M A I N   N E W S

Teesta pact hits choppy waters
With Mamata sulking, Centre unlikely to sign accord with Bangladesh during PM’s visit
Ashok Tuteja/TNS

New Delhi, September 5
With West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sulking over the provisions of the proposed Teesta water sharing arrangement with Bangladesh, the controversial accord is unlikely to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s two-day visit to Dhaka beginning tomorrow.

“The subject of water is a sensitive issue. We have been trying to arrive at an agreement on Teesta which is acceptable to all parties. In our federal scheme of things, nothing is done or will be done without consultations with the State Government. Any agreement that we conclude will have to be acceptable to the State Government; at the same time, it would also have to be acceptable to Bangladesh,” Foreign Secretary Ranjan Mathai said while briefing the media on the PM’s visit to the neighbouring country.

Banerjee was supposed to be one of five chief ministers to have accompanied the PM on this trip. The visit was meant to see several pacts being signed, including the one on sharing the Teesta waters which has been a bone of contention between the neighbours for long. The West Bengal CM’s sudden pullout of the visit yesterday has come as a huge embarrassment to New Delhi and taken some sheen out of the PM's high-profile tour.

“The presence of one more CM would have been useful but won't comment”, Mathai said. Banrejee is reported to have been of the view that the proposed accord would harm the interests of her state. She is unhappy over equal water-sharing of the Teesta water.

According to sources, she thinks Bangladesh should get 25 per cent water while the final draft agreement has not put any cap over the 25 per cent sharing limit.

However, the agreement on another common river Feni is likely to be signed with Mathai noting that the final discussions were “underway”.

He said the chief ministers of Assam, Mizoram, Tripura and Meghalaya will accompany the PM on his visit. More than a dozen agreements are expected to be signed in fields like trade, connectivity, land boundary, culture, environment, fisheries, textile designing and television. Mathai said the two countries would take steps to implement a 1974 agreement over the exact boundary between the two countries.

The India-Bangladesh border runs 4,095 KM. India has to hand over 111 enclaves to Bangladesh and in return get 51 enclaves.

The growing trade deficit between India and Bangladesh will also be addressed during the trip. Indian exports to Bangladesh in 2010-11 were to the tune of 3.84 billion dollars while imports were worth 406.3 million dollars. In 2009, China replaced India as Bangladesh's biggest trade partner.

Asked about the fate of an extradition treaty between India and angladesh, the foreign secretary said it was still under discussion. On whether Bangladesh had agreed to extradite ULFA leader Anup Chettia to India, he said the matter had been raised by India during Home Minister P Chidambaram's visit to Dhaka in July. New Delhi was told that Bangladesh was considering the procedures under which it could be done. “'We expect them to do that soon.”





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