Uncertainty over Teesta water-sharing


A new chapter began in the history of world diplomacy in the wake of Bangladesh's liberation on 16th December, 1971. This emancipation turned out to be a thread which forged bonding between India and Bangladesh.

However, 40 years later, in 2011 impediment on Teesta-water sharing broke off this rare friendship between the two countries. Innumerable people in Bangladesh came down heavily upon West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Consequently, there was a ban on export of the world-renowned fish named Hilsa from Bangladesh to India. This broke the heart of millions of fish-lovers across India.

A few months ago, Mamata Banerjee broke the ice through her maiden visit to Bangladesh as West Bengal CM on the occasion of Bhasha Divas (International Language Day, February 21). She sought Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's intervention for lifting the ban on export of Hilsa. Hasina replied, "Teesta's water first, then Hilsa."

Be that as it may, people across Bangladesh were rife with hopes of realizing one of their paramount demands. Ratification of the land swap deal in the Indian Parliament added euphoria to this hope. However, the reality is yet to be amalgamated with these hopes and euphoria.

Bangladesh is gearing up to welcome Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi in his maiden visit to the country on 6th June, 2015. It was also being speculated that he would also get Mamata Banerjee's company to give formal nod to Teesta water-sharing and this is turning to be true with confirmation coming in that she would be part of the PM delegation.

On the other hand, it has also been learnt that the Indian Government has set up a task force comprising experts from West Bengal and Sikkim for resolving the problems of the water-sharing prior to Modi's Bangladesh visit. This apparently testifies that Mamata washed her hands of the responsibility of Teesta issue to Modi.

Though uncertainty exists over the signing up of the water-sharing agreement, yet Modi would assure Bangladesh sharing of water with promises over the issue.

According to sources, it has also been learnt that though Teesta and Feni water treaties may not be signed up, yet Prime Minister Modi would assure Bangladesh with promises over the issue, as mentioned above. He would also declare sanction of loans to Bangladesh. This has been told by India's Foreign Secretary, S Jaishankar, in the second day of the sixth phase of India-Bangladesh Friendship dialogue, 2015.

Jaishankar further added that feasibilities on export of commodities from Bangladesh to Nepal and Bhutan via India would also be explored in the meeting between the two premieres Modi and Hasina.

Discussion on Teesta and Feni river issues are underway. The final call would be taken soon.

To facilitate trade-route connection with Bangladesh via roads, 50 land-custom offices are under construction. Checkposts along Petrapol, Hili and Meghalaya in India would be constructed too. Border haats would also be installed in Meghalaya and Tripura for the convenience of Rajshahi and Sylhet residents. Technical systems are being developed to supply 100 MW electricity from Palatana and an additional 500 MW electricity to Bangladesh.

Hydropower projects across North-East India are being constructed to supply power to Northern India via Bangladesh. As a result, Bangladesh would also well-utilise the grid to alleviate their power deficiency.

By Shilajit Kar Bhowmik