Despite growing security cooperation and bonhomie in their relationship, India and Bangladesh have failed to get cracking on the water issue between the two countries.
With a pact on sharing water from the Teesta river hanging fire, the two countries — both lower riparian states — have failed to jointly assess any impact a series of dams China plans to build on Brahmaputra will have for them.
The plan to jointly develop the Ganges barrage on river Padma in Bangladesh has made little progress, and the ongoing exchange on Himalayan rivers has also made little headway.
According to diplomatic sources, Bangladesh water resources minister Anisul Islam Mahmud during his visit here last week had met his Indian counterpart Uma Bharti for early implementation of the Teesta pact. He also discussed any possible impact India’s river-linking project would have for Bangladesh.
India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers, and a water-sharing pact exists only for the Ganges, which was signed in 1996.
The Centre has told Dhaka that it is in talks with the West Bengal government on the issue. The Centre is faced with an uphill task to convince chief minister Mamata Banerjee to help conclude the Teesta pact ahead of state polls in 2016.
Water is a state subject in India and negotiations on Teesta have been going on for 18 years. Bangladesh has given enough indication of Teesta agreement being seen as a demonstrable pact to show New Delhi is reciprocating its ‘unprecedented’ security cooperation.
But sources said West Bengal government has not given any favourable response on the issue. Trinamool Congress spokesperson Derek O’Brien said, “I cannot answer this today.”
Teesta is casting a shadow over the important discussions the two countries have on water issue. China had operationalised largest dam in Tibet, built on river Brahmaputra, Zangmu, at a cost of $1.5 billion in October. Though India’s response was that it is a run-of-the river project, Inter-Ministerial Expert Group on the Brahmaputra in 2013 said the dams on the upper reaches ‘require further monitoring’ to assess the impact on the flow of waters to the lower reaches in India.