Bangladesh has accepted the ‘reality’ that there will be no progress in striking the much-talked-about Teesta water sharing deal with India before the West Bengal Legislative Assembly Election scheduled for May this year.Against this backdrop, both Bangladesh and India are now willing to take other issues forward, shelving the Teesta issue “for the time being.”Dhaka, however, is now trying to share the waters of the cross-border rivers on the basis of basin-wise water management system, apart from spurring its cooperation with New Delhi in the areas of blue economy and investment.New Delhi, on the other hand, wants to take forward its relationship with Dhaka in the areas of trade, investment and communications.These views of the two countries came up in the secretary-level talks at Delhi’s Hyderabad House at the beginning of this month.The secretary-level meeting was primarily a follow-up meeting of Indian prime minister Narenda Modi’s Dhaka visit. Both the countries expressed their satisfaction at the progress in implementing the decisions taken at Modi-Hasina summit in Dhaka.Diplomatic sources in New Delhi told the Prothom Alo on Sunday that Bangladesh is willing to organise a foreign minister-level talks, officially termed as Joint Consultative Commission [JCC], in the middle of this year in Dhaka.
Before the JCC meeting, at least three meetings have been planned to be held on border management, blue economy and on establishing specialised economic zones for India in Bangladesh.Foreign ministry officials said the 1 February meeting between Bangladesh’s foreign affairs secretary Md Shahidul Haque and Indian foreign secretary S Jaishankar was the first meeting of the officials of the twocountries after Modi’s Dhaka visit in 2015.Although the one-and-a-half hour meeting could not discuss all the issues in details, Dhaka raised the issue of Teesta water sharing deal and bringing an end to the border killing by India’s Border Security Force (BSF).Talking to the Prothom Alo, Shahidul Haque said the progress in implementing the decisions taken by the two prime ministers is so far so good.
Delayed Teesta Deal and JRC:When the issue of Teesta water sharing deal was raised in the meeting, Indian side iterated its pledge to strike the deal. At the same time, Indian side has attached importance to taking the consent from Bangladesh’s neighbouring state (West Bengal) before signing the water deal.Officials said the Teesta deal is unlikely to be inked before the Legislative Assembly election in the West Bengal as Bangladesh has no alternative in its hands but to accept the “reality.”As there is no possibility of signing the Teesta deal in the near future, Bangladesh is showing no interest in holding any meeting of the Joint River Commission.
Under the circumstances, in the Delhi meeting Bangladesh has placed its thinking of basin-wise management of cross-border river waters.Earlier in January, Dhaka proposed for the basin-wise water management system in an expert committee meeting in Dhaka on sub-regional water and power cooperation between Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal.
The Delhi meeting has decided that both bilateral and sub-regional surveys will be conducted to find the feasibility of basin-wise water management. Bangladesh and India have agreed to complete the survey by this year.Former ambassador M Humayun Kabir told the Prothom Alo that balanced bilateral relations will never develop if it becomes one-sided. “Bilateral relations develop on the give and take approach. There must be visible efforts to resolve all of the outstanding issues to take the relations forward.”Border killing and fake currencyLike other times, Dhaka urged New Delhi to stop killing unarmed Bangladeshis at the borders by BSF, during the foreign minister level meeting.In this regard, India claimed that most of the killings were held at night as these incidents were related to, one way or the way, smuggling through the borders.On the other hand, Bangladesh told the neighbouring country to take initiatives like shooting rubber bullets on incidents of illegal intrusion instead of shooting at sight on the borders.Indian national security advisor Ajit Doval, during the meeting, expressed his concern over the entrance of fake Indian currency through the borders.Foreign secretary Shahidul Haque said Bangladesh would take every necessary step to stop the smuggling of fake Indian currency.