The Telegraph
Friday , May 23 , 2014
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Teesta pact on table for Tuesday talks

New Delhi, May 22: Narendra Modi is likely to convey to the Bangladesh government that he is eager to clinch agreements on the sharing of Teesta waters and on trade and transit, a move that Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee may have to accept because of the new heft that the BJP’s majority is set to give to the new regime.

In talking-points prepared for the dialogue that Modi would have on Tuesday with Bangladesh Speaker, Shirin Chaudhury, who will represent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed at the swearing-in ceremony on Monday, the Prime Minister-elect would convey the seriousness of his resolve to clinch pending issues.

Hasina has spoken to Modi over the telephone and excused herself from attending the ceremony because she would be on a scheduled visit to Tokyo.

Unlike Manmohan Singh, whose eagerness to meet Dhaka’s requests for a larger share of the Teesta waters was torpedoed by Mamata in September 2011, Modi has a majority of his own. So much so, that he has chosen to ignore ally Shiv Sena’s reservations and invited the Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, and looked past the friendship (not alliance) of Tamil Nadu chief minister Jayalalithaa to invite Sri Lankan President Mahinda Rajapaksa.

Modi would also be considering Hasina’s invitation to visit Bangladesh — an invitation that the visiting Speaker is expected to repeat. President Pranab Mukherjee, keen on improved relations with Bangladesh especially after the Awami League government acted against Indian militants, is understood to have emphasised the importance of the neighbour in talks with Modi earlier in the week.

Sources in the BJP said Modi was moved by the warmth shown by Hasina in her conversation with him. Through the electioneering, especially in Bengal, Modi had said he would act against illegal migrants from Bangladesh.

This caused worries in Dhaka and tensions with Mamata because of the subtext that all Hindus from Bangladesh were refugees while all Muslims were “infiltrators”. But Modi is also keen that India should show thanksgiving for Hasina’s cooperation in cracking down on militant outfits, such as the Ulfa.

Bangladesh’s high commissioner Tariq Karim had visited Modi as Gujarat chief minister last year. Former Bangladesh foreign minister Dipu Moni had also met BJP’s Rajya Sabha leader Arun Jaitley.

Party sources said that Modi could consider a fiscal package for the Bengal government — as Mamata has been demanding — as a way to take the chief minister on board a reset Bangladesh policy.