Kolkata: West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee sought to reassure the people of Bangladesh today, ahead of her crucial meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, where the two leaders are expected to discuss the contentious issue of Teesta water sharing.
“You may have questions in your mind about Teesta. Please keep faith in me about that. You have some problems, we have some problems. I will discuss that with Hasinaji tomorrow when I meet the Prime Minister. Leave it to us. Don’t worry about it. Padma, Megna, Ganga, Jamuna – we have never seen divisions there. No one will be able to divide us even if they want to,” Ms Banerjee said in Dhaka.
The two leaders are expected to hold talks at around noon tomorrow. Ms Banerjee met Bangladesh President Md Abdul Hamid today, after which the President’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim was quoted saying, “The president during the meeting expressed the hope that the unsettled issues between Bangladesh and India would be resolved through Mamata Banerjee’s visit.”
Sharing waters of the Teesta river has been a major issue between India and Bangladesh for many years.
In September 2011, Ms Banerjee had pulled out of a delegation to Dhaka led by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, who was expected to make a major announcement on the sharing of the waters of the Teesta. She claimed the pact would harm the interests of the people of north Bengal through which the Teesta flows. Her move had embarrassed Manmohan Singh and forced him to drop the pact.
Another thorny issue was the Land Boundary Agreement which envisaged the swapping of enclaves between the two countries. Ms Banerjee had earlier opposed that too but recently softened her stand. But the question mark over Teesta remains.
Teesta is a politically sensitive issue in Bangladesh. The ruling Awami League had been embarrassed by Ms Banerjee’s intransigence in 2011 as its leader Sheikh Hasina is seen as pro-India. When India failed to deliver, the Opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party had made the most of her embarrassment.