Cutting across ideological lines, parties welcome Modi’s visit

Teesta water sharing remains a contentious issue

June 06, 2015 10:27 am | Updated 10:27 am IST - Dhaka

Political parties of Bangladesh cutting across diverse ideological views have welcomed Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

Even Jamat-e-Islami (JeH) Bangladesh, a party known for its anti-India views, has welcomed Mr. Modi’s visit. The Amir (chief) of JeH Bangladesh Maqbul Ahmed expressed hope that the “existing problems between the two countries” including settlement of border related issues, will be “resolved during the visit.” Inam Ahmed Chowdhury, adviser to Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) chairperson Khaleda Zia, also said his party welcomes Mr. Modi’s visit.

“It is an opportunity and we have to work on it,” Mr. Chowdhury said in a round-table conference at the National Press Club on Friday.

A day before Mr. Modi’s visit, Ms. Zia had condemned the recent spate of attacks on religious minorities. “We came to know about some incidents of attack, torching and looting of houses and worship places of the religious minority community at different places… I strongly condemn and protest these heinous communal and terrorist activities,” Ms. Zia said in her party’s website.

However, both the political parties in the opposition and a section of the civil society have highlighted two issues to further consolidate friendship and bilateral ties.

“I think both the issues – killing of Bangladeshi citizens on the international border and the sharing of water of many rivers – are two issues that need to be addressed during this visit,” said Shahab Enam Khan, the Director of Bangladesh Enterprise Institute. Mr. Khan further said that “Teesta water sharing agreement needs to be delivered” for a long lasting friendship.

Retired bureaucrat of Bangladesh Moffajjal Karim had said that while the relationship has substantially improved, Teesta water sharing was still “a fish bone stuck in the throat.”

“I do believe that [West Bengal Chief Minister] Mamata Banerjee will play a decisive role,” said Mr Karim.

Realising the significance of Ms. Banerjee’s role in consolidating bilateral ties, Mr. Modi is meeting the Chief Minister later in the afternoon for about 15 minutes, before meeting the Prime Minister of Bangladesh.

“This is quite unprecedented for a Prime Minister to meet an Indian Chief Minister in another country before official meetings,” said a retired Bangladeshi diplomat.

The meeting and a statement by Bangladesh’ Minister of External Affairs has fuelled fresh speculations on Teesta. Minister of External Affairs, Bangladesh, Abul Hassan Mahmud Ali had on Friday said that “discussion [related to Tessta] is taking place behind the curtain.”

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