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Teesta treaty? Modi sends ball to Mamata's court amidst Hasina's mango diplomacy

By Samina Akhter* 

Most Bangladeshi and India media reports say that the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has received 600 kg of mangoes from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as part of her "mango-hilsa diplomacy."
Hasina also delivered mangoes to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi this month, according to the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in India. In all, 1,200 kg of Amrapali mangoes were delivered to the residences of the President and the Prime Minister of India.
According to a Bangladesh's deputy high commission official in Kolkata, a few more chief ministers in the eastern region will likely receive similar gifts.
Last year, not only President Kovind and Prime Minister Modi, but also the chief ministers of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam also received mangoes from Prime Minister Hasina. Hasina delivered mangoes from Rajshahi, including kinds like Golapkhas and Amrapali, as it is the peak season for the delectable fruit in Bangladesh.
The mangoes were delivered as a gift to the respective diplomatic channels by the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi. This was meant to further strengthen the diplomatic relations and friendship between the two countries.The mango diplomacy initiated by Sheikh Hasina began last year.
A day before the meeting of the Joint Working Group (JCC) between Bangladesh and India last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent mangoes. Foreign Minister attended the JCC meeting. Abdul Momen completed his visit successfully. The JCC meeting was held in Delhi on June 19. It discussed the overall issues of bilateral relations, including Prime Minister Hasina's upcoming visit to India.
Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi and President Kobind visited Bangladesh last year to attend the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence and the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
Modi recently invited Prime Minister Hasina to visit India through External Affairs Minister S Jayashankar. According to media reports, On September 6 and 7, Prime Minister Hasina will travel to India to meet with her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. The schedule has been set by Delhi and Dhaka, and the Prime Ministers have verbally approved it.
According to a representative of the foreign ministry, the two nations will hold a Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting before the PM-level summit in New Delhi. The JRC has not met at the ministerial level for the past ten years, despite the fact that the sharing of water from transboundary rivers is a major concern for the two nations.
PM Hasina’s visit is vital for the two nations' bilateral ties, which seem to have improved over the past 15 years, particularly in the light of Bangladesh's role as India's gateway to its northeastern states. India has also praised Bangladesh's involvement for upholding a zero-tolerance attitude toward the insurgents who had previously caused unrest in the northeastern states of India.
India and Bangladesh are attempting to improve regional collaboration, particularly in connecting South and Southeast Asia, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak and the Russia-Ukraine war, which severely interrupted the global supply chain.
In order to ensure early preparation for any natural catastrophes like floods and storms, Bangladesh has also requested India's assistance in managing the transboundary river basin as a whole and in exchanging weather data.
Since the Sylhet region is experiencing severe flooding mostly as a result of high rainfall in the Indian hill states of Meghalaya and Assam, the issue has become more crucial than ever.
PM Hasina has made an admirable gesture. Both last year and this year, we had a good crop of mangoes. They are more than welcome if they assist to deepen bonds and improve the harmony between the two nations. It should assist in resolving any bilateral difficulties.
The Teesta water-sharing agreement is one of the many persistent disagreements between Bangladesh and India. Since a few years ago, there has been talk over the Teesta water-sharing deal between Bangladesh and India.
However, there is no longer a Teesta problem. The sharing of Teesta River water became the most crucial topic of dispute following the Ganges Treaty in 1996. At the two nations' ministerial-level conference in August 1983, the Teesta water-sharing issue between Bangladesh and India was first raised.
Manmohan Singh, who was India's prime minister at the time, traveled to Dhaka in September 2011. A Teesta water-sharing deal was scheduled to be inked at that time. The temporary agreement had a 15-year term. The agreement establishes Bangladesh's entitlement to 37.5% of the Teesta's water and India's right to 42.5% of it. However, Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, did not agree to the treaty, and it was not finalized.
Prime Minister Hasina traveled to India later in 2014. The Teesta Treaty was anticipated to be signed following this trip to India. The PM met with Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, during the trip. The West Bengal Chief Minister insisted that the primary factor influencing her disapproval was her unwillingness to provide water to Bangladesh at the expense of North Bengal's residents.
View is strong in Dhaka that refusing to sign Teesta river accord is denigration of good neighbourly relations between India and Bangladesh
Even in 2015, Prime Minister Modi traveled to Dhaka alongside West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Yet, nothing came of it. There are 54 rivers that cross the boundary between Bangladesh and India. In 43 of these, India controls the majority of the seas, which is considered essentially unjust to by its neighbours.
In essence, the view is strong in Dhaka, that refusing to sign the Teesta river accord is a denigration of the good neighbourly relations between India and Bangladesh. India had to keep in mind that Bangladesh is a reliable ally in the area. It is frequently claimed that the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India are at their peak right now.
As Bangladesh PM has been practicing and showing her liberal neighbourhood mindset towards India, particularly through 'Hilsa-Mango' diplomacy, it is India's turn how. Much, however, is said to depend on the stand taken by Mamata Banerjee.
India's Central government maintains the narrative that Mamata Banerjee's continuous opposition has been the key obstacle in signing the Teesta deal. So, there is the subtle hint that only Mamata could be a welcome relief to break the stalemate. She is quoted as stating, “I love Bangladesh but Bengal is my priority.”
Obviously, Mamata must be understood. But Bangladeshi people, too, deserve the right to the river. Not signing the treaty is belittling the neighbourly spirit between India and Bangladesh -- a crucial factor in collaborative cooperation between the two countries.
Making one’s life simpler shouldn’t come at the expense of others. As Bangladesh PM is set to visit to India this year, one has to see what signal Mamata Banerjee gives to the Centre to sign the long-pending treaty – after all, it is a long-pending promise of India to Bangladesh.
A successful resolution to the Teesta issue will boost bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh while also helping Bangladesh's economy. India will gain a lot from the Teesta Treaty. If this bilateral agreement is implemented, it will be able to satisfy all Bangladeshi stakeholders. India will undoubtedly be able to fortify its position as Bangladesh's staunch ally and develop a solid diplomatic and economic alliance.
The bondage between the two Bengalis from two countries would be further strengthened if Mamata Banerjee provides positive response to Sheikh Hasina's 'Mango Diplomacy’.
---
*Dhaka-based women and human rights activist

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