Will Conclude Teesta Agreement As Early As Possible: Foreign Secretary
India will continue to engage with Bangladesh to conclude the Teesta agreement as soon as possible, Foreign Secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said on Wednesday ahead of Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to the country starting Friday.
Addressing a special briefing, the foreign secretary said that the secretaries of water resources from both countries met recently under the Joint River Waters' Commission.
"There was extensive discussions and cooperation on all of the rivers that flow between our countries. There are issues that involve not just water flows but use of water for drinking and irrigation purposes," he said.
"We will continue our cooperation in the water resources sector. It's an important area of collaboration between the two countries," Mr Shringla added.
While responding to a query raised by ANI whether any announcements could be expected on the signing of the Teesta agreement, he said, "We have extensive cooperation in river water sharing arrangements, we have had extensive talks. We've had cooperation in managing the waters that are shared between our countries. That cooperation continues, it is an ongoing thing."
He added, "There has been a commitment from our side to conclude the Teesta Agreement as early as possible. We will continue to be engaged in that endeavour. I think this is also an important aspect from our side but we should not overlook the fact that we are talking about a very large number of rivers between the two countries."
The foreign secretary reiterated the excellent defence cooperation and defence relationship between India and Bangladesh adding that "as we go along, we will continue to add depth into that relation".
Earlier this month, during his official visit to Bangladesh, External Affairs Minister (EAM) S Jaishankar focused on issues of water sharing, border killings, COVID-19 with his counterpart Dr AKA Momen in Dhaka.
Speaking during a press conference, Mr Jaishankar termed Teesta water-sharing as a big issue, saying, "We did discuss it, we have a meeting of our water resources Secretaries very soon. I'm sure they will be discussing it further. I think you all know Government of India's position that position has not changed."
The Teesta river dispute is an important point of bilateral talks between India and Bangladesh, as the latter has sought a fair and equitable distribution of Teesta waters from India. They also signed an agreement in 2011 to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border.
However, the proposed deal was called off after repeated objections by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. The water-sharing issue was once again discussed during Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Dhaka in June 2015, but it remains unresolved till date.
PM Modi's upcoming visit to Bangladesh is of a "very special significance" and will serve to highlight the celebration of unique ties between New Delhi and Dhaka, said Mr Shringla.
Prime Minister Modi will pay an official state visit to Bangladesh on March 26 and 27 on the invitation of Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina. This will the first foreign visit by Prime Minister Modi since the Coronavirus outbreak.
PM Modi's visit to Dhaka will be in connection with three epochal events - Mujib Borsho (birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman), 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between Bangladesh and India, and 50 years of Bangladesh liberation war.
Bangladesh-India relations are multifaceted in nature and rooted in a shared history, geographical proximity and commonality in their cultures. The emotional bonds stemming from the contribution of India towards the liberation of Bangladesh remain a dominant factor in the country's political, social and cultural web.