Despite a slew of assurances from the leaderships of both Bangladesh and India for the last 21 months, the much-talked-about Teesta water sharing agreement has not been signed yet.
Besides, no conclusion of the issue appears to be in sight in the near future. An interim agreement on Teesta water sharing was set to be signed during Indian prime minister Dr Manmohan Singh’s Dhaka visit on September 6-7, 2011. But the deal could not be inked, thanks to a last-minute objection raised by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Since Dr Singh’s visit about 21 months ago, the political and bureaucratic leaderships of both Bangladesh and India have expressed optimism about signing an agreement, but without any fruition. Dhaka has repeatedly raised the issue at almost all discussions with New Delhi. India has been consistent in its response, always saying that the deal would be signed after reaching a consensus with the West Bengal chief minister.
Leave alone the signing of any agreement, according to foreign ministry officials, there has been no visible progress since the visit of the Indian prime minister in 2011. Any conclusion in this regard appears to be unlikely, at least in the near future, they said.
“To be honest, we really don’t know as to when the agreement will be signed,” an official told The Independent.
There is little likelihood that there would be any breakthrough over the Teesta in the upcoming meeting of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) between Bangladesh and India in Dhaka on June 18 and 19, said diplomatic sources of both countries.
“Let’s hope for the best. But it does not seem that the Teesta agreement will be done during the JRC meeting that is going to be convened after a gap of three years,” said a Bangladesh diplomat.
“JRC is not only about Teesta. All the issues relating to common rivers, including Teesta, will be discussed in the meeting. I don’t think we will overcome the issues regarding Teesta before the meeting,” said an Indian diplomat.
Immediately after the conclusion of Dr Manmohan Singh’s visit, finance minister Abul Maal Abdul Muhith said on September 7, 2011 that he hoped the Teesta agreement would be signed within the next three months.
On the same day, water resources minister Ramesh Chandra Sen also expressed his optimism that the deal would be concluded within three months. The minister, on September 24, stated that the deal would be struck within three to four months.
Foreign secretary Mijarul Quayes told a press conference on September 8 that Prime Minister Sheikh had said the Teesta agreement would be signed within the next three months and her Indian counterpart had also assured her of it.
But on September 16, the Prime Minister said at a party programme that the treaty would be signed with India soon. “I will not mention any specific timeline for it. Rather, I will say that it is a matter of time. The two countries will ink the Teesta deal through discussion,” she said.
Besides, without mentioning any timeframe, local government and rural development (LGRD) minister and Awami League general secretary Syed Ashraful Islam, foreign minister Dr Dipu Moni, Prime Minister’s international affairs adviser Dr Gowher Rizvi and economic affairs adviser Dr Mashiur Rahman said the agreement would be signed “soon”.
Since September 2011, Dr Rizvi said on a number of occasions that the agreement would be signed soon.
The foreign minister, on October 4, 2011, extended the timeframe, saying that the Teesta water sharing agreement between Bangladesh and India would surely be signed under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“The Teesta water sharing agreement will definitely be signed under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina. But since it is a thing of the future, I cannot specify any date and time. I am not an astrologer,” she said.
On October 15, foreign secretary Quayes said in a press conference that there had been no new development about the interim agreement on Teesta water sharing since the visit of India’s prime minister.
In an interview with The Independent in the first week of January 2012, foreign minister Dipu Moni said the deal had not been signed due to India’s internal problems. “I hope it will be signed. Good sense will prevail. But I cannot say when it will be signed,” she said.
The higher echelons of the governments always maintained that the agreement would be signed based on the ‘principles’ and ‘text’ agreed upon by Bangladesh and India.
-With The Independent input