West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, who had blocked the Teesta water sharing deal between India and Bangladesh four years ago, assured Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Saturday of a solution to the issue.
The visiting chief minister raised the Teesta issue during her 30-minute luncheon meeting with Hasina at the latter’s official residence Ganabhaban during the day, said the prime minister’s spokesperson Iqbal Sobhan Chowdhury, according to a bdnews24.com report.
“Mamata Banerjee has assured our prime minister to work out a solution that protects the interests of both West Bengal and Bangladesh,” Chowdhury said. Banerjee termed the parleys on the concluding day of her three-day trip as a “meeting of hearts”.
Sources close to her said the two leaders discussed bilateral issues. Later, addressing a business meet, Banerjee said the two countries must work together on finding solutions to the problems. She also exuded confidence of thrashing out a solution to the Teesta deal soon by citing the progress on the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA).
“People of both countries must work together. Let us think about solutions instead of problems. India and Bangladesh had two issues. One was land boundary. We have solved the issue. “The other issue that of the Teesta water will be solved soon. When one problem has been solved, the other one will be solved too, I believe that.”
Describing her trip as “constructive”, “positive” and “historic” on Twitter, Banerjee said she invited her “favourite didi” Hasina to visit the eastern Indian state. “Today I had the privilege to call upon, the Honourable Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina ji who is my favourite didi.”
Banerjee said Hasina’s “warmth and grace” made her emotional. “I invited Honourable Prime Minister to visit West Bengal,” she said in another tweet. The Teesta water sharing pact had been put on hold after Banerjee’s strong opposition over fears that the treaty could spell disaster for the northern part of her state.
In September 2011, Banerjee had embarrassed then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh by pulling out of his delegation to Bangladesh over the water sharing agreement, forcing India to drop it from the agenda.
Though a solution to this vexed issue depends on the central governments of the two countries, the role of the chief minister of a border state like West Bengal is believed to be crucial. Banerjee has said the relations of the two Bengals (Bangladesh and West Bengal) are as “deep and durable” as the perennial rivers Ganga and Yamuna.
She also told Hasina that the bill for implementing the land boundary agreement between the two countries was likely to be through in the next session of the upper house of the Indian parliament starting February-end.
Banerjee had stoutly opposed both the deals since 2011 arguing that they went against the interests of West Bengal. However, with changing political realities in India, her stance on both these issues has changed considerably.
On the land boundary agreement, she had emphasised on a rehabilitation package for the enclave dwellers and noted that she was very positive about the issue being settled this time around. Once the land boundary agreement (LBA) is passed, India will cede 111 enclaves totally measuring 17,160 acres to Bangladesh and receive 51 enclaves covering 7,110 acres. More than 51,000 people reside in these enclaves.
Banerjee also graced the business meet organised by entrepreneurs of Bangladesh and West Bengal. The participants discussed ways to improve trade relations between the two neighbouring countries, especially between Bangladesh and West Bengal. Banerjee and her delegation were scheduled to leave Dhaka Saturday night.
The chief minister attended the main function at Dhaka’s Shaheed Minar on the occasion of Mother Language Day Saturday, which commemorates the martyrdom of Bangladeshi youths during the Language Movement in 1952. She paid homage to the martyrs.
“It is one of the most memorable moments in my life to be present at Shahid Minar, I am overwhelmed and deeply touched with emotions to experience this historic moment,” she said. Banerjee said it was her long-time wish to come to Bangladesh and pay tribute to the martyrs of the language movement. “This is a matter of pride for me.” (IANS)