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Bangladesh PM confident of river deal with India
by Staff Writers
New York (AFP) Sept 20, 2011

Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina voiced confidence Tuesday at reaching a water-sharing agreement with India after a summit failed to clinch a deal seen as vital to her nation's farmers.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed a raft of heralded agreements during a visit to Dhaka this month but he did not seal a deal on the Teesta River due to opposition from the chief minister of India's West Bengal state.

Hasina, on a visit to New York to attend the UN General Assembly, said that Bangladesh and India have nonetheless developed an interim plan on sharing water. Bangladesh's north has suffered from drought.

"I'm not that much disappointed because I feel that we can solve this problem bilaterally and I'm very much optimistic about it," she said at the Asia Society.

Hasina and Singh signed other deals to improve sometimes uneasy relations, with India granting duty-free access to 46 Bangladeshi textile items and the countries agreeing to demarcate their 4,000-kilometer (2,500-mile) border.

Hasina, whose Awami League is historically seen as more sympathetic than the arch-rival Bangladesh Nationalist Party to India, said that she has also supported a "very good relationship" with Pakistan.

"We try to improve our relationship with every country and especially every neighboring country," she said. "Who is our main enemy? Our main enemy is poverty."

Hasina is the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who led Bangladesh to independence from Pakistan in 1971. The government says that up to three million people died in the independence war, many killed by Bangladeshis who collaborated with Pakistani forces.

In New York, Hasina boasted of Bangladesh's economic growth and credited policies friendly to investors. She said that the country planned to promote its location between fast-growing India and China.

Bangladesh's economy grew 6.66 percent in the last financial year, according to official figures, driven by a 42 percent expansion in export earnings and gains in the agricultural sector owing to favorable weather.

Hasina vowed zero tolerance for corruption, which she said would only enrich the wealthiest.

"Corruption will not be tolerated because we want to make sure that (from) our limited resource we should use it for betterment of our people," she said.

Watchdog Transparency International last year ranked Bangladesh 134 out of 178 nations for the worst perceived corruption, an improvement from its dead-last ranking for five years to 2005.

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