Teesta agreement unlikely during Sheikh Hasina’s visit

New Delhi: Though a host of bilateral agreements are expected to be signed during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s four-day visit to India from April 7, a key agreement on the sharing of Teesta waters about which there has been wide speculation is unlikely to be inked, it is reliably learnt.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will hold a bilateral summit with Sheikh Hasina on Saturday but no forward movement is expected on the Teesta waters agreement despite public opinion in Bangladesh on the matter.

Both India and Bangladesh, as good neighbours, have moved forward on other sectors like power, investment and security but the Teesta waters issue remains a vexed problem.

Though an agreement on sharing of the Teesta waters was drafted ahead of then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh, it was withdrawn at the last moment when West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee protested against the accord.

Banerjee’s position is that the treaty would render north Bengal dry and affect Indian farmers. She is of the view that with Bangladesh having its largest irrigation project, the Teesta Barrage, running, the country does not deserve more water.

Though Banerjee is scheduled to join a banquet dinner hosted by President Pranab Mukherjee in the honour of Sheikh Hasina, she will not attend the bilateral summit to be held at Hyderabad House.

The Teesta waters issue apart, the Bangladesh side is also very keen about a Ganga Barrage and talks in this regard are expected during the summit.

Among the 25 to 30 agreements that are expected to be signed during the visit, there will be two memorandums of understanding on defence.

While an MoU will be signed on defence cooperation under which New Delhi will extend a line of credit of $500 million to Dhaka to buy defence equipment from India, the second MoU will be on setting up training colleges.

Cooperation on defence training between India and Bangladesh has been very strong with a set of standard operating procedures in place.

Connectivity is another issue of mutual interest and an MoU is likely to be signed on running passenger and goods trains which will be of benefit to Bangladesh and northeast India.

During Sheikh Hasina’s visit, a bus service and a train service between Kolkata and Khulna will be launched as also a rail link from Radhikapur in north Bengal.

Energy cooperation between the two sides has shown a lot of positivity with India already transmitting additional power to its eastern neighbour.

During Modi’s 2015 visit, it was decided that an energy dialogue would be started and now with India already training Bangladeshi scientists, a civil nuclear agreement is expected to be signed during Sheikh Hasina’s visit.

There has been concern in India regarding security of minority communities in Bangladesh following a rise in Islamist fervour but Dhaka has already conveyed to New Delhi that it was concerned and the phenomenon was a disgrace.

The Indian establishment, it is learnt, has been reassured by the steps taken by Sheikh Hasina’s government on this.

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