Dhaka: Seeking to salvage his maiden visit to Bangladesh from the damage caused by 11th-hour scrapping of a deal on Teesta river water-sharing, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Wednesday said he has asked officials to intensify efforts to find a "viable" formula to resolve the issue.

Wrapping up his two-day stay here, Singh also sought to assuage Bangladesh's concerns on bilateral trade imbalance and announced quota-free access to Indian market for 46 Bangladeshi textile products for which he had unveiled duty-free entry facility just on Tuesday.

He also responded to another persistent concern in Bangladesh over the proposed Tipaimukh irrigation project in Arunachal Pradesh, assuring Dhaka that India would not take steps that will adversely affect its eastern neighbour.

Singh said he was hopeful that during his visit to Dhaka "we would be able to come to an agreement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta river. Both sides worked very hard to arrive at a solution that would be acceptable to all."

"Unfortunately, these efforts did not meet with success within the time available," the Prime Minister said addressing a gathering of intellectuals at Dhaka University.

He, however, said he has asked the concerned officials to intensify their efforts "towards finding a viable formula which does not cause undue distress to all those in India or Bangladesh who are dependent on the flows of the river."

Pointing out that "water is a sensitive subject in both our countries," Singh said "but we have shown that, in a spirit of friendship and mutual accommodation, we can agree on cooperative arrangements based on the principles of equity, fair play and no harm to either party" and cited India's 1996 Ganges water-sharing accord with Bangladesh as "one example which has stood the test of time."

Singh announces duty free imports

Taking the trade route to cement bilateral ties, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced duty-free import of 61 items from Bangladesh that were barred from entering India.

A majority of these items- 46 to be precise relate to textiles, particularly readymade garments.

Singh said India that was "fully alive to the problem of trade imbalance between India and Bangladesh."

Bangladesh has long complained that trade with India was grossly unequal with India selling about USD 3 billion in goods to Bangladesh against the latter's export of about USD 400 million business in jute, ammonia and garments.

Singh said India has embarked on a series of measures to improve border infrastructure for trade and this will facilitate Bangladesh's exports to India and provide it greater opening to India and other neighbouring countries.

Bangladesh's request list for duty-free goods includes all the garment items where it enjoys the advantage of cheaper cost of production compared to India, Indian textile industry sources said.

Bangladesh had for the last one year been pressing India for permitting all the 61 items to be taken off the list of protected goods India maintains under South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) because Dhaka is keen to sell them in a bid to reduce a massive gap in bilateral trade.

India seeks extradition of Chetia

India has asked Bangladesh to expedite the extradition of top ULFA insurgent Anup Chetia who has served out his sentence in the country after being arrested on the charge of entering without valid documents in 1997.

Indian officials accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Dhaka said a request was made to Bangladeshi counterparts.

"But they (Bangladesh) have a legal process. We have made a request. Let us see."

Chetia, who is ULFA general secretary, is currently lodged in a Dhaka jail. He and his two associates were arrested in Dhaka on

December 21, 1997 and sentenced to seven years for illegal intrusion.

The issue of handing over of Chetia had figured in talks between the two governments when Home Minister P Chidambaram had visited Dhaka in July this year.

Chetia has sought asylum in Bangladesh and refused to return to India, even after his jail term ended here, apprehending insecurity of his life.

Sources said Chetia could become the first person to be deported to India after India and Bangladesh sign an extradition treaty which is under discussion.

(Agencies)