home minister will be in India, where he may discuss it.

Expressing his bemusement at the verbal offer by an Indian minister, former foreign secretary Touhid Hossain said: “It's an absurd proposal. I do not think the government will let that happen.

 “The Indian state of Tripura is not a densely-populated area. They can construct another airport in other locations,” he said, adding that he had nothing more to add. 

Former secretary of the Foreign Ministry and Bangladeshi Ambassador to the United States Humayun Kabir termed the proposal very unusual, and said: “They (Indians) are losing the proportion.”

There will be a profoundly negative effect on the people of the country if the government agrees to it, he said.

“Given the state of the Bangladesh-India relationship, I do not think the time has come for New Delhi to make such a proposal, and for Dhaka to agree,” said Delwar Hossain, a professor of international relations at Dhaka University.

Placing emphasis on a more proactive role from India to address pending issues like conclusion of the much-awaited Teesta water sharing agreement, he said: “I am really surprised by the fact that India can make such an offer knowing the sentiment of the general people of the country.”

Akhaura Upazila Chairman Abul Kashem Bhuiyan said: “Yes, having seen the reports in media, conscientious people are coming to me to express their concern. As their representative, I am also concerned. But, I have not yet received any official communication in this regard.

“If the news is true, many will lose their ancestral land including their homes. In that case, naturally, people will try to resist. I hope the government will not do anything that will harm the people.”

Mohammad Jalal Uddin, chairman of Akhaura South Union Parishad said: “There will be no way but to protest, and resist any possible government move that will cause losing of our homes where we have been living for generation after generation.

Nurul Akbar Shabuj, who is from the area, but currently living in the UK, said: “If the government decides to provide land to India, we will lose our ancestral land, and homes. People of our area will not let that happen.” 

College teacher Shafiq Ahmed said: “Like many others, I am also worried. I hope we will be able to live where we have been living for centuries. There is no doubt people will resist any government move to sacrifice their land, and homes.” 

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