IT WAS the night of 5th September. It was only about ten hours left for the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to reach Bangladesh for an official visit. That visit was a high- hope and long expected visit. Every concerned people of India and Bangladesh were thinking that it will be a historical visit and two countries will start a new era of their relation.
At the last moment it was proven that, everything in the world cannot be happened routinely and something happened which was painful. It was at noon of 5th September when Bangladesh came to know that the chief Minister of Indian sate Paschim Banga (West Bengal) Ms Mamata Banerjee was not coming to Bangladesh as a delegate member of Manmohan Singh’s visit. Even the water resource minister of India was not coming.
Having got this news, Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina called an emergency meeting with her senior cabinet colleagues and advisors. Two of her advisers, Mr. Mashiur Rahaman and Mr. Gahor Rizvee were involved in that negotiation process with India. Besides, foreign Ministry was also involved. All of them were worried to hear this news that, chief minister of west Bengal and water resource minister of central government are not coming with the delegations. Absence from this visit of those two Ministers made it clear that Teesta (a common river of India and Bangladesh) river water sharing treaty was
uncertain. It is true that, if Bangladesh and India wants to start a new relationship, they have to reach a solution in Teesta river water sharing and so the absence of these two ministers in the delegation puts the fate of this long awaited treaty uncertain. Chief Minister of West Bengal is highly connected to this treaty, because according to Indian constitution the central government cannot sign to any treaty with other country without the concerned state. Since Teesta river water is a concerned matter of West Bengal as well, the absence of Mamata made it clear that water of Teesta river sharing treaty will not be signed.
From the meeting of Sheikh Hasina, foreign Minister of Bangladesh contacted her counter part of India and she confirmed that India will sign Teesta river water sharing treaty at the time of Manmohan visit. Getting this confirmation, Prime Minister of Bangladesh ended her meeting and went to take rest. It was then 10 PM of 5th September.
After the meeting was over, most of the ministers left the residence of Prime Minister of Bangladesh and Prime Minister went to her prayer. However, two concerned advisers did not leave the residence of the Prime Minister and some senior ministers were also at that residence. In the meantime, those two advisers came to know that, ultimately Teesta river water sharing treaty will not be signed in this visit time of Manmohan. So they fell in confusion as to what they would do.
Considering both sides and since it was an important matter, the two advisors of the Bangladesh Prime Minister felt it necessary to inform the Prime Minister immediately. On the other hand they were thinking that as night was growing old and it is more than 11.30 pm, this news would hamper the sleep of the Prime Minister; so it is better to inform it in the morning. At that time the senior most minister of the cabinet Mr. Abul Mal Abdul Muhith, finance minister of Bangladesh came there. Then two advisers rushed to him and informed him the latest situation.
Hearing this news, finance minister said ‘you have to inform it immediately to the Prime minister.’ According to the advice of the finance minister, adviser of the Prime Minister Mashiur Rahaman rang to the Prime Minister but she did not receive his call; then another adviser called her but she did not receive it again. Then the two advisers requested to the finance minister that as he is the senior most, so his call will be received by Prime Minister. Finance minister did try but Prime Minister did not receive his call as well and all of them.
Just as they were felling totally hopeless, Prime Minister herself came to this area for a walk and seeing them she was astonished. She asked why they were waiting and also told them that she was in the prayer while they were calling. After finishing prayer, she has seen the missed call but she thought that, they were calling from their home and would ring back tomorrow, because it was already midnight. Then two advisers asked to the finance minister, ‘you tell her why we are waiting here.’ Finance minister told her the matter in detail. Hearing this, Prime Minister became tensed as well and called up her foreign minister to rush to her immediately. It was midnight, road was traffic free. Foreign minister came within a few minutes. Prime Minister told her, “India will not sign Teesta River sharing treaty so we will not sign the transit agreement. You stop the process of that agreement”.
The night was over and Prime Minister of India visited Bangladesh but that visit will not be called in future a historical visit. It was expected to be a historical visit but ultimately it became a common visit. It left the remark that, what was done by Bangladesh was not returned by India. As an example, Indian Government has now been able to make a treaty with the United Liberation front of Asom (ULFA) and initiate the much awaited peace process in the North Eastern Region. But is it not true that, it has been possible only for Bangladesh and the leadership of Sheikh Hasina? After all, Bangladesh handed over the entire insurgents (who are the leader of ULFA) to India and only so India is able to do it.
First published in the Times of Assam, September 11, 2011
Swadesh Roy is the Executive editor of Daily Janakantha, Dhaka, Bangladesh. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org