Kolkata: Uncertainty reigns over the much awaited Teesta water sharing agreement after Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee proposed to share Torsha river water instead, to Bangladesh.
BJP, however, is hopeful. Rajen Gohain, Union minister of state for railways, hoped it would be solved in time. “It will take some time but the Teesta related problem with the Bengal CM will get solved within some days,” he said.
With Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina headed to polls next year, Banerjee’s last-minute suggestion to both Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Hasina has put diplomats on a sticky wicket.
“Torsa was never a part of the bilateral discussions till Saturday. A proposal to share Torsa water is fraught with complications that can derail the proposed Teesta treaty,” a diplomat said.
Former Indian foreign secretary Krishnan Srinivasan, who was also the ambassador to Dhaka, said Torsa cannot be a practical solution. “You need to think from the Bangladesh’s point of view. I do not think Bangladesh will accept this proposal. It’s too late to offer water of Torsa instead of Teesta.”
He added, “The agreement of Teesta water sharing is already a written document, but it was not signed in 2011, when Mamata refused to accompany the then PM Manmohan Singh to Dhaka. So how can India withdraw its position from Teesta? She had gone to Dhaka in June 2015 with Narendra Modi and could have said it clearly at that time.”
He said, “Switching stand is absolutely not possible for India and Bangladesh will not accept it — as there will be huge political ramification in Bangladesh since Hasina will have to face criticism at home if she fails to bring Teesta water. The rivals of Hasina will be trying to highlight this as her failure during the 2018 polls starting from October. In public view, Hasina’s popularity might take a hit, as she is known for her closeness with India.” “Coming so late in the day, it will be seen only as a stalling tactic by the CM. Hasina may also face criticism for the defence deals,” Srinivasan said.
Already, BNP has criticised her for inking defence deals with India.
On the new proposal, Aftab-Uz-Zaman — a water management expert and member of inter-linking of rivers project in India — said it’s a time-consuming process. He said the water during the lean period also needs to be measured in Torsa and everything needs to be evaluated keeping in mind the question of water sharing. Water resource engineering expert of Bangladesh, Muhammad Abdul Matin, said: “People in Bangladesh are waiting for Teesta water and they won’t accept this sudden proposal.”
International relations expert at Jadavpur University and Congress leader, Omprakash Mishra, said: “The Centre didn’t do homework before Hasina’s arrival. The water resource ministry should have held meeting with Bengal government to sort out the issue.”