Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to visit India in October to discuss several bilateral and regional issues, including the long-pending pact on the Teesta water sharing and the Rohingya crisis, foreign minister Dr AK Momen said in Dhaka on Sunday (4).
It will be Hasina’s first visit to India after assuming office for the third consecutive term. Hasina’s alliance, dominated by her party Awami League, won the general election with a thumping majority in December last year.
“We are expecting the visit to take place on the first week of October. We will finalise the date and the agenda after Indian external affairs Minister S. Jaishankar’s official trip to Dhaka later this month,” Momen said.
Jaishankar will visit Bangladesh on August 20 on a two-day visit.
The agenda of the prime minister visit will include discussions on “all bilateral and regional issues, including sharing of water in 54 common rivers and the Teesta in particular,” Momen said.
The Teesta deal was set to be signed during the then prime minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011, but was postponed at the last minute due to objections by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee.
Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the leanest period from December to March, when the water flow often temporarily comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs.
“In principal, we agree (to sign the Teesta deal)…but it is being delayed due to the objection of West Bengal,” he said.
Momen said Dhaka is hopeful about the deal, but is also concerned that it could get delayed further until New Delhi reaches a consensus with West Bengal.
He said the Rohingya crisis was also likely to come up during Hasina’s visit.
“New Delhi has conveyed to Dhaka that the repatriation process should start immediately…I am confident that the process of repatriation will start soon,” the minister said, adding that major Myanmar allies including India, China and Japan have extended their support to Bangladesh on the Rohingya issue.
Bangladesh, which is facing a big influx of Rohingya Muslims from Myanmar, is seeking enhanced India’s support in handling the crisis by mounting pressure on Myanmar to take back the refugees who have taken shelter in the country.
According to the United Nations, over 745,000 Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar’s Rakhine state into Bangladesh following serious human rights abuses.
However, Myanmar denies the allegations.
Momen said in a recent meeting with Jaishankar in Bangkok, the Indian minister told him that New Delhi has already talked to the Myanmar government and its military authorities and urged them to bring back Rohingyas as soon as possible.
“The Indian foreign minister told me to start the repatriation process as early as possible,” he said.