Dhaka resigned to fact of ‘no Teesta deal’ soon?

Prothom Alo English Desk | Update:

HT ImamResolution of the Teesta river water-sharing agreement is “no longer an issue” for Dhaka, Indian daily The Hindu has quoted the prime minister’s political adviser HT Imam as saying.

The newspaper sees Hossain Toufique Imam’s statement as a “major shift in stance in Dhaka”.

Bangladesh has long been appealing to the Indian authorities to come to a deal on Teesta water-sharing, especially ahead of the next general elections in December, read The Hindu article on Saturday.

“Teesta is no longer a problem,” HT Imam was quoted to have told the leading Indian newspaper while speaking at a think-tank event.

“PM Hasina often says we are a lower riparian state, and rivers flow downwards. You cannot stop Teesta flowing into Bangladesh, and today or tomorrow a formal agreement will take place. But it is not a problem between the neighbours anymore,” he reportedly said, indicating that his government may be resigned to the fact that the agreement will not be signed soon.

The newspaper recalled that the agreement has been pending since it was about to be signed in 2011 during Indian premier Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka, but was blocked at the last minute by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.

HT Imam’s words were in sharp contrast to Sheikh Hasina’s repeated appeals thus far, referring to the water-sharing agreement as “transformational” for India-Bangladesh ties, according to The Hindu.

It also pointed out that a delegation of Bangladesh Awami League had also met Indian prime minister Narendra Modi in April, stressing that the Teesta issue was a “serious problem” for the ruling party, which needed to be resolved.

Speaking at the Observer Research Foundation, HT Imam also conceded that the opposition parties, led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), would, during the election campaign, raise the failure of the government to conclude the Teesta agreement, the newspaper added.

It mentioned that BNP standing committee member Amir Khosru Mahmud Chowdhury earlier appealed to the Indian authorities to push for free and fair elections in Bangladesh and “not to back any one party in the elections”.

The Hindu quoted HT Imam as having said that it was “impossible” for the BNP and India to reconcile their differences, and added that Delhi should “expel all BNP elements from the country”.

“The BNP members who came here are not only pro-Pakistan but also pro-China and have virtually been taken over by the Jamaat-e-Islami (which has been banned from elections). They are working against Indian interests,” Imam reportedly alleged, also warning that “pro-Pakistan” elements would attempt to disrupt the Bangladesh elections.

This week, The Hindu said, the Awami League also criticised comments by US ambassador to Dhaka Marcia Bernicat, who had expressed concerns about irregularities in the recent Gazipur and Khulna polls.

Premier Sheikh Hasina’s son and adviser, Sajeeb Wazed Joy, called the US embassy in Bangladesh a “mouthpiece for the BNP”, while other leaders warned against any “foreign interference” in the elections.

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