Sheikh Hasina, PM of Bangladesh addressing India-Bangladesh Business Forum in New Delhi. Photo: PTI

New Delhi, India (BBN) – Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina signed off her hugely successful India visit on Monday with a restructured strategic relationship with India, but rejected Mamata Banerjee’s proposal for sharing rivers other than the Teesta.
Addressing a civic reception held for her by think tank India Foundation, Hasina spoke about the importance of water sharing between India and Bangladesh, reports The Times of India quoting TNN.
“On Teesta issue, PM Modi once again reiterated his government’s strong resolve to conclude the water sharing treaty at the soonest. Once it happens, the face of Indo-Bangladesh relations would undergo another transformation.”
Then, switching to Hindi, she said, “Lekin mujhe nahin pata didimoni kya karega (but I don’t know what Didi i.e. Mamata will do).”
For the first time, giving a sense of the conversation between her and the West Bengal chief minister, Hasina revealed Mamata had put forward some alternative proposals.
But she held PM Modi to his words that Teesta would be the one being negotiated.
Mamata, she said, had offered to give her electricity. “Paani manga, bijli mila,” Hasina laughed. But PM Modi, she noted, said he would ensure a successful Teesta deal.
But the ice has been broken, both between Mamata and the Centre and between Mamata and Bangladesh.
The CM’s presence at the talks and the banquets, even her shift from an intransigent “no” to thinking of alternative water sharing pacts, offering electricity to Bangladesh, all signal a significant move forward, giving the Modi government something to work on with her.
For India, the Hasina visit proved very productive.
But more importantly, India has walked the extra mile to court the Bangladesh military, a very powerful institution, with stronger institutional ties to Pakistan than India.
This will help to change the institutional hostility that the Bangladesh army continues to harbour against India, specially when, India reckons, they begin to look at India as a dependable defence supplier.
On the economic front, India changed tack this time — a huge $5 billion shopping voucher could have meandered along in traditional Indian style, achieving little.
But India is learning to play the Chinese game — in the past few months, Indian officials have combed Bangladesh government corridors to pick up visible and viable projects which this line of credit would build.
Although India has far less cash to throw around (China promised Dhaka $24 billion in 2016), in the past six years India has given $8 billion to Bangladesh — $3 billion already utilised, all of it on much easier terms than China.
With the “shommanona” ceremony, India and Bangladesh renewed an alliance forged during its liberation — the enemy remaining the same.