Tipaimukh hydel project has been a bone of contention between the two countries

Prime Minister Manmohan Singh on Friday offered Bangladesh a stake in the Tipaimukh hydel project, which has been a bone of contention ever since it was conceived in the mid-1980s.

Assuring that India would not do anything inimical to Bangladesh’s interests in the area of common water bodies, Dr. Singh suggested to visiting Bangladesh Foreign Minister Dipu Moni that Dhaka could join the yet-to-take-off project in Manipur as a stakeholder.

Emotive issue

Opposition to the project ebbed in Bangladesh after India took Dhaka into confidence on all aspects of the dam, including providing it with techno-economic feasibility reports, holding more surveys and lowering the height of the dam. It still remains an emotive issue.

Offering Bangladesh a stake would be a definite way of ensuring that the country’s interests are kept in mind while building the dam.

In fact, according to sources, it was the Prime Minister’s office that overrode dissent from other Ministries and decided to ask Bangladesh if it would take a stake in the project. Partnership in Tipaimukh could also lead to a partnership between the two countries in Bangladesh, for nine hydel projects under construction, or being planned in the north-east, including Teesta III and IV, and Subansiri. Though both countries have resolved a large number of bilateral issues, India has been unable to resolve outstanding issues relating to the land boundary agreement (LBA) and the Teesta river.

The Prime Minister acknowledged that India is to ratify the LBA agreement and assured Dr. Moni that his government intended to take it to Parliament.

National consensus

The Prime Minister said the government was seeking national consensus on the issue of Teesta waters. He, however, noted that water continued flowing to Bangladesh and data sharing in this regard was also taking place regularly.

The $1 billion loan deal, the largest line of credit received by Bangladesh under one agreement, was flowing in a satisfactory manner, according to discussions. Of this, $200 million, as a grant rather than credit, has already been offered to Bangladesh.