Saturday, September 17, 2011

WHY SO MUCH TRUMPET BLAST? : Manmohan’s Visit: Outcome Negligible For Bangladesh

The national press created high expectation about the outcome of the summit between the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and Sheikh Hasina, Prime Minister of Bangladesh. The Government agencies in Bangladesh, particularly the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, helped in dissemination of news and views about the summit directly and indirectly. The tempo was building up during the last 9 months though the actual visit took place between September 6- 7 2011. The outcome of the summit has not come up to the high expectation because of the fact that the Teesta water treaty was not signed.

The Bangladesh side was projecting the summit in a way that the achievement to be had out of the summit would surpass all past achievements and would thus give the Government of Sheikh Hasina Wazed a great political boost. It now appears that there were lackings and various experts on the subject of foreign affairs or diplomacy are saying that the drill for the visit in the home front was inadequate. 

The raw hands
The Acting Secretary General of BNP has alleged that the preparation for the summit were mostly done by Advisers in the office of the Prime Ministers and these Advisers were raw hands because they did not have any background of diplomatic encounters with other countries.

Blames have been put on Mamata Banarjee, the Chief Minister of Paschim Bangla as due to her absence the water treaty could not be signed. Mamata Banarjee is a self made politician who has been in and out of power on various occasions. Her party, Trinamul Congress, is a faction of the Indian Congress. She is through-bred in politics and, therefore, fully aware of her primary responsibility to serve the cause of the people. There are some by-elections which will be held in Paschim Bangla. This is one of the important factors which must have been high on her mind at this juncture, and therefore she did not want to take a risk by participating in the Teesta water treaty which is essential for Paschim Bangla too. Her absence, therefore, was a calculated step which did upset both the Prime Ministers who had high hopes of concluding the Teesta agreement. However, the Indian Prime Minister before leaving Bangladesh on the conclusion his visit said that Teesta Water Treaty would be concluded in 3 months time. But who knows about the slips between the cup and the lips.
No press briefing by Hasina
The Prime Ministers of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina has not briefed the local press regarding the summit although she led the Bangladesh Team. Syed Ashraful Islam, General Secretary of the Awami League (AL) has, however, in a press conference claimed that though Teesta water agreement was not signed, the summit was a success and that Teesta was one of the items not the only item of agreement. He recounted the achievements of the summit which were favourable to Bangladesh. 

It is worthwhile to note that the Chief Minister of Assam, Tarun Gogoi, a member of the Indian entourage, said in Delhi that due to the border agreement signed between Bangladesh and India, India has got 1240 acres of land, whereas, Bangladesh got only 357.5 acres of land. 

The Chief Minister of Tripura, Manik Sarker, and other members of the Indian entourage admitted in an interview with a leading English daily published from Dhaka that “Indian Prime Ministers’ recent visit to Dhaka may have had more misses than hits but the achievement should not be over shadowed by disappointment”. The statements made by the two Indian Chief Ministers were more pragmatic than what Syed Ashraful Islam, a junior in national politics, holding high party position and the portfolio as the Minister for LGRD and cooperatives, said in a press briefing, as stated above. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed came to learn that the Teesta water sharing treaty would not be signed on the 5th instant at night but there are press reports that Baby Moudud, reportedly a personal friend of the Prime Minister, was sent to Kolkata to plead with Mamata Banarjee to attend the summit. Baby Moudud is not a diplomat and, therefore, she was not suited to the job. 
Inept handling
Another gentleman by the name of Gauhar Rizvi also became very conspicuous in connection with the summit as he attended talk shows and also fed the press on some occasions. The Foreign Minister Dipu Moni also spoke to the press to explain the progress of the preparation for the summit and pre-summit talks which were attended by high Indian officials.

There has been inept handling of the preparation for the summit and the end result has angered many people in the country because apparently the Government has failed to obtain a solution to the Teesta water problem as Mamata Banarjee did not come in the entourage, as alleged; but the real story will not be available very soon unless we come to learn what actually happened. In this connection leaks from Wikileaks may provide some lead. Recently, heavy releases of Wikileaks about Bangladesh politics and diplomacy are appearing in our national dailies and are raising many curtains which are of interest.

At the end of the summit a 65-point joint statement was issued on September 7, 2011 and this joint statement serialised the accords. Knowledgeable circles say that these accords could have been signed in a usual manner at the level of Joint Secretaries without so much trumpet blast and Dr. Manmohan Singh could have been invited by the Prime Minister for a goodwill visit to Bangladesh.

BY :  Shahabuddin Ahmad.