No signing of Teesta pact during Modi's B'desh visit: Swaraj

Last Updated 31 May 2015, 16:56 IST

India today said the long-pending Teesta water-sharing pact with Bangladesh will not be signed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to that country beginning June 6.

Announcing this External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj said views of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is accompanying Modi to Bangladesh, will be taken before making a final decision on the pact.

"We have not reached a position for signing of the Teesta pact. Any understanding between governments of India and Bangladesh will not be enough as no decision is possible without consulting the state (West Bengal) government," Swaraj told a press conference here.

The Teesta deal was set to be inked during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh in September 2011 but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by Banerjee, who had also dropped out of the Prime Ministerial delegation.

Asked whether there was any possibility of Banerjee dropping out at the last minute this time too, Swaraj said "This time there is no such possibility. Mamata Banerjee is definitely going there."

Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.

Modi's maiden visit to Bangladesh is expected to give a new momentum to overall bilateral ties as it follows passage of a constitution amendment bill which will provide for implementation of the 1974 land boundary pact and settle the 41-year-old border issue between the two countries.

Identifying water-sharing as an important issue, the External Affairs Minister said both countries will have to talk about 54 rivers along with Teesta.

Last week, Bangladesh had hoped that the pact will be inked during Modi's trip.

Swaraj said the issue of deportation of ULFA leader Anup Chetia from Bangladesh was likely to figure during the talks and noted that while extradition process will take long, he could be repatriated.

India has been pressing for deportation of Chetia, who is lodged in a Dhaka jail for over 17 years.

On the developments in India's neighbourhood including in Maldives where former president Mohamed Nasheed has been sentenced to 13 years in jail under anti-terror laws, Swaraj said an early peaceful resolution of the issue will be beneficial for that country.

On ties with Sri Lanka, she said the visit of President Maithripala Sirisena immediately after assuming charge following the election victory and Modi's visit there reflected the vibrancy in ties between the two countries.

On emotive fishermen issue, she asked the Sri Lankan authorities to stay away from making "provocative statements" which would "vitiate" the conducive atmosphere to resolve the issue which pertained to livelihood and required humanitarian approach.

"There was a joint meeting between fishermen of both the countries. The proposal by our fishermen has been rejected by them. We said its a livelihood issue," Swaraj said.

Swaraj's comments came in response to remarks by Sri Lankan Fisheries Minister Mahinda Amaraweera, who last week said, "Not 65 days, we will not agree for even 65 hours" while rejecting India's proposal to allow its fishermen to catch fish in Lankan waters for 65 days a year.

Talking about execution of various India-aided projects in Sri Lanka and Bhutan, she said New Delhi would ensure that those were completed with transparency.

(Published 31 May 2015, 16:56 IST)

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