India pulls out of water-sharing agreement with Bangladesh


Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said Wednesday he would “intensify efforts” towards a deal to share water from the Teesta river after failing to sign the key agreement during a visit to Dhaka.
Singh signed a raft of deals in the Bangladeshi capital Tuesday during his two-day official visit, but a deal to share water from the river fell through after opposition from the chief minister of India’s West Bengal. Mamata Banerjee, who runs the largest Indian state bordering Bangladesh, pulled out of Singh’s delegation to Dhaka, saying the proposed new treaty conceded too much. The move was poorly received in Dhaka, where Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has staked much political capital on the deal, which is widely seen as essential for farmers in Bangladesh’s impoverished, drought-hit north. In a speech at Dhaka University Wednesday, the Indian prime minister said he was disappointed that a deal had not been signed during his visit. “I have asked all the concerned officials to intensify their efforts towards finding a viable formula which does not cause undue distress to all those, in India or in Bangladesh, who are dependent on the flows of the river,” he said. He also added that “India will not take steps that will adversely affect Bangladesh” on a proposed Indian dam at Tipaimukh or on another major shared river, which could hit lower riparian Bangladesh.
During the official visit, Singh signed a deal to end the South Asian neighbour’s long-running border disputes. “I congratulate both sides for arriving at this historic agreement,” he said, adding that effective management of the shared border is “probably the biggest challenge we face in developing our bilateral relations”. Relations between the two nations have been marked by decades of mutual mistrust and low-level border clashes that have prevented the development of substantive trade and political ties. He also granted duty-free access to 46 Bangladeshi textile items and signed a number of agreements to improve cooperation on issues including conservation, green energy and fisheries.