Bangladesh pressurizes India over Teesta water-sharing agreement

The prime ministers of the two countries reportedly discussed this on the sidelines of the Goa BRICS summit

Gulf News

Kolkata: Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, who met his Bangladeshi counterpart, Sheikh Hasina, on Sunday to discuss bilateral issues, is said to have agreed to sort out the Teesta water sharing treaty issue at the earliest.

Hasina arrived in Goa on early Sunday morning, ahead of the BRICS-Bimstec Outreach Summit and a bilateral meeting with Modi. As host to this year’s BRICS (Brazil, Russia, India, China, South Africa) summit, India, as is the practice, can invite neighbouring countries to join for an outreach summit.

Bangladesh has been hopeful that the Teesta pact would finally come through as “diplomatic quid-pro-quo”, since the country stood by India during the recent terror attacks in Uri and its following diplomatic fallout, where it even pulled out of the SAARC summit that was scheduled to be held in Islamabad next month.

“We are hopeful that India would respond to our gestures,” said Mohammad Sayedul Hoque, senior minister in Ministry of Fisheries and Livestock.

Although the Modi administration is keen to sign the pact, it is unlikely that Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will support the deal. Earlier, the Bangladeshi government wanted to sort out differences with Banerjee but now they are considering the issue an internal matter of India and are putting pressure on New Delhi to sign the treaty. “If Mamata is unwilling it is an internal matter of India and Bangladesh no way can or will interfere in internal issues of its neighbouring country. However, we are keen to sign the deal at the earliest,” said another minister on promise of anonymity.

In 2011, Mamata had opted out of the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s delegation visiting Dhaka, scarpering the signing of the deal. In 2015, when she accompanied Modi to Dhaka, she had sounded positive.

Later on, her government maintained that since Modi’s visit to Dhaka in June 2015, the centre has made no effort to consider the concerns that have been “repeatedly raised by the West Bengal government” regarding the contentious Teesta treaty.

“There is an issue over Teesta River internally. The Sikkim government has a number of hydroelectric projects coming up on Teesta river. During rainfall, Sikkim releases water, which leads to flooding in north Bengal. During the dry season, there is water shortage in north Bengal due to their dams,” said a senior official of the state government.

“West Bengal receives less than 40 per cent of the available utilisable surface water and reservoirs only meet 2.44 per cent of the total water demand for the agricultural sector. The delta, which once had excess water, now suffers from acute dearth of water during the dry period. We had suggested the building of a number of small reservoirs to counter this. But the central government is yet to respond.”