The Teesta agreement may be delayed further as the chief minister of West Bengal has proposed to include the northeastern state Sikkim in the process, said officials who accompanied the prime minister Sheikh Hasina on her India visit last month.
The chief minister Mamata Banerjee in her meeting with Sheikh Hasina proposed to remove the water reservoir built for hydroelectric power projects in Sikkim, according to the officials.
Mamata claimed that the water reservoir is affecting the natural flow of Teesta in Bengal and thus causing a barrier to farming.
The Bengal CM, however, refused to say anything in pubic after the meeting on 26 May.
She told the media, “I don’t want to discuss the matter right now.”
Officials from Bangladesh told Prothom Alo, Mamata Banerjee suggested that Bangladesh propose to the central government of India to remove the water reservoir in Sikkim to increase the water flow in Teesta.
The experts apprehend that including Sikkim in the negotiation will delay the deal.
Former member of the Joint River Commission (JRC) and Emeritus professor Ainun Nishat of BRAC University said, “India and Bangladesh finalised the draft of the interim agreement in 2011. Now before the final agreement, negotiating with Sikkim will only prolong the whole process.”
“The interim agreement can be signed now and Sikkim can be included later,” he said.
India’s latest position on Teesta agreement, however, has been reflected in its foreign minister Sushma Swaraj’s comment.
Sushma on 29 May told the media in her annual press conference, “Bengal has a large share in Teesta water. Therefore, the central government will not come on board for any agreement on Teesta without the consent of the Bengal CM.”
The newly raised issue has been discussed in Indian media as well. Quoting Bangladesh high commissioner in New Delhi Syed Moazzem Ali, the Times of India wrote, the Indian government is discussing with the authorities of Bengal and Sikkim about signing of the Teesta agreement.