The Joint River Commission meeting in Dhaka slated for June 18-19 has been postponed due to India’s last moment pull-out, officials here said.
“The Indian side has written our [water resources] minister that their minister cannot attend the meeting here due to internal issues,” Sheikh Altaf Ali, senior secretary of the water resources ministry, told The Daily Star.
He said, “It came as a big surprise to us because we were expecting a final list of guests today (Sunday).”
According to officials here, the signing of TeestaRiver water sharing treaty and Tipaimukh dam were on the agenda of the meeting.
The Teesta water is vital for irrigating around 6.4 lakh hectares of cropland in the northern region of Bangladesh during the lean season.
In the last (37th) JRC meeting that took place in March 18 and 19, 2010, in New Delhi, the ministers of the two countries had exchanged proposals about the Teesta deal. The technical committee of the countries finalised the deal after a series of meetings.
The agreement got shelved since September, 2011, during Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s Dhaka visit, as West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had raised objections and refused to come to Bangladesh with the Indian premier.
Since then, the two countries had been exchanging documents on the history of the Teesta flow and reviewed them. Mamata formed a one-man commission to assess the water flow of the river.
Meanwhile, Bangladesh had also been asking India for a convenient date to hold the JRC meeting. But India had not responded to the call until recently, said a source in the water resources ministry.
The ministry’s Senior Secretary Altaf Ali earlier said India and Bangladesh had exchanged drafts of the interim agreement on principles of sharing the water of the Teesta.
Both the sides had also agreed to mandate the secretaries of the water resources ministries to examine the drafts and facilitate an early conclusion to the interim agreement, he added.
India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. So far, India has signed only one treaty on sharing the water of the Ganges in 1996.