With the Teesta water-sharing pact off the radar for signing, India and Bangladesh are in discussion to ink a comprehensive defence pact during the visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasnia to India in April.
Though the discussions on the contours are still going on, what India is eying is a comprehensive defence pact that encompasses training, sale of military hardware and military to military cooperation. India is also willing commit up to 500 million USD in line of credit for military cooperation with Dhaka.
If comes through, this would be India’s highest ever credit line for defence cooperation. For years, India was not keen on giving line of credit for defence hardware purchases, but that policy is changing slowly but steadily.
For India what lends urgency to wrap up a comprehensive pact is Dhaka’s growing proximity with China on defence matters. Hasina is slated to visit both Delhi and Ajmer. Sources said the “discussions for a defence pact is progressing and yet to reach a final shape.”
In November last year, Bangladesh purchased two submarines from China, much to the discomfiture of India. And China remains Bangladesh’s biggest supplier of military hardware.
During the visit of Chinese President Xi Jinping to Dhaka last year two countries signed pacts amounting to US$ 25 billion in investments in Bangladesh.
But for Bangladesh Prime Minister Hasina, going for another major pact is not an easy proposition. The pro-India leader fights criticism is that she is giving too much to India and getting too little in return. Over the years, Hasina walked the extra mile in addressing India’s concerns over insurgency and connectivity. However, New Delhi is unable to sign the much-awaited Teesta water-sharing pact. Bangladesh and India share 54 rivers but none evokes as much passion in Bangladesh as Teesta.
But water being a state subject, the Centre cannot hope to conclude a deal on sharing Teesta water without getting West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on board. Negotiations on Teesta are on for the past 18 years.
As per an agreement of 2011, which was not signed due to opposition from Banerjee, the two sides had agreed to share the river’s water 50:50, the same as the 1996 Ganges water-sharing pact between the neighbours.
Of late, Dhaka is complaining that the flow of Teesta is thinning alarmingly.
Dhaka says that the average flow of Teesta in the last ten days of March, considered a lean season, was 315 cusecs in 2015 compared to 550 cusecs during same period in 2014.
There being not enough water is a complain that even West Bengal raises, while objecting to the water sharing pact.