Setting the stage for Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh scheduled for the last week of March, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee Saturday said that she has started a dialogue on the Teesta water sharing issue with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and the process of sealing the Teesta deal would follow, keeping in mind interests of both the sides. Even though top officials of both countries termed the visit as an “icebreaker”, Banerjee indicated that her government was willing to resolve the Teesta issue if the interests of West Bengal are not affected.
With this meeting, Banerjee has reached a “political understanding” with Hasina and both the leaders have agreed to characterise the meeting as “positive and fruitful”. Hasina gifted a boat to Mamata Banerjee and said, “Nauka jeno bhashe, pani jeno ashe (the boat should float and water should be there)”. Banerjee replied, “Panir byabastha hobe (water would be arranged)”. The lines are symbolic as boat is the symbol of Hasina’s party Awami League.
The Bangladeshi government is witnessing strikes by the opposition BNP over the Teesta water sharing issue. “Even though Teesta is an issue of utmost important to us, we decided not to mention it during the meeting. Our Prime Minister wanted the meeting to take place in a cordial manner and not as a typical diplomatic discussion,” Gawher Rizvi, International Affairs Advisor to the Bangladesh PM, said. However, Banerjee raised the issue on her own.
Hasina’s media advisor Iqbal Sobhan Choudhury said, “Bengal Chief Minister assured our Prime Minister that she would find a pragmatic solution to the problem and would see that the interests of Bangladesh and Bengal are served. Even though she did not mention any time frame for Teesta accord to be signed, her approach was positive. Ratification of Land Boundary Agreement too is expected soon.”
On the land boundary issue, Banerjee said, “LBA is a serious issue. We have taken an initiative and the LBA issue is resolved. The LBA agreement would be ratified in the coming session of Parliament and it would be implemented soon.”
Apart from the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) and Teesta, Banerjee also raised the issue of connecting Agartala and Kolkata by road via Dhaka. If the proposed road link comes up, Agartala would get a smooth and fast access to Kolkata.
A top official of the Indian high commission in Dhaka said the Bengal CM mentioned all the issues which would be later negotiated between two countries during Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit.