Paschim Banga’s chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to approve the Teesta water-sharing treaty with Bangladesh “did kill a splendid opportunity for India to bring bilateral ties to the next logical level”. But she still has a chance to “repair West Bengal’s relations with Bangladesh and boost India’s”, said an editorial in the Indian Express.
The newspaper draws a contrast between Tripura chief minister Manik Sarkar and Mamata and says where Sarkar “has done an excellent job,” she “is yet to begin undoing last September’s failure” to approve of the Teesta water-sharing treaty.
Showing superb feat in politics her Trinamool Congress ousted the CPM-led Left Front from power in Paschim Banga (PB) which saw the end of 34 years of uninterrupted rule by the leftists. The swearing-in took place in the presence of 3200 invitees drawn from among the top names in politics, business and art and culture. She thus created history.
People of PB and Bangladesh expected a positive change in attitude of the state government and her transactions with her immediate neighbours.
Although Dhaka and Delhi are supposed to be the partners in bilateral relations between the two countries, PB happens to share our culture and the language. PB is expected to assist the centre in understanding Bangladesh. We have had Bengali speaking High Commissioners, apart from the diplomatic ties; we enjoy regular exchange of programmes especially literary and cultural. Therefore, we have genuine reason to feel disappointed for what the PB chief minister has done.
First, out of the blue, she back tracked on the Teesta Water sharing treaty. She put the bilateral relationship on the ropes. Prime Minister Manmoham Singh had to swallow the bitter pill when she opted out of the visiting entourage of the PM to Bangladesh.
She then declared her state is not ready to give the amount of water that Bangladesh wanted. Mamata Banerjee appears to have taken a firm stand against Bangladesh’s interests which she perceives detrimental to the interest of her state. Mamata is supposed to know Bangladesh better than others. She is in politics for a long time now and is a well read person. Recent publication of her books is evidence of her creative mind and literary interest.
She has come out of the Congress Party in 1997 and established her own political party, All India Trinamool Congress. Painting and music are hobbies. We look upon her as a leader with a strong conviction and sincerity of purpose. We expect a better understanding of issues from her, than her predecessors. She is expected to look into the ties with Bangladesh with maximum gravity and advocate measures that might help cementing trust and good relations between the two countries.
Her opponents, especially the ones who were ousted in the last state elections (May 2011), accused her of failing to keep a cordial relationship with Bangladesh even as her government insists there is no adverse fallout of that failure on the water treaty. Although there is very little to be happy about the CPM-led government’s dealing with Bangladesh.
The policymakers of India think that Teesta Treaty was very important for India, both in political and economic terms. The Indian government and the business conglomerates are desperate to have the transit rights through Bangladesh. And to pull off the passage they are ready to sign up a few water sharing deals or mete out a few less valuable favours to our businesses. But transit is something that India ought to get by any means. Therefore, Mamata’s actions and attitudes towards Bangladesh were considered damaging for the Indian interest.
Another predicament has been added by the members of the Border Security Force (BSF) of India. While Bangladesh has been receiving assurances from the Indian side that there would be no more killings, the BSF has apparently become more desperate.
While all these have been happening and the situation getting murky, our government has been behaving strangely. There has not been any serious protest or concern from the government against the border killings. Rather our ministers downplay the border incidents as something that do not merit serious attention. This deepens the concern of the people.
Mamata Banerjee can help by taking up the BSF issue with the center. But we have not yet heard anything from her regarding the BSF atrocities. However, many would like to believe that our prime minister is not attending the convocation of Calcutta University largely as a reaction to all that Mamata and Delhi have been doing. Delhi or Mamata cannot expect to have all that they want. Bangladesh cannot be bullied around for perpetuity.
The government attitude towards India has been more considerate than before. But the Indian government is not reciprocating. Rather they have been pushing Bangladesh rather too hard disregarding international norms.
We expect Mamata Banerjee to act more wisely and take a friendly stand on legitimate issues including the Teesta water sharing issue.
BY : Mohammad Ali Sattar.