Teesta water pact can transform ties: Hasina

NEW DELHI
10 Apr 2017

The India-Bangladesh ties will undergo "another transformation" if a pact on Teesta water sharing is inked, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said today but is anxious over West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee's reaction to such an agreement.

Stressing that common water resources must act as a uniting force, she pitched for a comprehensive solution to sharing of waters of all common rivers between the two countries. "We strongly believe our common water resources must act as a uniting force. A comprehensive, basin-wide solution with an in-built solution to water sharing of all common rivers holds key to our common future," she said while addressing an event here. On the Teesta issue, Hasina said Prime Minister Narendra Modi has once again reiterated his government's strong resolve to conclude the water-sharing treaty as soon as possible.

"Once it happens, the phase of Indo-Bangladesh relations will undergo another transformation," she said. In a lighter vein, the neighbouring country's prime Minister said she does not know how the West Bengal chief minister, who is reportedly not in favour of Teesta water sharing, will react to her submission about the pact. "I don't know what 'didi' (Banerjee) will do. Had a talk with didi, she put forward something new. But Modiji has given the assurance that he is there to see what happens," she said. However, Hasina said at least Mamata offered her electricity from West Bengal. "Paani mangaa to electricity mila. Laykin electricity milaa achha hai kutch toh mila naa (we asked for water, she gave us power but at least we got something)" Hasina said.

While Modi has rekindled the hope for an early signing of the pact, Mamata insisted that instead of Teesta, the government should look at other river systems to share water with Bangladesh. The Teesta deal was set to be signed during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Bangladesh in September 2011, but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by Mamata. Teesta waters are crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.

The Bangladesh Prime Minister also asserted that her government has comprehensively addressed India's security concerns which were a factor in building trust. "We have put in place a multi-layered and effective bilateral security architecture with many dedicated joint institutional mechanisms for targeted and coordinated actions," she said. Observing that the journey towards peace and prosperity is put to peril by the rise of terrorism and violent extremism, she said threats from state and non-state actors tend to undermine efforts to integrate regional economies and societies and pitched for more concerted efforts to strengthen security.