Indian Prime Minister-elect Narendra Modi’s first official visit as the head of government is likely to be Dhaka where he may sign the much-awaited Teesta water-sharing agreement with his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, reports an Indian daily.
The issue was discussed at length during Modi’s telephonic conversation with Hasina, according to a report published in Business Standard today quoting unnamed diplomatic sources as saying.
— Business Standard (@bsindia) May 22, 2014
After the Indian parliamentary elections results were declared on May 16, Hasina reached out to BJP’s PM designate and requested him to make Bangladesh his first foreign destination as prime minister and consider Dhaka his “second home".
The Teesta water-sharing agreement accounted for a substantial part of their conversation, the report said. Modi is understood to have told Hasina that he would take “concrete and meaningful steps" for a robust bilateral relationship.
The Teesta water-sharing treaty is likely to be Modi’s first step towards business-like and cordial relations with India’s neighbours.
The Congress-led United Progressive Alliance was not able to sign an agreement on sharing the river water because of opposition from West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee.
Though Modi’s Bharatiya Janata Party has absolute majority in the Lok Sabha, he must convince Banerjee, as water is a state subject in India ruled by a federal government.
Sources said Modi could bring Banerjee on board by offering her a fiscal package to revive cash-strapped West Bengal, according to Business Standard.
Modi might also convince north eastern Indian state Sikkim Chief Minister Pawan Kumar Chamling to share Teesta waters with West Bengal.
The prime minister-elect enjoys good relations with Chamling since his days as Gujarat chief minister. Teesta river originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal.
Ever since outgoing Prime Minister Manmohan Singh failed to sign the Teesta water-sharing deal with Hasina during his maiden visit to Dhaka in September, 2011, he and his government had repeatedly assured Bangladesh that efforts were on evolve a consensus with the Mamata government in West Bengal on the deal.