India and Bangladesh Relations & Teesta River Water Dispute IAS Target

India and Bangladesh Relations & Teesta River Water Dispute

11 Dec 2019

Category : International Relations

Topic: India and Bangladesh Relations & Teesta River Water Dispute

Sharing of River Waters b/w India and Bangladesh

India and Bangladesh share fifty-four common rivers. A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) has been working since June 1972 to maintain cooperation between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems. Moreover, the JRC meetings, technical level meetings are also held frequently. Both the countries exchange the information and data to prepare an agenda of interim sharing agreements for six rivers — Muhuri, Manu, Khowai, and Gomati rivers of Tripura and Dharla river of Bangladesh and Dudhkumar river of West Bengal. In 1996, the signed Ganges Waters Treaty for sharing the water of Ganga River during the lean season (January 1 to May 31) is now working satisfactorily.

Teesta water disputes

The Teesta river clash makes headlines every time there is a bilateral talk b/w India and Bangladesh. The dispute/clash is related to the water sharing of River Teesta. Bangladesh wants a higher share than it gets now. At present time, its share is lower than that of India’s. Teesta is a 414km long river flowing through the Indian states of West Bengal, Sikkim before going to the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh. It is the 4th largest trans-boundary river shared b/w India and Bangladesh after Brahmaputra, Ganges, and Meghna river systems.

Teesta river Importance

For Bangladesh For West Bengal
As per the report of Asian Foundation in 2013, its flood plain covers about 14% of the total cropped area of Bangladesh and provides direct livelihood opportunities to about 73% of its population. Teesta (also known as Tista) is the lifeline of North Bengal and almost half a dozen of districts of West Bengal are dependent on the waters of Teesta.

The discussions on how to share the water have been going on since 1972. In 2011, an Interim deal that was supposed to last for 15 years – gave Bangladesh 37.5% and India 42.5% of Teesta water. Though, Sikkim and West Bengal opposed an interim deal, since then the deal was abandoned and remains unsigned due to the objection of West Bengal. Article 253 of the Indian Constitution authorizes the Union Government to enter any transboundary river water-related treaty with a riparian state. The centre can’t do it arbitrarily without taking into consideration the social, political, and eco-impact of such an agreement in the catchment area.

Alternative suggestions by West Bengal Government

West Bengal govt proposed the sharing of rivers like the Torsa, which are close to the border of Sikkim and Bangladesh. The Torsa has connectivity with Bangladesh Padma. The two countries can establish a commission to determine the level of water flowing through the Torsa and the quantum of water that can be shared.

Bangladesh’s stand on Teesta River Dispute

India is already enjoying a share of 55% of the river water. Bangladesh wants 50% of the water of Teesta river between December and May every year because in this period water flow in Bangladesh drops drastically. Further, Bangladesh demands a fair share of river waters during the dry season.

Challenges on certain issues b/w India and Bangladesh

  • Continuous border killing of Bangladeshi people by Indian border guards, helping illicit immigrants, helping in armed dacoity, fake money transfer and illicit drug trades by both Indian & Bangladeshi people are the major problems b/w India and Bangladesh.

  • There have been clashes regarding the transfer of the Teen Bigha Corridor to Bangladesh. Part of Bangladesh is surrounded by the Indian state of West Bengal. On 26 June 1992, India leased three bigha lands to Bangladesh to attach this enclave with mainland Bangladesh. There was a dispute regarding the indefinite nature of the lease. The clash was resolved after the mutual agreement b/w India and Bangladesh in 2011.

  • A major area of disputation has been the construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage by India to increase the water supply in the river Hoogly. Bangladesh claims that it doesn’t receive a fair share of the Ganges waters during the drier seasons, and gets flooded during the monsoons when India releases excess waters.

  • Terrorist activities carried out by outfits based in both countries, like Banga Sena and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. Recently, India and Bangladesh had agreed jointly to fight terrorism. Bangladesh has denied India transit facility to the landlocked North Eastern Regions of India. However, India has a narrow land link to this North-Eastern region, which is commonly known as the Siliguri Corridor or "India's Chicken Neck".

  • Both Bangladesh and India made claims over the same seawater at the Bay of Bengal before the settlement of the issue.

However, there is no progress on the long-pending Teesta water-sharing agreement. Bangladesh is a significant neighbourhood for India with a shared history, religion, culture, and many more common elements. For Bangladesh, this issue is still supposed to be prolonged suffering imposed by India. The cooperation of Bangladesh is vital to India and without such liberal regimes in neighbouring countries, India can’t become terror-free. Bangladesh is an essential element for India to get allied with North East. Considering the strategic importance of Bangladesh and as a responsible upper riparian state, India requires to take proactive steps for early conclusion of the disputed issue whether Teesta water agreement, trade balance, and the other. At the same time, India should invest in Bangladesh infrastructure and encourage people to people contact, a cooperative mechanism to end militancy in the region which is also distressing for Bangladesh.