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Teesta barrage to be secret agenda in Beijing talk

Foreign Secy level meeting

Rabiul Haque: There is an invisible tension between China and India over the Teesta Barrage project in Bangladesh. China wants to finance here. But India has always objected to various indications. Recently they have shown interest in financing themselves. In this situation, doubts have arisen whether the project will see the light of day or not.
It is believed that a solution can be reached in the upcoming visit of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to Delhi and Beijing. The Prime Minister is scheduled to visit Beijing on a bilateral visit in the first half of the second week of July. The date of when to go to India has not been decided yet. However, the Prime Minister may visit India before China.
Foreign Secretary Masood Bin Momen has already gone to Beijing to discuss the Prime Minister’s visit to China and bilateral issues. A Foreign Secretary level meeting held yesterday. Although the Teesta Barrage project is not mentioned in the written agenda of the meeting, various sources indicate that the issue will come up.
An inter-ministerial meeting was held on May 26 under the chairmanship of Foreign Secretary Masood Bin Momen as part of the preparations for the Secretary-level meeting. A source confirmed that the Teesta project was discussed in the meeting. Two days later, a coordination meeting was held under the chairmanship of the Principal Secretary of the Prime Minister’s Office to prepare for the Prime Minister’s
visit to Beijing. The topic of Teesta also came up in that meeting.
A diplomat said that Teesta is not on the written agenda of both sides when asked whether the ‘Teesta Barrage Project’ will be discussed at the foreign secretary level meeting to be held in Beijing. Still, it is assumed that the issue of Teesta will come up.
The Teesta River flows from the Himalayas through Sikkim and West Bengal in India and enters Bangladesh. This river has been playing an important role for the economy of both countries.
The Teesta project includes deepening the river by dredging it, providing year-round navigation, building satellite towns on both banks of the river, etc. It is basically a project proposal made in consultation with Bangladeshi experts. which requires foreign financing. China came first in this regard. Many believe that one of the major reasons for China’s interest here is its ‘Belt and Road Initiative’ project. Beijing wants to connect Asia, Europe and Africa continent through this project.
India has been suspicious of China’s ‘extreme’ interest in this project from the beginning. The country feels that China wants to encircle India through its Belt and Road Initiative.
China’s actions point to that. Ahead of Bangladesh’s twelfth parliamentary elections, the Chinese ambassador to Dhaka said he was hopeful that the process of the Teesta Barrage project would begin after the elections.
After a meeting with Foreign Minister Hasan Mahmud immediately after the election, the Chinese ambassador told reporters that China is ready to start the Teesta project if Bangladesh wants!
Meanwhile, India has also now expressed its interest in the Teesta project. During his visit to Dhaka last month, the country’s foreign secretary Vinay Quatra clarified his position on Teesta. Through it, Delhi offered Dhaka to finance the Teesta project.
Delhi’s interest in the Teesta has led China to frown. Four days after Binay Kwatra left Dhaka, Chinese embassy officials sat in a meeting with Dhaka diplomats.
A diplomatic source in Dhaka says that the overall issues of relations between the two countries are discussed in the Foreign Secretary level meeting. However, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s upcoming visit to Beijing will be more important in this discussion. In particular, the date of the visit, the demands of the two countries, the preparation of agreements and memorandums of understanding for signing, various development projects and other initiatives may come up for discussion.
Teesta River flows thru’ Sikkim and West Bengal and enters Bangladesh
Besides, in the context of the foreign exchange reserve crisis, it is also heard that Bangladesh may seek assistance from China equivalent to $5 billion in Chinese currency. The matter may be discussed in this meeting. And China may announce ‘financial assistance’ during the Prime Minister’s visit.
Foreign Secretary Masood Bin Momen lead the meeting on behalf of Dhaka, Deputy Foreign Minister (Secretary) Sun Weidong on behalf of Beijing.
Meanwhile, a diplomatic source in Dhaka says that a joint meeting of Bangladesh’s Economic Relations Department (ERD) with China’s Ministry of Commerce is also scheduled to take place during the joint consultative meeting.

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