India’s message before Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India on two consecutive short visits last month. The first was to mark the inauguration of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi for a third consecutive term, and the second was a pre-announced official visit. While both of Sheikh Hasina’s visits had political significance, the second was particularly significant.

In that visit, about 10 agreements were reached between Bangladesh and India, including the renewal of the much-anticipated Ganga water treaty. It was also decided that India will join the ‘Conservation and Management of Teesta River’ project. New Delhi has also announced to send a ‘technical team’ to Bangladesh.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is going to China on July 8, two weeks after her visit to India. At that time, it is expected that there will be an agreement or agreement between the two parties on various issues, including the loan assistance of 5 billion dollars. The Teesta project may also come up there.

India is particularly concerned about this issue. New Delhi does not want another Chinese presence near its border.

After the meeting with Sheikh Hasina, Narendra Modi himself said that an Indian technical team will soon come to Bangladesh to discuss the Teesta project.

He said, there are 54 identical rivers between India and Bangladesh. We are cooperating in flood management, early warning, drinking water projects. We have decided to start discussions at the technical level for the renewal of the 1996 Ganga Water Treaty.

The decision to send an Indian delegation to Bangladesh to discuss the Teesta issue is of particular significance. Because, China is interested in investing about 1 billion dollars in this project. Delhi has a strong objection to this.

According to a report of the Indian media Times of India, the Indian delegation will check whether a reservoir is needed in the Teesta to hold the surplus water of the monsoon season. It is claimed that China has offered to build this reservoir.

A long-standing dispute

Teesta is a complex issue related to the sharing of water resources between India and Bangladesh.

Originating in the Eastern Himalayas, the river flows through Sikkim and West Bengal and enters Bangladesh through Rangpur.

In 2011, during the tenure of the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, an agreement was reached between India and Bangladesh on Teesta water sharing. But the agreement has not seen the light of day due to the objection of West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.

In 2020, China showed interest in the Teesta conservation and management project for the first time. In December last year, the Chinese ambassador in Dhaka once again expressed their interest in this project.

It is heard that Beijing has made a new proposal to implement the project at a much lower cost than before.

Beware India

India has taken a cautious stance due to the sensitivity of the Teesta issue and geopolitical concerns arising from the possibility of China’s involvement in the project.

After the Hasina-Modi meeting, Indian Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra said that the management of common water resources is an important and sensitive issue. He said that the Indian technical team will evaluate the Teesta water reclamation project.

According to Indian media, this is a clear signal from India that Beijing does not need to be involved in transboundary river management with Bangladesh.

In this situation, India will undoubtedly have a careful eye on the agreements that can be made during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to China next week.

Sources: BBC Bangla, Times of India, Money Control