Bangladesh has been relegated to watching nervously from the sidelines as tensions run high in the Lok Sabha regarding the much-desired Teesta water sharing deal.
On Monday, during the Lok Sabha session, Trinamool MP Saugata Roy addressed the Indian government’s divided approach to river-sharing with neighbouring nations. While the Central Indian Government (the Centre) has been reportedly pushing the Teesta water treaty, the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee, has apparently been left out of the loop.
On Thursday, during an interview with the Indian TV channel ABP Ananda, the West Bengal CM had claimed that the Centre had failed to communicate with her government about its plan to sign the Teesta River water sharing deal with Bangladesh.
“I came to know from media reports that the deal may be inked on May 25. But I have not been consulted so far,” she had said.
During his speech at the Lok Sabha, MP Roy said: “A government spokesman said that just as the Centre and the State had collaborated during the land boundary agreement, there will be consultations here too.”
Yet he made it clear that cooperation between the Centre and the West Bengal government was unlikely as he read out a statement quoting the West Bengal CM as saying: “[she] was told that the signing of the Teesta Treaty would be on May 25, following the visit of the Bangladesh prime minister on April 7 to 10, but when it comes to protecting the interests of Bengal, I shall not put my seal on any treaty without knowing what it is about.”
Roy, who was nominated into the Lower House of the Indian parliament with support from Mamata despite bribery allegations made against him, acted as the West Bengal chief minister’s mouthpiece, reading out: “I strongly protest against the attitude of the Centre of going behind the back of the state government for an international agreement and will strongly protest if there is any attempt to sign the Teesta treaty without the consent of the West Bengal government.”
This is hardly the first or the only time that West Bengal has been a barrier to water sharing between India and Bangladesh.
“I love Bangladesh, and I will provide support to the country as far as I can. But I cannot put a seal of approval on the treaty at the cost of my state’s interests,” Mamata said during the ABP Ananda interview, and accordingly has also continuously opposed Bangladesh’s Ganges Barrage Project.
Back in 2010, the Teesta treaty had been drafted and was supposed to be signed the following year during India’s then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh, but was scrapped at the last minute when Mamata raised objections.