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Teesta pact unlikely to be inked during Hasina’s visit

New Delhi: The long-pending pact on Teesta water sharing is unlikely to be inked during Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s India visit, beginning tomorrow, which will see signing of at least 25 agreements including in key areas of civil nuclear cooperation and defence.

During her four-day visit, which comes after a gap of seven years, Hasina will hold wide-ranging talks with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi on Saturday during which India is also set to announce a line of credit of USD 500 million to Bangladesh for military supplies.

It is learnt that the central government will not go ahead with the agreement on Teesta without taking West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on board. Banerjee has been opposing it stridently citing water crisis in West Bengal.

“It will be a visit without water,” described an official in the know of things.

When asked during an interaction with Bangladeshi media persons on possibility of inking of the pact on Teesta and if it would be a surprise, Foreign Secretary S Jaishankar reportedly said, “As of now, there is no indication of any surprise but if there is one tomorrow, then do not blame me.”

The framework agreement on civil nuclear energy will provide for extensive cooperation in the sector including setting up of nuclear reactors in Bangladesh by India.

“It will be a very very special visit. We hope the visit will take the ties between the two countries to new level,” Sripriya Ranganathan, Joint Secretary in the Bangladesh- Myanmar division of External Affairs Ministry, told reporters.

Ramping up cooperation in defence and security will be a major focus area of the talks between Modi and Hasina and apart from an MoU to provide USD 500 million credit, another pact is likely to be inked to formalise regular defence engagements.

Issues like combating terrorism, containing radicalism and enhancing security cooperation between the two countries are likely to figure prominently besides stalemate over the Teesta pact during talks between Modi and Hasina.

The West Bengal Chief Minister has accepted an invitation by the government to attend the launch of some projects between the two countries as well a lunch to be hosted in honour of Hasina by Modi. The issue of Teesta is likely to figure during Banerjee’s interaction with Hasina.

“Teesta agreement remains a work in progress… We have not reached a closure on it,” said Ranganathan.

The Teesta deal was set to be signed during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011, but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by Banerjee.

Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March, when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.

It will be Hasina’s first bilateral visit to India in her current term as prime minister. She will be staying at the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

The two prime ministers will launch a bus and a train service between Kolkata and Khulna.

The two sides are likely to also finalise an agreement on long-term supply of diesel to Bangladesh from India besides holding preliminary talks on linking India’s gas grid with that of Bangladesh.

To boost trade, the two sides are likely to announce setting up of another set of trade facilitation huts along the borders in the Northeastern region.

A raft of other announcements on boosting cooperation in areas of trade investment, transport and energy are expected during the visit.

Hasina will visit Ajmer on Sunday and will meet Indian business leaders on Monday.

—PTI