Saturday, September 10, 2011

Pranab Mukherjee Remains Aloof From Teesta Issue

Pranab Mukherjee, who was known as a "guardian-like friend" of ruling Bangladesh Awami League continues to maintain distance from the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty issue while West Bengal's chief minister Mamata Banerjee has announced her plan to visit Bangladesh in November this year to "clarify her stand on the proposed Teesta water treaty to the friendly Hasina government."

Mamata to visit Bangladesh:
"I will visit Bangladesh soon to explain the reason behind my decision of not accompanying Indian Prime Minister. Sheikh Hasina's government is friend of India and I need to let her know, why I stepped back. I have to care about my voters here."

Commenting on Mamata Banerjee, a senior minister in India government told some of Trinamool ministers that Banerjee should have gone keeping the larger Indo-Bangladesh ties in mind when the centre had decided to stall the Teesta agreement. Some other ministers however admit that she was not "handled with care".
"She is the easiest or the most difficult person depending on one's approach towards her", a minister remarked.

India-Bangladesh relations:
While Indian Prime Minister Dr. Manmohan Singh said that India attached the topmost priority to its relations with Bangladesh. "There is a national consensus in India that India must develop the best possible relations with Bangladesh", Kolkata based The Telegraph in its editorial titled 'The Tunnel Vision' said, "said that India attached the topmost priority to its relations with Bangladesh. "There is a national consensus in India that India must develop the best possible relations with Bangladesh."

The newspaper advocated importance of a strong "Indo-Bangladesh alliance" stating would "give India leverage in its negotiations with Pakistan and China."

Khaleda Zia hostile towards India:
The Telegraph said, "Greater cooperation with Bangladesh will enable India to maintain better connectivity with the Northeast. Sheer self-interest, often seen as the cornerstone of foreign policy, should have forced India to accord greater priority to its eastern neighbour. Yet for 12 long years, no prime minister of India 
visited Bangladesh. The argument that such visits were not made because the regime of Khaleda Zia was perceived in India as a hostile one is somewhat specious since no effort was made to win her over. Mr. Singh may have left his visit too late for his intentions to appear genuine and sincere. He is also severely handicapped by the fact that on the Dhaka stage he is directing Hamlet without Ophelia."

The Times of India in an opinion editorial titled "No paradigm shift in India-Bangladesh ties" wrote "It was a summit that yielded much for both Bangladesh and India, but will forever be shadowed by the failure to get a pact on sharing river waters."

Commenting on Mamata Banerjee's last-minute back out from the Dr. Singh's entourage, which resulted in pausing the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty signing, The Times of India said "It should have been a real good news visit, and a signal to other neighbours that teaming up with India has real benefits. But India fell short at the last mile, because it could not rise about local politics when the bigger picture needed to be addressed.

Ruling party in Bangladesh in vulnerable situation:
"For Sheikh Hasina, who is the real architect of the turnaround in India-Bangladesh ties, the let-down on Teesta is greater, because this would have been sold to a hostile opposition and a hopeful nation that good relations with India make political and economic sense. The lack of a water pact could make her more vulnerable to opposition attacks. A Bangladesh journalist said, "We supported Mamata during her election. Is this how she treats us?" The sentiment was echoed at the top echelons of the Bangladesh foreign ministry, where officials could scarcely hide their disappointment.

"Addressing the formal banquet in the evening, Sheikh Hasina declared that an "understanding" had been reached with India on Teesta and Feni river waters. Analysts here said it could mean that she would find it difficult to climb down further on the amount of water Bangladesh could get from a future agreement. Since the Teesta agreement has been in the making for almost 20 months, Bangladeshis are finding it difficult to swallow Mamata's line that she was not consulted."

In another article, giving details on the water sharing issue, The Times of India wrote "The water resources ministry's over-emphasis on a natural occurrence seems to have led to the Teesta tangle that found little acceptance in either Kolkata or Dhaka … Bengal was ready to release 25% of the flow at Gazaldoba in Jalpaiguri district, and Bangladesh had said that it wanted 50% of the flow at Dahlia, which is 105km downstream. A senior official in the water resources ministry said, "The flow at Gazaldoba is about 100 cumecs. While that at Dahlia - for most of the seven lean months - is 125 cumecs. Our studies showed that this increase is because of regeneration flows and we tried to tell both the parties that they can have their way because nature will take care of the difference. But it seems their stances are dictated by political compulsions and that's what precipitated the crisis."

Largest English language daily newspaper in India, The Hindustan Times said, "Bangladeshi officials and leaders of the ruling Awami League say water sharing was a much-awaited item for them and India's inability to deliver on it has put the government on back foot."

Quoting a Bangladeshi minister The Hindustan Times further wrote "Talks on water sharing has been going for the last 20 months, starting from PM Hasina's visit to India in January 2010. Everything was finalised and it came as a bolt from the blue," a minister said. "This puts us in an awkward position," he said, expressing fear that the opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party [BNP] may try to mobilise anti-India sentiments."
Though Bangladesh Awami League has been publicizing that the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty was going to resolve the crisis "for good", a senior Indian official told The Hindustan Times that "arrangement for Teesta was worked out as an interim mechanism, in percentages rather than in absolute quantities."
The Indian official further said, India tried to salvage the situation by concessions in trade but Hasina will need more to sustain her pro-India policies.

Hours before Dr. Manmohan Singh left Delhi for Dhaka, prominent English language newspaper in India, The Hindu in its editorial titled 'Mamata plays spoiler' wrote: Sheikh Hasina's government is already targeted by political opponents for its perceived 'pro-India' tilt. Prime Minister Hasina might have hoped to use the Teesta pact to ward off some of this criticism — leveled against her for cooperating with India on denying safe haven to ULFA and cracking down on anti-India Islamist groups. It was also hoped that a similar treaty would follow for the Feni River that flows through Tripura into Bangladesh. For its part, New Delhi expected that the give on the Teesta would yield connectivity through Bangladesh to the North-East States and beyond, underlined by the inclusion of four Chief Ministers from the region in the delegation to Dhaka. All this is up in the air now. Prime Minister Singh's visit was billed as one that would "craft a new paradigm" in a complicated bilateral relationship. With the likely signing of a border agreement and an extradition pact, the visit is not a complete write off. But there was a palpable feeling of let-down even before the Prime Minister's delegation took off from Delhi.