Didi changes Teesta course

Have faith in me, Mamata tells Bangladesh

By Devadeep Purohit in Dhaka
  • Published 21.02.15
Mamata Banerjee, singer Indranil Sen and others sing the Bangladeshi national anthem at an event in Dhaka on Friday

Dhaka, Feb. 20: Mamata Banerjee today urged the people of Bangladesh to repose faith in her ability to settle the impasse over the sharing of the Teesta's waters, an announcement both Delhi and Dhaka were eagerly waiting for.

"Teesta niye amar opore astha rakhun (Have faith in me over the Teesta issue)," the Bengal chief minister said at her first public programme in Dhaka this afternoon.

The chief minister - on her maiden visit to the Bangladesh capital after assuming office - spent around two hours with representatives from the world of art and culture in Dhaka.

After a brief inaugural address, the floor was opened to the invitees, who started rolling out their suggestions on how to improve the Bangladesh-India relationship. Although no one directly referred to the Teesta, a significant majority of the speakers dropped hints that some "unsettled issues" were coming in the way of the bilateral relationship, which summed up the mood in Dhaka.

The chief minister, who had disappointed Dhaka in September 2011 by dropping out of a delegation led by then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh, suggested that she was keen to undo the damage.

"You have some problems and similarly we have some problems as well. Tomorrow, I will be meeting Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and I will speak to her on the issue. Let us handle this.... And I request you not to worry about it," Mamata said.

Gowher Rizvi, Hasina's foreign policy adviser, said later: "We are confident that Teesta and LBA (the land boundary agreement) will happen.... But we did not invite Mamata Banerjee with any expectations. Tomorrow, when our Prime Minister meets her, she will not talk about her expectations from this visit. We are just happy that she has come."

A senior Indian foreign ministry official said: "The Bengal chief minister has made a positive gesture on the Teesta. Now it is up to Delhi and Dhaka to carry it forward."

Although the mood was buoyant after Mamata's promise, some sources in the policy establishment in Dhaka said the time for celebrations had not come yet.

"We understand that she is trying to strike a deal.... We can rejoice only if her promise is fulfilled," said an official.

As pending bilateral issues cannot be resolved by a chief minister, an immediate as well as a definite announcement on the Teesta waters is unlikely.