Sunday, December 4, 2011

Is 'Tipaimukh' Tangle Making Headway?

Two advisers to the prime minister -- Dr. Gauhar Rizvi and Dr. Mashiur Rahman -- have met with the Indian prime minister Dr. Monmohan Singh in New Delhi. They conveyed Bangladesh's concern and anxiety caused by the "Tipaimukh" project in the upstream of the Indian north-eastern state of Manipur. The issue is very much talked-about in

Bangladesh, particularly in the recent days in the aftermath of the reports that the Indian government is going ahead with the project, "disregarding" Dhaka's sentiments surrounding it.

Evidently, a sort of national clamour is discernible in Bangladesh over the issue with both the government and the opposition as well civil societies and environmental forums, giving vent to their feelings on the project. People in the country are increasingly veering towards the view that the "Tipaimukh" will bring disaster of a colossal proportion to Bangladesh in many fields and it is imperative that the project is not implemented, at least not in the manner in which it is being done, for the sake of the interest of lower riparian Bangladesh and not less importantly, greater interest of the friendship and cordiality between two close neighbours.

New Delhi has assured Dhaka repeatedly that it would not do anything that would harm Bangladesh's interest. But reports that India is going ahead with the project, have sparked off a concern of serious proportion in Bangladesh. It is against this background that two advisers to the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina rushed to the Indian capital. They held talks with the concerned key persons there and also met the prime minister of India in this regard.

Two advisers are certainly very much relevant to this particular area as Dr. Rizvi is dealing with matters relating to foreign affairs and Dr. Rahman, with economic issues. It goes without saying that both of them are, thus, deeply involved in the nitty-gritty of the Indo-Bangladesh bilateral ties and related matters.

Admittedly, varying views exist in the country about such a role of the "advisers" as they are not "elected" and not "responsible" to the people. But the fact remains that the advisers are quite important and two advisers who had gone to New Delhi are playing here an important role. Both have sound educational and other background, making them otherwise quite suitable for the key role, albeit the controversies involving them.

They held talks when the "Tipaimukh" issue is raising a lot of storm in Bangladesh; their fleeting visit to the Indian capital shows that the government is not sitting idle on the matter. Water Resources Minister Ramesh Chandra Sen said that if necessary, Bangladesh will go to the international forums for realising its legitimate rights on the issue.

So much so is the heat being generated by the issue that Prime minister Sheikh Hasina said at any cost Dhaka's interest would be protected. Leader of the opposition Khaleda Zia has blamed the government for its "failure" to protect national interest on the issue and she has also written a letter to the Indian prime minister on the matter. Even former president H.M. Ershad, whose "Jatiya Party" is a constituent of the ruling "Mahajote" (Grand Alliance) coalition, is set to lead an agitation on the "Tipaimukh" issue.

Certainly, two advisers to the Bangladesh prime minister spared no efforts to convince India for persuading it from implementing the project. Dr. Manmohan Singh reiterated his country's position that nothing would be done that would "harm" Bangladesh. It is not clearly known what concrete result has emerged out of their parleys in New Delhi.

Understandably, the entire area of greater Sylhet and also of the districts of Kishoreganj, Netrakona and Brahmmanbaria, and some other areas will be badly affected in many ways if the project is implemented. Some quarters in Manipur itself are apprehensive of the adverse effect of "Tipaimukh", although it is stated by others that it would bring manifold benefits.

The Indian prime minister, both during the visit of Bangladesh prime minister to New Delhi in January, 2010 and his own one to Dhaka in September this year, spoke in the same tone that New Delhi values friendship with Bangladesh and his country would not do anything that would cause any damage to the interests of a very friendly nation. He has reiterated the same this time, too.

Anyone, having an understanding of the chemistry of the Indian politics, may agree that component states their enjoy certain independence, regardless of what the federal authority in New Delhi thinks about those matters that concern them. Besides, the Indian political milieu, especially centre's ties with a particular state government, is also a factor in deciding things.

The "Teesta" water issue is a pointer in this regard. But it is not meant to say that the federal government in New Delhi is totally helpless, as it does otherwise seem to be the case at times. What is necessary is the commitment and sincerity on part of the federal authority to assert itself with regard to sharing of the common river water-related matters with Bangladesh for the larger sake of friendship that India has been espousing and especially when governments in both nations are strongly bound by traditional cordiality.

A formal accord among the concerned agencies in India was signed in New Delhi last month for implementation of the "Timaipumk" project. That is being considered by different circles in Bangladesh as a "breach of trust" as Dhaka was not informed about that beforehand, at all. The joint survey and other activities from the Indian side is imperative for assuaging the deep concerns of Bangladesh and failure to do this would not certainly serve the purpose of close neighbourliness.

BY : Zaglul Ahmed Chowdhury.