Bangladesh has not sent a delegation for the Joint River Commission (JRC) meeting with India that was scheduled to be held here on Wednesday. This has cast a shadow over the agreement to share the waters of the Feni river that was taken up during the October visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India.
Sources in the Bangladesh High Commission said they did not have “any knowledge of the delegation’s plans”, hinting that the JRC meeting will not be held as scheduled. A Joint Statement issued after Ms. Hasina’s October meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi had laid down the agenda of the JRC, declaring that the Technical Level Committee of the JRC was to firm up the draft framework agreement of the interim sharing of the Feni river's waters with Tripura. Bangladesh had agreed to let India withdraw 1.82 cusecs from the river to supply the border town of Sabroom in the northeastern State.
That apart, the meeting cancellation is also expected to delay the preparation of draft framework for the Interim Sharing Agreements regarding the Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gomati, Dharla and Dudhkumar rivers that were also mentioned in the Joint Statement.
This is the third cancellation of engagement by Dhaka after Foreign Minister A.K. Abul Momin and Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan called off their visits to New Delhi and Meghalaya last week. It was understood that the cancellations indicated Dhaka’s displeasure over repeated reference by India’s political leadership to the alleged persecution of religious minorities in Bangladesh.
The JRC came into existence as a result of the Indo-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship, 1972, and is among the oldest bilateral mechanisms of India that helps in harnessing the waters of the rivers that both countries share. India and Bangladesh share at least 54 rivers and the JRC is crucial to avoid any disputes arising out of these common water resources.
The cancellation of the delegation’s visit came even as Dhaka arrested a policeman for allegedly spying on behalf of India. Debo Prosad Saha was accused of passing vital information to Indian officials across the border in West Bengal.