Saturday, September 10, 2011

Teesta Water: Failed Talks Face Flak In B'desh

With the Teesta water-sharing deal not materialising during the Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's recent vist to Bangladesh, Bangladeshis are now believing that India will put off the deal for long. 

Many foresaw PM's visit to Dhaka as the defining moment for a game-changer political relationship in the Indian subcontinent. Yet to most Bangladeshis, Manmohan Singh's maiden visit to Dhaka remains clouded by his inability to push through the Teesta water-sharing agreement. 

"Going by the expectations we had from the Indian Prime Minister, I would say we are more disappointed with the talks than we are satisfied," said Nahir Anjum Siddiqui, Dhaka University Student. 

Bangladesh feels that India has been unilaterally withdrawing Teesta water for some years now, leaving its eastern neighbour high and dry during the lean season. Government sources in Dhaka feel that the pact would not only have allowed the neighbours to store surplus water but would have also ensured that the shortfall was shouldered equitably by both. 

"If it was signed right now then all my aman crop would be protected and in the dry months India would not make unilateral withdrawal which generates bad feeling," said Ainun Nishat, River Water and Climate Expert.
Sensing the disappointment, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh quickly stepped into damage-control mode.
"I have asked the officials concerned to intensify their efforts towards finding a viable formula which does not cause undue distress to all those in India or in Bangladesh who are dependent on the flows of the water," said Manmohan Singh. 

Former Bangladesh Prime Minister Khaleda Zia asked Dr Singh to incorporate provisions for amending the deals that have been signed. 

The general feeling on the streets of Dhaka is one of so-close-yet-so far. The Teesta deal is on the agenda of the two countries for more than half a century now and experts in Bangladesh feel that the prevailing political uncertainty of both leaders in their respective countries may not allow them to ink the deal during their current tenures.