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PM Sheikh Hasina’s India visit postponed: Bangladesh officials

PM Sheikh Hasina’s India visit postponed: Bangladesh officials
Bangladesh's Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina addresses a high-level summit on strengthening international peace operations during the 69th session of the United Nations General Assembly at United Nations headquarters in New York September 26, 2014. REUTERS/Andrew Gombert/Pool (UNITED STATES - Tags: POLITICS)

Dhaka:Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s planned visit to India this month has been postponed after dates could not be finalised, official sources said on Friday.

The postponement comes amid speculation in the media in Dhaka that it was not a suitable time to discuss Teesta water sharing issue given the pre-occupation of the government post-demonetisation. “The Prime Minister (Hasina) was scheduled to visit India later this month but it had to be postponed as dates could not be finalised after consultations with New Delhi,” Prime Minister’s press secretary Ihsanul Karim told reporters. The reasons behind the postponement, however, were not disclosed.

Now, Hasina’s visit is likely to take place in February but that is subject to confirmation, a senior official said on condition of anonymity. She was expected to leave for New Delhi on December 18 to discuss a wide range of bilateral issues with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi.

Though officials remained tight-lipped over the possible reasons behind the postponement, Bangladeshi media speculated that the death of Tamil Nadu chief minister J Jayalalithaa and the ongoing crisis over the demonetisation move could have been the reason behind it.

A Bangladesh Foreign Ministry source on condition of anonymity told Dhaka Tribune that Hasina had herself concluded that these issues may have preoccupied the Indian administration, and that consequently the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty, the cornerstone agenda point of her visit, may receive less attention from the South Block than it should.

The paper also quoted diplomatic sources as saying that the government was not willing to risk a sidelining of the Teesta issue. Therefore, Bangladesh had some reservations against the value of the trip, it said.

A Prime Minister’s Office source and three Awami League policymakers, seeking anonymity, said the Teesta issue requires the consent of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who is currently protesting the NDA’s government’s demonetisation move.

Since Mamata has overtly expressed her dissatisfaction, the Bangladesh administration, keeping everything in mind, realised that it was not a suitable time to discuss the Teesta issue, the paper reported. Last week, Hasina had told reporters, “I am going to India, I am not going with any conditions… discussion is on for Teesta river water sharing and we are hopeful”.

In October, Modi had met Hasina on the sidelines of BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in Goa. At the invitation of Hasina, Modi visited Bangladesh in June last year.
PTI