Agreement expected to be signed during Manmohan's visit to Dhaka

In what is seen as a major development in India-Bangladesh relations, New Delhi and Dhaka have agreed to sign a 15-year interim accord on sharing the waters of common rivers Teesta and Feni.

This was decided at a Secretary-level meeting of the Indo-Bangladesh Joint River Commission (JRC) here Monday.

The agreement is expected to be signed during Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka this year, said Sheikh Wahid-uz-Zaman, Bangladesh Water Resources Secretary, who led the talks with the Indian delegation headed by his counterpart, Dhruv Vijai Singh.

Both Secretaries said the discussions included formulation of a working plan on the sharing of the waters of five other common rivers — Dharla, Dudhkumar, Manu, Khowai, Gumti and Muhuri.

They had a comprehensive discussion on the water sharing issues. They claimed they have “removed major barriers” and the agreed framework would be forwarded to the higher authorities.

This was the first time the neighbours agreed on a framework on sharing of the waters of the Teesta, Mr. Singh said. The leaders of the two countries, during the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to New Delhi in January last year, “instructed us to resolve the issue,” he added.

“We agreed on a framework to sign an interim deal for 15 years on the sharing of dry-season water flows of the Teesta and Feni rivers, while some fine-tuning is needed; this would be done at the highest political-level discussion,” Mr. Wahid-Uz-Zaman, told journalists at a joint press briefing .

However, both Secretaries declined to divulge the formula of water sharing under the pact — a second major one after the Ganges Water Sharing Treaty signed during the erstwhile Awami League government.

The proposed treaty would be acceptable to both countries, he said.