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Delhi, Dhaka have not finalised Teesta treaty

By Sanchari Bhattacharya
September 06, 2011 14:16 IST
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Dismissing rumours that India and Bangladesh were close to finalsing the Teesta river agreement, a senior official accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on his visit to Dhaka said that the two nations were only working towards a treaty. He said that the agreement was unlikely during the ongoing visit, but it might see the light of the day soon. Rediff.com's Sanchari Bhattacharya, who is also  travelling with the prime minister, reports

India and Bangladesh had not arrived at a final water distribution treaty on Teesta and they had been merely working towards an interim agreement, according to a senior official who is accompanying Prime Minister Manmohan Singh for the bilateral visit to the neighbouring country.

He dismissed media reports that have claimed that West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had refused to participate in the crucial trip as she was unhappy about 33,000 cusecs of water being granted to Bangladesh as per the treaty. Why the Trinamool Congress chief cancelled her trip at the last moment remains a question no one has a concrete answer to.

The official pointed out that no measurements of river resources had been taken by the two governments. "We have our measurements, they have theirs. Our methods of estimation may be different. The idea was to work towards an interim agreement, take joint measurements," he said.

Conceding that a Teesta agreement was "unlikely" during the current bilateral visit, he added, "Unless everyone likes the deal, all the state governments as well as the Bangladesh government, there is no point in signing it. It (a Teesta agreement) has to meet everyone's needs and we are not there yet."

But he didn't rule out the possibility of the agreement seeing the light of the day sometime soon, saying, "Teesta (agreement) is still doable, we can still work it out".

On a positive note, the official pointed out, "India and Bangladesh have tremendous complementarities across a whole range of economic activities".

Reaffirming that resolving all outstanding border issues was the topmost agenda for both New Delhi and Dhaka, he said, "It will be a major step for us when we completely agree on our boundaries. We have a comprehensive border management plan."

On the issue of handing over adversely possessed land to Bangladesh, the official dismissed suggestions that India was 'losing' land to the neighbouring nation.

"We have to recognise reality. This is undemarcated land. Till we demarcate it, we can't say someone's gaining land and someone is losing it," he said.

The official played down reports about the Inter-Services Intelligence's presence in Bangaldesh, saying, "We tend to forget how different Bangladesh is from Pakistan. Bangladesh has political parties with a strong grass-root support, an active civil society and a very strong sense of identity".

He added that India and Bangladesh were still "learning the habit of working together, but it will take some time". 

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Sanchari Bhattacharya in Dhaka
 
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