Absence of Teesta deal may dampen Sheikh Hasina’s visit

Nayanima Basu New Delhi | Updated on January 15, 2018 Published on April 06, 2017

A file picture of Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina. Bangladesh has a crucial role in the Modi government’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy   -  PTI

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India may not fruitful for her, as India has not been able to firm up its position on the Teesta river water sharing issue, which has been one of Dhaka’s main demands.

Despite Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy, in which Bangladesh holds a pivotal position, the government has not been able to seal an agreement on the long-pending issue of sharing of river water with its eastern neighbour.

This will be Prime Minister Hasina’s first visit to India in seven years. She is arriving here on Friday for a four-day visit. Last year, she was expected to visit India but the trip was postponed thrice as the Bangladesh government wanted India to offer “some meaningful commitment” on the Teesta river issue, diplomatic sources told BusinessLine. Hasina has found herself in a difficult position on this issue in her country as Opposition parties there continue to berate her over the river water sharing dispute, despite her closeness with the Indian government, sources said. On Saturday, when Modi is scheduled to hold a meeting with her, the water-sharing agreement, especially Teesta, will be top of the agenda of the Bangladeshis.

Invite to Mamata

In an effort to address Dhaka’s concerns, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has also been invited to take for the talks to seek an early solution to the issue.

Adding fuel to fire, Banerjee on Wednesday said that Teesta water levels were fast receding and may lead to water shortage during summer in West Bengal.

“Teesta is a very sensitive issue for Bangladesh and it is true that water-levels of Teesta have dried up drastically in the past 10 years. But we have to find a solution to it. If we do not cooperate with Bangladesh, then all aspects of our bilateral ties will be impacted,” said Prabir De, Professor and Coordinator (ASEAN-India Centre) at Research and Information System for Developing Countries.

India has high stakes in its relationship with Bangladesh. To counter Pakistan, India has joined hands with Bangladesh for some of its ambitious regional connectivity and transit plans, such as the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal Motor Vehicles Agreement.

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Published on April 06, 2017
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