As PM Narendra Modi Welcomes Sheikh Hasina, An Outreach To Mamata Banerjee Too

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As PM Narendra Modi Welcomes Sheikh Hasina, An Outreach To Mamata Banerjee Too

Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina lands in Delhi tomorrow; (File photo)

New Delhi: 

Highlights

  1. Teesta Water Treaty key part of India-Bangladesh relations
  2. Mamata Banerjee not ok with terms of water-sharing agreement
  3. Bangladesh premier Sheikh Hasina arrives in Delhi tomorrow
"A visit without water" is how some officials are describing the visit to India of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, because a crucial water-sharing agreement, negotiated over nearly 20 years, is unlikely to progress during the three-day trip that begins tomorrow. That's because West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee remains opposed to the agreement.

Yesterday, she said to officials in West Bengal, "There is a water crisis in Teesta River. Water levels are drying up in Teesta as well as in the Mahananda. Just imagine what will happen during peak summer."

The Teesta is one of nearly 50 cross-boundary rivers between India and Bangladesh.  A water-sharing agreement exists only for one of them.

The latest draft of the agreement was prepared by Dr Manmohan Singh's government. It divides the waters of the Teesta equally between India and Bangladesh. Teesta originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal into Bangladesh.

In 2011, Dr Singh was prepping to sign the treaty on a trip to Dhaka, but at the last minute, Ms Banerjee pulled out of the visit, stating that the terms were damaging for her state.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi's government has not revised that draft.  As part of the outreach to Ms Banerjee, she will be included at his lunch for the Bangladeshi premier on Saturday, and attend the launch of two new trains and a bus between Kolkata and Bangladesh.

This is Sheikh Hasina's first bilateral visit to India in seven years. She has been criticised at home for failing to close the Teesta deal.

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During her visit, Bangladesh and India are likely to sign up to 35 agreements and memoranda of understanding for bilateral trade and investment and cooperation in the energy sector as well as better security along the highly-porous border between the two countries.

India is also expected to announce a fresh credit worth about $5 billion for infrastructure projects like railways, roads and waterways as Delhi moves to counter China's influence in neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh. Last year, Dhaka bought two submarines from China. India expects to sign a defense deal with Bangladesh during Sheikh Hasina's trip.

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