Dhaka: Visiting West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee today assured Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of a “positive role” in resolving the outstanding Teesta river issue to protect interests of both sides.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Hasina's media adviser Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury said Banerjee herself raised the Teesta issue and also informed Hasina that she expected the Indian parliament to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) in its next session.
“Mamata Banerjee assured her (Hasina) of playing a positive role on the issue of water sharing (Teesta river) and protecting the interests of Bangladesh and India,” he said.
Chowdhury said Banerjee told the premier that she already had done her part in the procedure of LBA ratification for amending the Indian Constitution in line with the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement signed between Bangladesh's first president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and then Prime Minister Indira Gandhi.
“I hope the coming Lok Sabha session which starts on 23rd of the current month will ratify the treaty,” he quoted Banerjee as saying.
The reassurance came a day after the West Bengal chief minister told a function of litterateurs and cultural figures to “have trust on me on the Teesta issue. I will have talks on the matter with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina” and that she okayed the LBA ahead of placing its bill in Parliament.
An official familiar with the talks said ahead of the lunch, Banerjee urged the premier to lift a ban on Hilsha fish export to India in view of its massive demands particularly in West Bengal when, in a lighter vein, a laughing Hasina told her “if (Teesta) water comes, Hilsha will also go”. “Mamata Banerjee sees the premier as her elder sister and Sheikh Hasina too treats her as her younger sister,” Chowdhury later said.
Dhaka has welcomed Banerjee expecting her visit to expedite settlement of crucial pending issues of Teesta and LBA since West Bengal has a stake in settling the issues. Bangladesh and India were set to ink the Teesta Agreement during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's 2011 visit but Banerjee opted out of his entourage at the last minute opposing the treaty, which delayed the deal.
India has said it is keen to reach an “internal consensus” on the Teesta deal while the bill is now pending in Parliament for ratifying the LBA with New Delhi assuring Dhaka of signing the deal soon after ensuring consensus of all stakeholders.
The Teesta, which originates in Sikkim, flows through the northern part of West Bengal before entering Bangladesh and joining the Brahmaputra river. Its flow is crucial for Bangladesh in the dry period from December to March when the water flow often falls to less than 1,000 cusecs.