The Indian authorities were now asking Bangladesh to end preparations for signing an agreement on sharing water of the River Feni in violation of a commitment made at the level of prime ministers in 2015 to sign the agreements on Teesta and Feni rivers simultaneously.
‘We have been facing the pressure for expediting preparations for finalising the draft of an agreement on Feni River,’ a senior Bangladesh official told New Age. Another senior official also confirmed it.
The signing of an agreement on sharing flows of Teesta River was a priority, while the issues of River Feni was kept for discussion in a group of seven other rivers including Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar till 2010, an official said with reference to the joint communiqué issued on the visit of prime minister Sheikh Hasina to India in 2010.
The two countries agreed to sign an interim agreement on the River Teesta during then Indian prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka on September 6, 2011. But India unilaterally backtracked at the last minute from signing the deal citing disagreement by the West Bengal authorities.
In 2011, India proposed Bangladesh for simultaneous signing of interim agreements on waters of Teesta and Feni rivers on a fair and equitable basis and Bangladesh accepted the proposal.
Bangladesh and Indian prime ministers directed the concerned officials to work towards concluding the sharing agreements on Teesta and Feni rivers ‘at the earliest’, according to the joint statement issued during the visit of prime minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh in 2011.
In 2012, then water resources minister Pawan Kumar Bansal told a group of Bangladeshi journalists at his office in New Delhi that the Indian government would be able to sign an agreement on sharing of the water of River Teesta with Bangladesh in the next two years.
In talks with her Indian counterpart Narendra Modi, in 2015 in Dhaka and in 2017 in New Delhi, prime minister Sheikh Hasina requested for an immediate conclusion of the interim agreement on the River Teesta as agreed upon by both the governments in January 2011.
In 2015, Modi conveyed that deliberations were underway ‘involving all stakeholders’ with regard to conclusion of the interim agreements on Teesta and Feni rivers ‘as soon as possible’.
In a shift in 2017, the two countries again regrouped Feni River with Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar rivers for ‘discussions on various aspects of sharing waters’.
Indian establishment put up a new obstacle in 2018, involving north-eastern state Sikkim making signing of an agreement on Teesta water further difficult as the West Bengal government had already opposed the move.
India, in 2019, took a sturdy position for firming up a draft framework on an interim agreement only on the River Feni setting aside Bangladesh’s request for ‘early signing and implementation of the framework of interim agreement for sharing of the Teesta flows, a Bangladesh official said with reference to joint statement on prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in October, 2019.
During the 2019 visit, the Bangladesh government signed a memorandum of understanding allowing India to withdraw 1.82 cusec of water from the River Feni for supplying drinking water to the people of Sabroom town of Tripura.
Modi, however, reiterated that his government was working with all stakeholders in India for concluding the agreement on Teesta soonest possible.
Indian foreign secretary Harsh Vardhan Shringla said, during his visit to Dhaka in March this year, that his government was expecting to finalise deals with Bangladesh regarding sharing of seven common rivers (including the River Feni) except the River Teesta.
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