oppn parties Mamata Broke No New Ground in Bangladesh

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Mamata Broke No New Ground in Bangladesh

By Sunil Garodia

About the Author

Sunil Garodia Editor-in-Chief of indiacommentary.com. Current Affairs analyst and political commentator. Writes for a number of publications.
Mamata Banerjee was invited to Bangladesh for the Bhasa Divas. But her visit assumed greater importance because of her opposition to talking about sharing of the Teesta waters with that country. In the past, Banerjee excused herself from visiting the country in a delegation with the then prime minister Manmohan Singh for that reason. Hence, it was natural that she flip-flopped on the issue this time around. Despite her assurance to Bangladeshi intelligentsia that she would take up “all contentious bilateral issues” with the Bangladesh PM, her meeting with the latter proved to be a damp squib as she maintained her old stand and broke no new gorund.

India’s relation with her eastern neighbour hinges on three main issues: sharing of Teesta waters, the land boundary agreement (LBA) and the exchange of enclaves (EOE), apart from the more serious but largely unsaid issue of continued exodus of people from Bangladesh to India. If Mamata thinks that she can dictate foreign policy, she is sadly mistaken. The government at the Centre is the sole authority in this regard. Of course, any decision the NDA government will take will obviously be taken after due consideration to the possible harm it can cause to the people of Bengal. But this does not mean that some amount of give and take cannot be indulged in to improve relations with a neighbour.

While Mamata seems to have softened her stand on the LBA and EOE, Teesta remains a thorny issue for her. The government should take steps to exchange enclaves. It is decidedly harmful to have another country’s people residing in our national territory. Similarly, the LBA should be inked without delay. After that, the question of illegal immigrants should be taken up. These immigrants are skewing the demography of many states, especially Assam, West Bengal and Tripura. In Assam, their presence has given rise to many ethnic and religious clashes. The Central government should also sit down with its WB counterpart to find ways to arrive at an equitable distribution of Teesta waters.

Mamata should understand that there are international covenants on sharing of river waters. Any decision will need to be arrived at by following those covenants. Of course, since resources are limited, any such decision will have to ensure that minimum loss occurs to the state while some of Bangladeshi concerns are addressed.