Didi in Dhaka

Mamata Banerjee received a red carpet welcome in Dhaka when Bangladeshi minister of state for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam received her at the airport when she reached at 9 pm.
Mamata's Dhaka trip is shadowed by the Centre's desire to break ice on the Indo-Bangla Teesta deal front. The Narendra Modi government wants to achieve what the Manmohan Singh government could not.To further this cause, external affairs minister Sushma Swaraj on Thursday called the CM up hours before she left for Dhaka.
While Mamata termed the phone call as one from a well-wisher, she later expressed hope that her Dhaka tour would further strengthen ties between Bangladesh and her state and promote business between the two sides. “I will carry to Bangladesh the message of enhanced trade links and other exchanges between West Bengal and Bangladesh,“ she told reporters in Kolkata.
Across the border, too, her three day visit has rekindled hope. “We hope that with this visit a conducive environment will be created to resolve the pending issues between Dhaka and Delhi,“ state minister for foreign affairs Shahriar Alam told agencies on the eve of Mamata's visit. “Legally, the bilateral issues are to be resolved by the central governments. But we believe her visit will make it easier to resolve outstanding issues in the future,“ he added.
Bangladeshi media, too, hailed Mamata's visit. The Daily Star published a report headlined `Teesta hope rises with Mamata's trip', the Bangladesh Observer headlined its report `Mamata's visit to expedite settling pending issues', while the Prothom Alo headline read `Mamata comes to repair relationship'.
Bangladesh and India were set to ink the Teesta agreement and the land boundary agreement during the then prime minister Manmohan Singh's Dhaka visit in 2011 along with the Bengal CM, but Mamata backed out at the last minute opposing the treaty. The Teesta deal was shelved as Mamata had objected to the proposed quantum of waters, saying it would harm her state.When asked by reporters before leaving, she said, “I wish to remain within my constitutional limits. It is for the Centre to decide.“
Mamata made it clear that her opposition to the land boundary agreement, which will lead to the transfer of enclaves, is a thing of the past.
“As you know, we have made our position clear. I have been there (to these enclaves) personally . We have sent a proposal to the Centre. It isn't only a question of 17,000 acres of land. But it is about rehabilitating people, ensuring their livelihood. I would say it is positive,“ she added.
On Bangladesh foreign minister AH Mahmood Ali's invitation, Mamata is scheduled join the Language Day ceremony at midnight on February 20 with the president at the Central Shaheed Minar in Dhaka. They will lay wreaths in memory of 1952 language movement martyrs who laid down their lives demanding Bengali be the state language in the erstwhile Pakistan. Mamata may visit Bangobondhu Sk Mujibur Rehman's birthplace to pay her respects. She is set to meet Hasina on February 21. She is also expected to address a business event to be organized by the India Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce, the Federation of Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Indian Chamber of Commerce. Mamata will lead a 39-member delegation with the aim of increasing trade and investment between Bengal and Bangladesh.
As New Delhi watches intently , it remains to be seen whether Mamata's visit will turn to be the ice-breaker. The Teesta water-sharing agreement has been in the talks since the Awami League government returned to power in 2009. Prime Minister Hasina earlier criticized Mamata for her “unfortunate“ stance against the water sharing deal. The last-minute setback on the deal during Singh's 2011 visit visibly prompted Dhaka to back off from inking a crucial transit deal at that time.
Mamata will also try to dispell allegations against party MPs for allegedly funding a JMB plot to assassinate the Bangladeshi premier and opposition leader. In the aftermath of the October 2 Khagragarh blast, the CM also has to dispell allegations that JMB has solid Bengal links.

Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee on Saturday assured Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina that she will work towards resolving the Teesta water sharing issue. “This is a beginning. We want all pending issues to be resolved and have to see that both countries benefit,“ Mamata said after a 30-minute meeting with Hasina.
Stating that she expects the Parliament to ratify the land border agreement on exchange of enclaves during the budget session, she said: “The land boundary issue will be resolved. The only pending issue will be Teesta. Trust me, I will work on this to resolve it.“
Terming the visit as very successful, Hasina's media adviser Iqbal S Chowdhury told newspersons that Mamata herself raised the Teesta issue during the meet. “She assured Hasina of playing a positive role on the issue of water sharing and protecting the interests of Bangladesh and India.She also said she can understand the plight of people in enclaves,“ Chowdhury said.He added that the meeting was very cordial and the two leaders addressed each other as “sisters“.
Later, on a lighter note, Mamata told reporters that she had urged the Bangladesh PM to lift a ban on Hilsa export to India in view of its massive demand in Bengal, and a laughing Hasina had replied, “If (Teesta) water comes, Hilsa will also go“. India and Bangladesh were set to ink the Teesta water-sharing pact during then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's 2011 visit, but Mamata Banerjee opted out of his entourage at the last minute opposing the treaty.
Mamata, who rounded up her maiden visit to Bangladesh as CM on Saturday, also stressed on the need to strengthen business ties. “Bangladesh and Bengal can jointly be the gateway to South-East Asia,“ the CM said at a meet to sign an MOU between the Indian Chamber of Commerce and Industries and the Indo-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce.The meet was also attended by industry minister of Bangladesh Toefel Ahmed and Indian industry representatives J P Chowdhary, Rajeev Singh, Sanjay Budhia, Roopen Roy, Harsh Neotia and others.

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