Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina, PM Modi and Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee at launch of rail, bus services.
NEW DELHI: Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Saturday vowed an early solution to the crucial Teesta water-sharing pact that has been under negotiations for over 20 years, telling visiting Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's feelings for Dhaka were as warm as his own. The pact, which was considered a done deal in 2011, ran into trouble after Ms Banerjee pulled out from PM Manmohan Singh's Dhaka visit at the last moment. She insisted that the deal that would divide the waters of the Teesta between India and Bangladesh would cost her state dear. She was also offended that her approval had been taken for granted. PM Modi has been trying to persuade her to agree to the pact for two years but relations between the two leaders have been frosty, the BJP has been trying to expand its footprint in the state that could eat into the Trinamool Congress' base.
Here are the top 10 developments on this story:
Conscious that the delay in signing the Teesta pact was politically costing the visiting prime minister back home, Prime Minister Modi laid considerable stress on New Delhi's "commitment and continuing efforts" to seal the deal in his statement at the end of bilateral meeting with Sheikh Hasina who is on a four-day State visit that started yesterday.
"I hope we get India's support in resolving all issues expeditiously," the visiting prime minister responded, her only reference to the water sharing agreement. Her Bangladesh Awami League faces a national election towards the end of 2018.
PM Modi recognised that the agreement on the river was not only important for Bangladesh but also India and more importantly, "for India-Bangladesh relationship". Teesta originates in Sikkim and flows into Bangladesh through West Bengal. It is one of the 50 cross-boundary rivers between the two countries, which as the PM conceded, it is "the one that has attracted the greatest attention".
"I am very happy that the Chief Minister of West Bengal is my honoured guest today. I know that her feelings for Bangladesh are as warm as my own," he told Sheikh Hasina, referring to Mamata Banerjee assured Bangladesh in 2015 to "have faith in us" but continues to oppose the Teesta pact.
In remarks that are seen as an attempt to insulate the Hasina government from attacks in Dhaka for the delay, PM Modi said "I firmly believe that it is only my government and Excellency Sheikh Hasina, your government that can and will find an early solution to Teesta Water Sharing".
Ms Banerjee was by his side, they even shared a laugh, at the launch of the Maitree Express train that will run between Kolkata and Khulna in Bangladesh and restored a once defunct rail link between Radhikapur in north Bengal and Biral in Bangladesh.
PM Modi said the partnership between the two countries also protects people in the two countries them from forces of radicalisation and extremism. "Their spread poses a grave threat, not just to India and Bangladesh but to the entire region," he said.
The Bangladesh Prime Minister said her government will take all necessary steps to ensure peace and security along the Indo-Bangla border and asserted that there will be zero-tolerance against terror.
PM Modi also thanked Dhaka for honouring Indian soldiers who laid down their lives in the Liberation War of 1971. The two PMs also honoured them at an event in Delhi Cantonment.