Teesta water-sharing deal likely to be struck in a month?

Its draft was finalised in 2011, but West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee's objection stalled it

After 11 long years since the last highly potential chance was shattered, hopes resurfaced that Dhaka and New Delhi may sign the long-awaited Teesta water-sharing deal in a month.

If everything works as planned, this is going to take place ahead of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to New Delhi next month, according to United News of India.

A meeting of the Joint River Commission (JRC) of Bangladesh and India is going to be held at the end of this month before the visit, the Indian multilingual news agency added.

Sheikh Hasina is to visit India on September 6 at the invitation of her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi. She last visited India in 2019. 

During the visit of PM Hasina to India in early April 2017, Modi announced at a joint briefing in the Hyderabad House that the Teesta water-sharing deal would be inked “during the current tenures of the two governments.” But that did not happen.

The draft of the Teesta water distribution was finalized and signed by the water resources secretaries of both countries in early 2011. But the then prime minister Manmohan Singh could not sign it on September 6 that year owing to a last-minute objection from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

On September 7, 2011, Singh lamented the failure of signing an agreement in his speech at Dhaka University saying that it was “unfortunate.”

During a meeting with Hasina on the sidelines of the 17th Saarc Summit in early November 2011 in the Maldives, Singh had reportedly assured of concluding the agreement as soon as possible.

The interim agreement on water sharing of the common river Teesta was supposed to be signed for 15 years.

Singh’s successor, Modi, during his visit to Dhaka in 2015, gave assurance of concluding the agreement.

Mamata Banerjee herself visited Bangladesh twice in 2015 and had assured that she would play a “positive role” in this regard.

In Dhaka, an inter-ministerial meeting was held on Thursday in which officials from the Foreign Ministry, the Prime Minister’s Office, Water Resources, and related departments attended.

The meeting also discussed unresolved bilateral issues.

An official told UNI that a JRC meeting between Bangladesh and India will take place in the last week of August in Delhi.

The meeting was supposed to be held in Dhaka but Bangladesh agreed to a change of venue at India’s request.

Although there are 54 rivers common to Bangladesh and India, only the Ganges water sharing agreement has been signed. This accord will expire in 2026.

As a result, the issue of water distribution of the Teesta river will take precedence. Apart from this, Feni, Manu, Muhuri, Khoai, Gomti, Dharla, and Dudhkumar rivers will also be discussed.