Sunday, March 4, 2012

Misjudgement led to Teesta treaty hope: Indian minister

Indian Water Resources Minister Pawan Kumar Bansal thinks there was “a little misjudgement” on his part to assume that Mamata Banerjee was on board on the proposed agreement with Bangladesh on Teesta water-sharing.

During an interactive session titled ‘Idea Exchange’ with the journalists of Indian Express, Bansal went on record for the first time in pointing out the issue on which there has been divergence of opinion between Mamata government and central Indian government.

Journalists of the newspaper asked what exactly led to the failure to sign the proposed Teesta river water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September last year following last-minute objections from Mamata. 

“On Teesta, there was a little over-enthusiasm on my part in presuming that she was on board. What has been happening all these years is that our water goes unmeasured. We had agreed to work out about 75 per cent of the water, but about 25 per cent of the water was left. And for that, the treaty was to be worked out,” Bansal replied.

Continued Bansal: “For the first time, we were putting into the treaty that the regeneration of water in their portion would also be treated as water from the river.”

“The topography of the area is such that there is huge regeneration of water in a certain stretch of the river which falls on the other side after the water leaves our last barrage. They were not agreeable to take that into account. We thought that it was acceptable to them.”

The newspaper published an item on Sunday on the interactive session.

Asked what gave him the impression that the Mamata Banerjee government was on board, Bansal said: “That was a little misjudgement. There were discussions with them. Our view was that it’s acceptable. Without that, we wouldn’t have included that in the treaty, PM wouldn’t have asked (Mamata Banerjee) to go to Bangladesh.”

When a journalist of the newspaper pointed out that there was the impression that the Indian government backs down on the issue of China usurping river waters, Bansal said, “When we talk to any country, we never talk from a position of weakness. As far as the suggestion that China is taking away our water, it is not based on facts. The fact is, we don’t have a river water treaty with China and there is no enforceable international law on river water. All that we have are conventions.” 

Terming that the fears expressed about the Brahmaputra as “misplaced”, Bansal said: “From time to time, there have been reports that China is undertaking construction activity on the Brahmaputra which could reduce the flow of water to India. But, China has repeatedly said they will never do anything that is against international conventions and laws.”

“Our independent assessment is that there is no such construction activity that could divert water on a large scale,” the Indian minister said.