Expressing surprise over West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s last minute decision to pull out from his delegation to Bangladesh, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said he had tried to address all her concerns about sharing of water with the eastern neighbour.
“I was in touch with Mamataji for a month on the issue and all technical issues were sorted out. After everything was final, at a meeting of the cabinet committee on political affairs, Dinesh Trivediji said some issues were still pending. I asked national security advisor SS Menon to meet Mamataji and then he went to Dhaka again to accommodate these issues, what she told, what he understood,” Singh said.
“But Mamatiji decided to not join the delegation and only subsequently did I understand that she had problems with clauses of Teesta agreement,” he said.
Responding to whether he would now depute a political person to talk to Banerjee, the prime minister said: “I do not know what is political and what is official in this situation. The NSA, a senior adviser and a political messenger, had gone to meet her.” Singh said he would continue to engage with Banerjee whom he described as a “great alliance partner.”
He said while the provincial perspectives in international relations are significant and must be accounted for, “we must build national perspectives” on issues. He said the very fact of India being such a diverse country with varied interests of different regions inevitably throws multiple perspectives on international issues. “Technically, international treaties are in the domain of the centre. But we have to be realistic and cannot wish away regional sentiments. That is part of politics,” he said.
Singh said he was very satisfied with the visit. “The visit has achieved a lot, but it could have achieved more. I would have liked the water sharing agreement to conclude,” the PM said.
Earlier also, in a lecture at the Dhaka University, Singh expressed his disappointment over the deal’s failure.
“I hope…we can make an irreversible shift in relations. Our friendship is with the people of Bangladesh,” he said, adding that India wished to work with all sections of the people and “all shades of public opinion.”
The PM also complimented Bangladesh for being “an influential member of the Islamic world where it is a voice of moderation and reason,” adding both countries are vulnerable to extremism and terrorism.