Through the joint media briefing of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Saturday, it became rather clear that the Indo-Bangla Teesta water sharing deal will be signed during the tenure of both the incumbent governments.
During the programme held at Hyderabad House in New Delhi, Modi said: “Only our and Hasina’s governments can ink the agreement and that will happen during our tenure. Mamata Banerjee came to New Delhi, who too loves Bangladesh, and will soon agree to the Teesta agreement, which is just a matter of time.”
The current government will hold office till December, 2018 and the next general election will be held in early January of 2019. Meanwhile, the Modi government’s tenure will expire in May, 2019. Hence, it can easily be assumed that the probability of the deal being sealed by 2018 is high. Modi, during his speech, also mentioned how much time is left for this.
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Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina (L), Indian PM Narendra Modi (C) and West Bengal Chief Minister Mamta Banerjee at the deal signing ceremony after a meeting in New Delhi on Saturday Photo: AFP[/caption]
Bangla Tribune had previously reported that things were heading towards the direction as to whether the Teesta deal can be signed before 2019 polls in Bangladesh, ahead of next parliamentary election, if not inked in the ongoing visit. Hasina is convinced that the signing of the deal then will garner much more political gain. Modi’s speech is proof of the fact that that is where things are heading.
Bringing the Teesta issue to the table, Modi initially thanked the West Bengal chief minister for visiting New Delhi during Hasina’s tour. Mamata also joined the meeting between Hasina and Modi. She was also present during the launching of several bus and train services between West Bengal and Bangladesh.
Mamata, however, is the key obstruction in the way of signing the deal, which is known to all. But, Modi said: “The warmth of Mamata in her heart for Bangladesh is no less than that of mine and I know that very well.”
Meanwhile, Hasina, while addressing the press, said nothing independently on the deal. In fact, she did not even utter a single word on the defence agreement.
Three Memorandum of Understandings on a defence deal were inked, which are on the top of a list of 22 agreements. It would appear the defence related cooperation between Bangladesh and India is taking an institutional shape. From now on, there will be exchange programmes through the defence service staff college and defence college of the countries.
This apart, Indian is giving a $500 million loan to Bangladesh to procure defence equipment, including military hardware, but there was no mention of arms procurement separately. With the loan, which excludes the $4.5 billion Letter of Credit, Bangladesh will be able to purchase equipment corresponding with its need in the Hasina’s India tour defence sector.
Defence is always a sensitive matter. But, why was it necessary to have such a negotiation? Thinktank Observer Research Foundation Fellow Joyeeta Bhattacharjee said: “Defence cooperation is always there between the two countries. In the past, we witnessed that the Dhaka-Delhi ties fluctuate depending on the change in state power in Bangladesh. But a repetition of such an incident is less likely if there is an institutional framework or consensus.”
If any new government assumes power, it might look to China instead of India, on defence cooperation. But the possibility of such a thing happening comes down through such instruments.
The two premiers in the press meet also vowed to jointly fight cybercrime and militancy. Hasina said Dhaka is grateful to Delhi for India’s continued cooperation and Modi’s measures, one after another.
For Hasina, it will be food for thought as to what she will highlight as her achievement in the visit after she returns home with the Teesta deal still pending. Due to significant difference on area, population and economic power between them, it is tough to ensure equal partnership between the countries, no matter how much India terms Bangladesh an “important partner.” Hasina’s visit reflects that reality.
A large country tries to put many things on a small one by creating pressure, which the latter accepts despite its unwillingness in many cases. The Indo-Bangla relations are shrinking. But Hasina has to do many things, including the Teesta deal, before her tenure ends, to prove that she managed to earn her rightful status from India.