Friday, September 9, 2011

Summit Troubled By Hasty Moves

In a hasty move the much talked about Indo-Bangladesh summit.
Between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Indian Prime Minister. Dr Manmohan Sing had almost collapsed last week. Political observers wondered how it could happen despite involvement of the two prime ministers closest advisers in working out the details of the deals on both sides.
The last minute collapse of the Teesta deal from the Indian side led to dropping of the water sharing of Feni river and a transit protocol from Bangladesh side. In the process the power sharing deals also collapsed making it a troubled summit.
The Bangladesh government however, took a positive move in this situation as a face saving exit for the Indian Prime Minister bringing to the fore less important deals like MOUs on joint efforts to save Sundarbans tigers and conservation of its bio-diversity or cooperation in the field of fisheries. On top of it, both the Prime Ministers signed a framework agreement on development which is a substantive document as far as it commits to closer cooperation in almost all fronts of socio-economic, political and strategic applications. 
The summit also saw the signing of an important protocol on demarcation of land boundary and an MOU on renewable energy, Bangladesh’s overland transit to Nepal and such other things covering almost a dozen issues of common interest. But the summit lost its shine at the very beginning on Indian disclosure of 
putting into abeyance the Teesta water sharing deal forcing the atmosphere to uncertainty.
Foreign Minister Dr Dipu Moni was insisting all along that Teesta deal will be signed despite Indian foreign secretary Ranjan Mathai’s disclosure that it will not be signed. She was apparently trying to put up a brave face in the midst growing public criticism. 
But on the day of the summit when the gridlock was clear Bangladesh foreign secretary Mijarul Quayes took the strings publicly demanding the Indian High Commission in Dhaka to explain why it had not formally informed the government of the new development. 
By next afternoon TV scroll ran a news item saying if Testa deal is not going to be signed the proposed protocol on transit also will not be signed. It was a big embarrassment to those who arranged the summit bringing uneasy moments for two prime ministers to stomach.
Earlier, while departing from Delhi, the Indian Prime Minister dropped his water minister from the entourage apparently releasing his anger on the poor preparation although West Bengal chief minister Mamta Banerjee has passed the blame largely on the national security adviser Shiv Shankar Menon for the episode.
A summit which had created high expectations on the long awaited Teesta deal thus quickly turned into a bad saga prompting the people to take the city streets and hold protest in several districts including Lalmonirhat where Teesta has entered into Bangladesh territory. 
Now that the Indian Prime Minister is back home and disappointment is spreading, Delhi is blaming the bureaucracy although it was Mamata Benarjee who had visibly torpedoed the Teesta deal. But the public perception is different in Bangladesh. If Mamata has declined to endorse the deal or to become part of the Indian Prime Minister’s entourage it is an Indian domestic issue. The question in Bangladesh is why both the governments were so haste in inking as many deals without adequate home work and creating national consensus on both sides. 
Dr Singh said they had not enough time in hand to sort out last minutes differences. But on Bangladesh side why Prime Minister Hasina was also in a haste to ignore the entire opposition to sit in any consensus building meeting. She had also ignored the Parliament where she could seek opinion of the law makers. 
Besides, despite her government’s decision to place the draft deals before the weekly cabinet meeting prior to the summit for a brief discussion, it was not done. 
In her haste, Hasina even ignored the recommendations of her government’s own core committee on transit which suggested more time before the signing of a transit deal to further appraise the tariff and other financial issues in national interest. 
More interesting is that certain business quarters close to the ruling party arranged an international football match on the day of the summit in the city with so many sensitive deals on the table for signature in the political front.
Two famous football teams like Argentina led by star player Messy and a Nigerian team was fielded on the ground that day, breaking the country’s football  history. 
Critics say it was part of the scheme to keep the attention of the football-crazy young people away from what was happening in the summit.

By : Faruque Ahmed.