Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India: Defence deal likely, Teesta on hold
Dhaka and New Delhi don’t have any long-term defence cooperation pact, but two memorandums of understanding (MoU) are expected in this sector.india Updated: Apr 06, 2017 18:52 IST
A defence framework agreement and US $500-million credit to buy Indian military hardware are likely to be signed during Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s four-day visit from Friday, but the protracted Teesta water pact is off the table.
Dhaka and New Delhi don’t have any long-term defence cooperation pact, but two memorandums of understanding (MoU) are expected in this sector.
Besides, the two neighbours may sign two dozen agreements on a wide range of subjects, including counter-terrorism cooperation, trade, transport, energy and investment.
But the much-delayed Teesta water-sharing pact will remain on hold as the Centre has failed to get West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee on board.
“Teesta is a work in progress,” said Sripriya Ranghanathan, joint secretary in charge of Bangladesh in the foreign ministry.
Banerjee, though, will attend President Pranab Mukherjee’s banquet for Hasina.
The Teesta river is crucial for the neighbouring low-lying country, especially during the lean December-March season when the water flow reduces from 5,000 cusecs to less than 1,000.
A water-sharing pact was set to be inked during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011. But it was postponed at the last minute because of Banerjee’s objections.
The West Bengal chief minister objected to a 50-50 water-sharing ratio for the lean season, which she said would go against her state’s interests.
Her government’s consent is essential as water is a state subject constitutionally, and the Teesta originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
Another top bilateral agenda would be better connectivity between the two countries. The issue will come up during talks between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and the ruling Bangladesh Awami League leader Hasina on Saturday.
An MoU is likely to be signed to run Indian passenger and goods trains through Bangladesh, a move that will benefit the northeastern states.
A bus and train service between Kolkata and Khulna will be launched during Hasina’s visit, as also a rail link from Radhikapur in north Bengal.
Energy cooperation has shown a lot of positivity with India already transmitting additional power to its eastern neighbour.