With Pakistan almost isolated in the geopolitics of South Asia and also with China’s growing strategic influence in Bangladesh, it was only natural that Delhi placed a little extra importance on the visit of prime minister Sheikh Hasina. Anticipations were therefore high for unresolved problems to be resolved, taking Bangladesh-India ties to new heights.
There was an effusive welcome awaiting Sheikh Hasina in Delhi, with prime minister Narendra Modi ignoring protocol to receive her personally at the airport. She stayed at the president’s residence as his personal guest. She honoured the Indian soldiers who laid down their lives for the liberation war of Bangladesh. But all this enthusiasm and excitement was not reflected in the official talks between the two countries. It was particularly disappointing that this time too the issue of sharing river Teesta’s water remained unresolved.
The agreements and MOUs which were signed pertaining to economic cooperation, defence, atomic energy, outer space, information and technology, media, and so on, undoubtedly will be a boost to relations between the two countries. However, the little information released about the defence cooperation deal can hardly settle the debate regarding the relevance of such a deal. The people want to see a balanced deal, not a one-sided one.
Indian prime minister Narendra Modi reiterated the commitment made by his predecessor Manmohan Singh regarding Teesta, saying the problem would soon be resolved. However, West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee remains adamantly against sharing Teesta’s water, offering an alternative of sharing the waters of different rivers. This seems a strategy to divert attention away from the main problem as the waters from those rivers will not meet the deficient of Teesta.
On the eve of her Delhi visit, prime minister Sheikh Hasina had written an article, ‘Friendship flows like a river’. On that note, we would like to ask, when there is so much friendship and commonalities between the two countries, why can the water problem not be resolved?