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Mamata Says Yes to Lunch But No to Teesta as Sheikh Hasina Visits India

A file image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladesh PM Shiekh Hasina.

A file image of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi with Bangladesh PM Shiekh Hasina.

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina would have liked to go into elections in 2018 with the Teesta water treaty in hand but the Mamata Banerjee hurdle still remains.

New Delhi: Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina would have liked to go into elections in 2018 with the Teesta water treaty in hand but the Mamata Banerjee hurdle still remains.

So, even though Hasina is heading to India for bilateral talks tomorrow, any possibility of the water sharing agreement being sealed has been ruled out. Joint Secretary (BM) in the Ministry of External Affairs, Sripriya Ranganathan on Thursday said, "it ( Teesta water treaty) remains work in progress." She added that the state government still had "some degree of doubt."

West Bengal's objection to the treaty arises from its concern that giving 33,000 cusecs of water annually to Bangladesh will mean its own northern districts will suffer. It believes that Coochbehar, Jalpaiguri, Darjeeling and North and South Dinajpur will be at loss if the treaty is signed on the present terms. It has also said that the talks before 2010 had agreed upon 25,000 cusecs annually. It is for this reason that Banerjee had refused to endorse the treaty when the then PM Manmohan Singh visited Dhaka in 2011.

Interestingly, Mamata Banerjee will be present at the lunch hosted by PM Modi in honour of Sheikh Hasina on the 8th of April. However, she has already voiced her concern last month about the treaty being signed in May without the state's consent. The spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Gopal Baglay had assured that the government will take all on board before going ahead.

Both sides are expected to sign over 20 agreements/MoUs including a crucial comprehensive defence cooperation agreement. Security cooperation in view of the growing threat of radicalisation will also be covered. The two sides will also be looking at bus services between cities in India and Bangladesh. But despite all this, the water- sharing treaty once again not being accomplished will leave both sides disappointed as it is equally important for India to counter China's influence in the Bay of Bengal region.

first published:April 06, 2017, 19:34 IST