9 months ago

Overdue JRC meet today

BD to table 11pt dos, water sharing tops Delhi talks

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Bangladesh may table 11 issues at the much-awaited Joint River Commission (JRC) meeting between Bangladesh and India, beginning Tuesday in Delhi after the lapse of 12 years with few major problems left unresolved.

The three day-long talks, which will end with a ministerial meeting Thursday, are billed crucial to resolving a string of water-related disputes between the two South Asian neighbours.

But, for Bangladesh, a long-eluded Teesta water deal will be the main focus, despite knowing, however, that given the domestic political circumstances, it would be a near-impossible for Delhi right now.

"Off course we want a breakthrough over the issue of Teesta waters. We have shown our open-mindedness in resolving many issues and we hope that India will reciprocate through delivering on the Teesta deal as they have promised long ago," State Minister for Water Resources Zahid Faruk, who will lead the Bangladesh side, told the FE prior to his departure for Delhi.

But, despite high-ups in the foreign ministry and the water resources ministry having expressed optimism about a breakthrough regarding the pending water-sharing agreement of the Teesta river, some analysts appear sceptical.

In 2011, during the Dhaka visit of the then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Teesta deal could not be signed due to opposition by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, although the central government agreed to ink it.

And now the rift between Mamata and the central government is much deeper, so it is quite unrealistic to think that it will happen this time, the analysts in diplomatic circles feel.

But, as the meeting is taking place ahead of the Delhi visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, many feel that some kind of positive gesture would be shown by the Indian side.

"We are hopeful to have a deal on Kushiyara," foreign secretary Masud Bin Momen told the FE, about another common river.

Bangladesh wanted to dredge a portion of the river near Jakiganj to withdraw water from this river through a pump.

"Last time India opposed when we made a move to dredge this part, but we hope that this time they would agree," says the state minister.

There can be a package deal on water sharing and water management on other common rivers, and there may be a clear assurance from Delhi over renewal of the Ganges treaty, the sources say.

The Ganges water treaty is expiring in 2026 and some kind of preparations are required to renew the deal.

Bangladesh is set to propose the start of joint preparation in this regard.

Apart from these, withdrawal of water from the Feni river by Tripura, joint management of 12 common rivers, exchange of information on protection works in the upstream will be on the meeting agenda.

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