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Wednesday, March 25, 2015, Chaitra 11, 1421 BS, Jamadius Sani 3, 1436 Hijr

Teesta deal unlikely this year
Saleem Samad
Published : Wednesday, 25 March, 2015,  Time : 12:00 AM,  View Count : 139
The much-talked-about Teesta River water sharing agreement with India is unlikely to be inked this year, diplomatic sources in both countries confirmed.
The prime reason for further delay is the state assembly election in West Bengal in 2016.
It is expected that India's ruling Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) and the All India Trinamool Congress (TMC) of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee will actively participate in the state elections.
The objective of the BJP central leadership is to do better in the Kolkata civic and assembly elections slated for next year. According to sources, both the parties will remain engaged in election related activities. Moreover, the Indian government, according to Mamata's advice will involve Sikkim in the process of Teesta water sharing.
Sources said these factors will take more time to make the deal happen.  
Bangladesh officials have made several diplomatic attempts to expedite signing of the treaty. A senior official of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs (MoFA) who has been in a regular diplomatic contacts with the South Block in Delhi, remarked that the four year-long uphill task seemed to be a frustrating exercise.
He said that the Teesta deal, among some more thorny issues with India, drew a considerable interest across the political spectrum for various reasons.
Previously, during Manmohan Sing's regime, both Modi and Mamata were fiercely opposed to the ratification of the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between Bangladesh and India. Mamata was deadly against the Teesta water sharing deal.
Since becoming Prime Minister Modi has modified his foreign policy doctrine from reactive to proactive and as a proof of goodwill gesture wanted to give a nod to the LBA and ink Teesta water sharing. During her recent Dhaka visit Mamata also pledged to sign the Teesta deal shortly.
The MoFA official said despite further possible delay due to the upcoming state elections in West Bengal, Bangladesh is hopeful to ink the deal, 'today or tomorrow' and it would not be too late for Sheikh Hasina's government.
Presently, West Bengal diverts Teesta river water for irrigation of nearly one lakh acres of agricultural land.
Recently Mamata had an audience with Modi in Delhi, where she advised the prime minister that if the water source of Teesta was discussed with its state government of Sikkim to share the water, then both West Bengal and Bangladesh would be immensely benefitted.
Delhi has decided to discuss the crucial issue of Teesta water sharing with the chief minister of Sikkim. Modi's government would encourage sharing adequate Teesta water for West Bengal and Bangladesh, a highly placed source confided.
A top official of MoFA could not mention any deadline for signing the water sharing deal. But was optimistic that it would be definitely inked.

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