What return should India’s Mamata Banerjee provide to Bangladesh against the PM’ Sheikh Hasina’s ‘Mango Diplomacy ?

KATHMANDU

Most Bangladeshi and India media report read that the West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee has received 600 kg of mangoes from Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as part of her “mango-hilsa diplomacy.” Hasina delivered mangoes to President Ram Nath Kovind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi last week, according to the Bangladesh Deputy High Commission in this country. According to a Bangladesh’s deputy high commission official in Kolkata, a few more chief ministers in the eastern region will likely receive similar gifts.President Kovind, Prime Minister Modi, and the chief ministers of West Bengal, Tripura, and Assam received mangoes from Prime Minister Hasina last year as well. Hasina delivered mangoes from Rajshahi, including kinds like Golapkhas and Amrapali, as it is the peak season for the delectable fruit in Bangladesh.

India is a longtime friend of Bangladesh. Keeping that friendship intact, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent mangoes for her friend Indian President Ramnath Kobind and Prime Minister Narendra Modi, just like last year. On Friday afternoon, 1,200 kg of Amrapali mangoes were delivered to the residences of the President and Prime Minister of India. The mango was delivered as a gift to the respective diplomatic channels by the Bangladesh High Commission in New Delhi, India. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s gift of mango and hilsa is further strengthening the diplomatic relations and friendship between the two countries. Last year too, during the mango season, Sheikh Hasina sent ‘Amrapali’ and Haribhanga mangoes as gifts to the President of India, Prime Minister, Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee, Tripura Chief Minister Manik Sarkar and Assam Chief Minister Himanta Bishwa Sharma.

Since last year, Sheikh Hasina has started mango diplomacy. A day before the meeting of the Joint Working Group (JCC) between Bangladesh and India last week, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sent mangoes. Foreign Minister attended the JCC meeting. Abdul Momen has completed his visit successfully. The JCC meeting was held in Delhi on June 19. The JCC discussed the overall issues of bilateral relations, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s upcoming visit to India. Incidentally, Prime Minister Modi and President Kobind visited Bangladesh last year to attend the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence and the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur. And Narendra Modi has recently invited Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to visit India through External Affairs Minister S Jayashankar.

According to media reports, On September 6 and 7, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will travel to India to meet with her Indian counterpart, Narendra Modi.The schedule has been set by Delhi and Dhaka, and the Prime Minister verbally approved. The Joint Consultative Commission meeting between Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar and Bangladeshi Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen on June 19 included discussion of the Prime Minister-level meeting’s itinerary. According to a representative of the foreign ministry, the two nations will hold a Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting before the PM-level summit in New Delhi. The JRC has not met at the ministerial level in the past ten years, despite the fact that the sharing of water from transboundary rivers is a major concern for the two nations.In October of this year, Prime Minister Hasina last traveled to India.

The PM’s visit is vital for the two nations’ bilateral ties, which have significantly improved over the past 15 years, particularly in light of Bangladesh’s role as India’s gateway to its northeastern states.India has also praised Bangladesh’s involvement for upholding a zero-tolerance attitude toward the insurgents who had previously caused unrest in the northeastern states of India.
India and Bangladesh are attempting to improve regional collaboration, particularly in connecting South and Southeast Asia, in the wake of the Covid-19 outbreak and the Russia-Ukraine war, which severely interrupted the global supply chain. In order to ensure early preparation for any natural catastrophes like floods and storms, Bangladesh also requests India’s assistance in managing the transboundary river basin as a whole and in exchanging weather data.

Since the Sylhet region is experiencing severe flooding mostly as a result of high rainfall in the Indian hill states of Meghalaya and Assam, the issue has become more crucial than ever.
PM Hasina has made an admirable gesture Both last year and this year, we had a good crop of mangoes. They are more than welcome if they assist to deepen bonds and improve the harmony between the two nations. It should assist in resolving any bilateral difficulties. The Teesta water-sharing agreement is one of the many persistent disagreements between Bangladesh and India. Since a few years ago, there has been talk over the Teesta water-sharing deal between Bangladesh and India. However, there is no longer a Teesta problem. The sharing of Teesta River water became the most crucial topic of dispute following the Ganges Treaty in 1996. At the two nations’ ministerial-level conference in August 1983, the Teesta water-sharing issue between Bangladesh and India was first raised.

Manmohan Singh, who was India’s prime minister at the time, traveled to Dhaka in September 2011. A Teesta water-sharing deal was scheduled to be inked at that time. The temporary agreement had a 15-year term. The agreement establishes Bangladesh’s entitlement to 37.5% of the Teesta’s water and India’s right to 42.5% of it. However, Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, blocked the treaty from being finalized. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina traveled to India later in 2014. The Teesta Treaty was anticipated to be signed following this trip to India. The PM met with Mamata Banerjee, the chief minister of West Bengal, during the trip. Even so, the West Bengal Chief Minister was not on board. She claimed that the primary factor influencing her disapproval was her unwillingness to provide water to Bangladesh at the expense of North Bengal’s residents. Even in 2015, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi traveled to Dhaka alongside West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee. Despite the Teesta Treaty receiving great press at the time, nothing came of it. There are 54 rivers that cross the boundary between Bangladesh and India. In 43 of these, India controls the majority of the seas, which is essentially unjust to its neighbors.

In essence, refusing to sign the Teesta River accord is a denigration of the good neighborly relations between India and Bangladesh. India had to keep in mind that Bangladesh is a reliable ally in the area. It is frequently claimed that the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India are at their peak right now. Bangladesh has however made it clear that it still views India as its most crucial neighbor and ally. As Bangladesh PM has been practicing and showing her liberal neighborhood mindset towards India particularly through ‘Hilsa-Mango’ diplomacy, it is India’s especially West Bengal’s Mamata Banerjee should show such kind of proactive reactions. India’s central government always maintained a narrative that West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee’s continuous opposition has been the key obstacle in signing the Teesta deal.

So, there was a subtle hint that only Mamata could be a welcome relief to break the stalemate. As per her quotation, I love Bangladesh but Bengal is my priority. But Mamata must be understood and agreed the reality. Bangladeshi people deserve the right on the river. Not signing the treaty is belittling the unneighborly spirit between India -Bangladesh. As crucial as collaborative cooperation is for the two countries; effective river water management, it’s also necessary for Indian counterparts to assess Bangladesh’s shared rivers. Making one’s life simpler shouldn’t come at the expense of others. As Bangladesh PM is set to visit to India this year, Mamata Banerjee should give green signal to the center to sign the long-pending treaty because this is the long pending promise of India to Bangladesh.

A successful resolution to the Teesta issue will boost bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh while also helping Bangladesh’s economy. India will gain a lot from the Teesta Treaty. If this bilateral agreement is implemented, it will be able to satisfy all Bangladeshi stakeholders. India will undoubtedly be able to fortify its position as Bangladesh’s staunch ally and develop a solid diplomatic and economic alliance. The bondage between the two Bengalis from two countries would be further strengthened. Thus, we can understand easily what the return should India’s Mamata Banerjee provide to Bangladesh against the PM’ Sheikh Hasina’s ‘Mango Diplomacy. Only the answer is ‘the sign of Teesta water’ agreement between two brotherly neighbours.

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