Dhaka, Mar 15: Bangladesh today reminded India of its commitment over Teesta water sharing agreement ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi, saying Dhaka awaits a draft deal on the matter signed six years ago to be turned into an agreement.
“On the issue of Teesta, two subsequent Indian Prime Ministers (Manmohan Singh and Narendra Modi) said the draft of the proposed deal on Teesta will be turned into an agreement. And they made this commitment not in private conversation but in public statements,” Water Resources Minister Anisul Islam Mahmud said on the sidelines of a water conference here.
He declined to speculate over possibilities during Hasina’s visit to India from April 7 to 10, saying “I cannot give you any timeframe, but I can tell you that the central government in India is sincere and they are working on it”.
Islam said there are “internal political perspective of every country over such issues, and you are well aware of this (in the case of Teesta). But we definitely want the justified share of Teesta waters not only for our agriculture, but also for saving the river... The flow drastically declined two years ago”.
Bangladesh has long been insisting on signing of a water sharing agreement, which so far failed to yield the much expected treaty.
India and Bangladesh were set to ink the deal during Singh’s 2011 Dhaka visit, but West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee declined to endorse the deal citing scarcity of water in her state.
The Teesta river, which has its origin in Sikkim, flows through the northern part of West Bengal before entering Bangladesh and joining the Brahmaputra river.
Its flow is crucial for Bangladesh from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusec from 5,000 cusec.
Bangladesh and India have an outstanding issue of sharing waters in the common Teesta river with West Bengal having a major stake in the process.
During her February 2015 Dhaka visit, Banarjee promised to play a “positive role” in resolving the outstanding issue, protecting interests of both Bangladesh and West Bengal as she called on Hasina. In 2015, Banerjee visited Bangladesh with Modi.
Bangladesh is criss-crossed by over 200 rivers, which largely contribute to its economy and agriculture. It shares flows in 54 common streams with the Teesta being a major one.
The Teesta water-sharing agreement has been in talks since the Hasina-led Awami League government returned to power in 2009. Hasina had earlier criticised Banarjee for her “unfortunate” stance against the water sharing deal.
The two countries earlier had signed a landmark 30-year agreement on sharing of water in the Ganges, removing a protracted irk in bilateral ties during Hasina’s previous tenure as prime minister in 1997 when Deve Gowda was her Indian counterpart and Jyoti Basu was the West Bengal chief minister. PTI