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Modi yet to sign Teesta deal as tenure nears end

  • Published at 01:11 am April 3rd, 2019
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina with Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee during a state visit in April 2017 Indian External affairs Ministry

Senior officials concerned said, to their knowledge, no headway in this regard has been made

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has yet to fulfill his pledge to sign the much-awaited Teesta water sharing agreement as his tenure comes to an end.

During the visit of Prime Minister Hasina to India in April 2017, Modi, following a bilateral discussion with his Bangladeshi counterpart, announced at a joint briefing in the Hyderabad House, that the Teesta water sharing deal would be inked during the current tenures of the two governments.

The draft of this agreement was agreed upon by the water resources secretaries of both countries in January 2011; and it was supposed to be signed in early September of 2011, during the Dhaka visit of the then Indian Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh. 

However, the deal could not be inked then due to last-minute objections by the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

On April 8, 2017, during Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India, Modi said the Teesta agreement had attracted the greatest attention and that the deal will be signed during their tenures.

Addressing a joint briefing, Modi said: “Along with our shared land boundaries are our shared rivers. They sustain our peoples and their livelihoods. And, the one that has attracted the greatest attention is the Teesta. This is important for India, for Bangladesh and for the India-Bangladesh relationship.

“I am very happy that the Chief Minister of West Bengal is my honoured guest today. I know that her feelings for Bangladesh are as warm as my own. I assure you and the people of Bangladesh of our commitment and continuing efforts. I firmly believe that it is only my government and Excellency Sheikh Hasina, your government that can and will find an early solution to Teesta water sharing.”

‘No development whatsoever’

Senior officials concerned revealed that to the best of their knowledge, there has been no development whatsoever in signing the Teesta deal in the past two years.

A senior diplomat, with thorough knowledge of the issue, told the Dhaka Tribune: “I do not know about any development in regards to the Teesta deal since the honourable prime minister’s visit to India in April of 2017.

“I am also not aware of any activities within the different stakeholders in India. We have a new government and India is going have another one in a couple of months. It will simply be a miracle if the deal is signed within the tenure of the country’s incumbent government.”

Addressing the issue, another diplomat said: “When a head of the government is unable to keep his promise that was made publicly, what else can be done? We have nothing to do but wait until the Indians resolve their internal issues regarding this particular matter.”

“We have not heard anything that can lead us to believe that the deal could be signed anytime soon,” said a senior official of the Ministry of Water Resources.

About the future of the agreement, which remains as an irritant in the Dhaka-Delhi ties, the officials are not at all certain as to when the deal could be concluded, said various sources, adding that if Modi wants to sign the deal, he will have to do through bypassing the West Bengal state government led by Mamata Banerjee, which is most unlikely under the federal government system in India.

Given the current strained relationship between Modi and Mamata, it will be nothing but a miracle if the West Bengal state government agrees to the signing of the deal anytime soon, they added.

“We will have to just wait and see,” said a senior diplomat, on condition of anonymity. 

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