Bilateral International Relations Prelims cum Mains

Teesta water no longer a hurdle in India-Bangladesh ties

The News

  • The pending resolution of the Teesta river water sharing agreement is no longer an issue for Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s government, said Ms. Hasina’s political advisor.


Teesta Agreement & Importance of statement

Teesta agreement:

  • As per an agreement of 2011 the two sides (India and Bagladesh) had agreed an interim arrangement for 15 years — where India would get 42.5% and Bangladesh, 37.5% of the Teesta’s waters during the dry season.
  • The deal also included the setting up of a joint hydrological observation station to gather accurate data for the future.
  • The agreement has been pending since it was nearly signed in 2011, but was blocked at the last minute by West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.


Importance of statement:

  • As a lower riparian state, Bangladesh demanded more water and appealing to India to resolve the issue through formal agreement ahead of general elections slated for December
  • However, the statement from political advisor indicates a major shift in position for the Bangladesh government which repeatedly appeals for agreement and referring it as “transformational” for India-Bangladesh ties.


Bangladesh election and tense relationship with India:

Delegation of Awami league:

  • An Awami League delegation had also met Prime Minister NarendraModi recently, stressing that the Teesta issue was a “serious problem” for the ruling party, which needed to be resolved.
  • They also conceded that the opposition parties, led by the Bangladesh National Party (BNP), would raise the failure of the government to conclude the agreement during the election campaign.
  • Ruling party further said that the BNP are working against Indian interests and could attempt to disrupt the Bangladesh elections.


Visit by Bangladesh National Party (BNP):

  • A delegation of the opposition BNP also visited India and appealed to India to push for free and fair elections in Bangladesh and “not back any one party in the elections.”
  • The BNP’s outreach, given its past of a tense relationship with India has been viewed with much interest in India and Bangladesh.
  • However ruling Awami League said it was “impossible” for the BNP and India to reconcile their differences as the BNP members are not only pro-Pakistan but also pro-China and have virtually been taken over by the radical Islamic organisation (which has been banned from elections).
  • The sharp allegations and counter-allegations during visits by political leaders on both sides of the Bangladesh political spectrum indicate how heated the upcoming campaign is likely to be.


Additional information

About Teesta River:

  • Teesta originates in Sikkim, flows through West Bengal in India before entering Bangladesh. It merges with the Brahmaputra River (or Jamuna when it enters Bangladesh). The river is important for both Bangladesh and India for its agricultural use.
  • From source to mouth, the Teesta is approximately 414 kilometres, of which 150-odd are in Sikkim, 123 in West Bengal, and the remaining 140 or so, in Bangladesh
  • Of the Teesta’s catchment area, 83% lies in India; the remaining 17% is in Bangladesh.
  • Estimates suggested that Teesta River has a mean average flow of approximately 60 billion cubic meters, of which significant amount flows during June and September and October to April is considered to be a lean season.



Importance of Teesta for Bangladesh

  • According to available data, the river’s floodplain today covers an area of 2,750 square kilometres in Bangladesh.
  • Its catchment area supports 8.5 percent of its population — roughly 10 million people — and 14 percent of crop production.
  • Over one lakh hectares of land across five districts are severely impacted by upstream withdrawals of the Teesta’s waters in India and face acute shortages during the dry season.
  • Bangladesh wants 50 percent of the river’s water supply, especially in the months between December and May annually, while India claims a share of 55 percent.

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