Hasina-Manmahon summit in Bangladesh promised so much but delivered too little. Impregnated hopes turned of reaching some milestone agreement into dry despair. Several months of sincere efforts of so many persons of two countries were blown with the winds. Teesta River sharing high drama culminated into tragedy.
Consequently transit agreement was not signed, power import deal or Joint Venture Coal fired power plant development initiative could not be inked, and even critical border issues remained unresolved. Hectic parleys at the last stage and efforts of many over 20 months to make the event a mega success hit quick sand primarily due to unexplainable stubborn attitude of Chief Minister Mamota Banerjee of West Bengal. For her last minute turn around very crucial Teesta Water sharing agreement signing was put on hold. Bangladesh was at least bold enough in not agreeing to sign Transit deal. Other issues like Power import deal and imported coal based power plant under NTPC-PDB joint are still in the womb of uncertainties. Some protocols, some MOUs and one framework agreement covering many aspects of co-operation were signed. All these however failed to perhaps please both India and Bangladesh government. There will be serious soul searching in both sides to find out what went wrong? Who stabbed the noble initiatives on the back? Indian Prime Minister has sounded frustrated for not being able to bring his Chief Minister of West Bengal on the discussion table for signing what could be a historic Water sharing agreement. If we analyze neutrally development of events harmed Indian image more than Bangladesh. World Communities through active media knows it was Indians failure which led to finally sign agreed water sharing treaty for their internal reasons. Indians perhaps lost a golden opportunity to earn trust and respect of Bangladeshi nation. The mistrust and disbelief among two SAARC neighbors continued. Many now will seriously doubt about sincerity of Indian Government for agreeing to ensure the legitimate right of Bangladesh as lower riparian country over the water of common international Rivers. Bangladeshis will not easily believe on Indian Prime Ministers repeated assurances that nothing that harms Bangladesh will be done at Tipaimukh and other places to divert river water on the upstream. Here are some details of the Agreements and MOUs.
Protocol to the 1974 Boundary Agreement
Foreign ministers of India and Bangladesh signed on the protocol to address the outstanding land boundaries issues and provide final settlement to land boundary issues which will come under the agreed protocol are;
a) Undemarcated land boundary at Daikhata -56 [West Bengal]. Muhuri River-Belonia [Tripura] and Dumabri[Assam].
c) Adverse possessions.
The undemarcated boundary has already been demarcated. The status of 111 Indian Enclaves [Population of 37,334] and 51 Bangladeshi Enclaves [population of 14,215] have been addressed. The issues of adversely possessed land along Indo-Bangla border in West Bengal, Tripura, Meghalaya and Assam has also been mutually finalized. This protocol if ultimately respected to the letters by both parties will bring significant change in the peaceful neighborly relation.
Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development:
In this modern age it is almost impossible for individual countries to address all issues of its citizens on its own .Countries in different regions are addressing many issues of economic development, resources exploitation, poverty alleviation efforts through bilateral and multilateral collaboration . Such a framework agreement was conceptualized during Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in 2010. It was agreed at that time that a comprehensive framework of cooperation for would be put in place covering mutually shared visions. The signed Framework agreement provides the Template for the future cooperation.
Addendum to the MOU between India and Bangladesh to facilitate Overland Transit Traffic between Bangladesh and Nepal:
The MOU would facilitate rail transit to/from Bangladesh and Nepal using the Rohanpoor-Singhabad route .It would also facilitate Rail Transit between Bangladesh and Nepal using Indian Territory through Radhikapoor-Birol line after Bangladesh Coverts its railway line in the section to Broad-gauge.
MOU on Conservation of Sundarban:
An initial 5 year duration MOU was signed for Sundarban for cooperation in areas of conserving biodiversity, joint management of resources, and livelihood generation for poverty alleviation, cataloguing of local flora and fauna and studying the impacts of climate change. A working group to be set up would be responsible for implementation of objectives envisioned in the MOU.
MOU for Conservation of Royal Bengal Tigers of Sundarban:
MOU for Conservation of the Royal Bengal Tigers of Sundarban would provide bilateral cooperation in undertaking scientific research, knowledge sharing and patrolling of Sundarban Waterways on their respective sides to prevent poaching or smuggling of derivatives from wildlife and bilateral initiatives to ensure the survival and conservation of the royal Bengal Tigers in the unique ecosystem of the Sundarbans.
MOU on the Cooperation in the field of Renewable Energy:
- The MOU aims to establish the basis for a Cooperative institutional relationship to encourage and promote technical, bilateral cooperation in the areas of Solar, wind and Bio Energy on the basis of mutual benefit, equality and reciprocity. In addition to above the following MOUs were also signed.
- MOU has cooperation in the field of fisheries.
- MOU, on Educational cooperation between Jawaharlal Nehru University and the Dhaka University.
- MOU on Cooperation between Doordarshan [DD] and Bangladesh Television [BTV].
- MOU between the National Institute of Fashion Technology [NIFT] New Delhi and BGMEA Institute Of Fashion Technology[ BIFT] .
There is no semblance of doubt that the Summit failed to achieve its billing. Tessta water sharing agreement, transit and power trading were three major issues. But mainly due to inexcusable, turnaround of Chief Minister of West Bengal put paid to efforts of many in reaching a historic agreement. Bangladesh had reasons in not agreeing to sign transit agreement. We can commend the courage and determination of Bangladesh in saying no to major neighbor India. We wonder how Chief Minister of a state could overturn the well conceived decision of Central Government of India. India has lost a glorious opportunity to achieve their long cherished plan of getting opportunity of using Chittagong and Mongla port. Bangladesh must now critically evaluate all its pains and gains that would arise from allowing India transit facilities. We cannot be extra gracious to a neighbor which does not hesitate to illegitimately divert the water of common rivers on the upstream to cause desertification of Bangladesh. West Bengal Chief Minister will not be Welcome in Bangladesh until she realizes what damage she has done to the bilateral friendly relation. Her action has only extended the mistrust and disbelief among people of Bangladesh and India.
Indian Prime Minister in a speech at Dhaka University also recorded his frustration for not being able to conclude water sharing treaty. He once again reiterated his firm conviction about not doing anything at Tipaimukh which may harm Bangladesh. The Power trading will have to happen sooner or later once the connectivity is made. We are least bothered about it. In future Bangladesh may achieve surplus power generation to export to India as India’s need of power is much more and the deficit is growing much faster. Bangladesh may not need setting up of power plants based on imported coal if it explores its own substantial high quality coal.
None in Bangladesh has got anything to be too frustrated. Bangladesh has lost none but Indians lost many. Chief Minister of West Bengal has dented the image of Indian Government to world community challenging the decision of Central Government which turned the table on Tessta Water Sharing treaty .Bangladesh Government deserves credit for not agreeing to sign transit treaty .Signing of some MOU and Protocols on important issues are also no mean achievement. One hopes that the process will continue for the greater benefit of the people of the region.