Teesta pact sways India-Bangla talks

India on Tuesday told Bangladesh that it was holding internal discussions on the proposed bilateral treaty for sharing of water of river Teesta and would wait until a consensus emerged.

Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai told his Bangladeshi counterpart Mirajul Qayes that while New Delhi was keen to clinch a deal with Dhaka on water sharing, it could do so only after its consultations with the State Governments of West Bengal and Sikkim concluded.

Mathai and Qayes led the Foreign Office Consultation between India and Bangladesh. Bangladesh Foreign Secretary is understood to have told his Indian counterpart that Dhaka expected New Delhi to expedite the process of consultation so that an agreement on sharing of water of the common river could be signed soon.

West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee in September last year pulled  out of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s entourage to Dhaka in protest against New Delhi’s move to clinch a deal with Dhaka on Teesta. She was of the view that the proposed agreement would adversely hit irrigation projects in northern region of West Bengal.
Teesta originates from Tso Lhamo lake in Sikkim. The river is known as the lifeline of Sikkim and several districts in West Bengal. The 315-km long river joins the Brahmaputra after entering Bangladesh.

Sharing of water resources was one of the issues that dominated the Foreign Office Consultation between India and Bangladesh on Tuesday. The other issues that Mathai and Qayes touched upon are cooperation in political and security related matters, border management, counter-terrorism, trade and investment, cooperation in power sector, including renewable energy, connectivity, development co- operation and increasing people-to-people ties, Joint Secretary (External Publicity) and official spokesperson of the Ministry of External Affairs, Syed Akbaruddin, told reporters.

Sources said that the Bangladesh Foreign Secretary also expressed disappointment over delay by Indian Government in ratification of the bilateral land boundary agreement and the additional protocol on enclaves and adversely possessed land that the two countries inked during Singh’s visit to Dhaka last September.
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New Delhi has already made it clear that ratification of the 1974 agreement and the additional protocol would take time as it would require a constitutional amendment and the Congress-led ruling United Progressive Alliance did not have adequate numbers in both Houses of Parliament to get it through. The Opposition BJP is likely to oppose it, while the Trinamool Congress too apparently has some reservations about exchange of enclaves and adversely possessed land.

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