Khurshid’s Dhaka visit in February

Indian external affairs minister Salman Khurshid will pay a two-day visit to Bangladesh on February 16.

Before he visits Bangladesh, Khurshid will meet West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerji to discuss the Teesta water sharing treaty.

Indian external affairs ministry officials say once Banerji okays the treaty, it can be signed without any further delay.

“We are quite keen to sign the Teesta water sharing treaty with Bangladesh at the earliest possible. The whole process has been stalled because of objections raised by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerji,” one official of the ministry said, but he was unwilling to be named.

Congress sources in West Bengal say Salman Khurshid is waiting to set up a time for discussion with Mamata Banerji, sooner than later, on the Teesta issue.

Khurshid told journalists in Delhi this week that he enjoyed “good personal rapport” with Mamata Banerji and was hopeful of getting her to agree to the Teesta water sharing deal, which, he said, will take care of the interests of the northern region of Banerji’s state.

But it was not clear whether Mamata Banerji has agreed to meet Salman Khurshid and whether she was prepared for a climbdown.

She has said that her government was waiting for a report on the Teesta from noted West Bengal river expert Kalyan Rudra.

West Bengal irrigation minister Rajib Bandopadhyay has told a Kolkata newspaper that he was expecting Kalyan Rudra’s report in January, after which it might be easy for Mamata Banerji to make up her mind on the issue.

But analysts say that despite relations between India’s Congress-led ruling UPA coalition and Mamata Banerji turning sour after her Trinamool Congress party quit the coalition over a host of issues, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh may try to win over Banerji to agree to the Teesta deal by offering West Bengal a financial package to bail the cash-strapped state from its present woes.

They say Manmohan Singh is keen to get the Teesta deal through as soon as possible — and for which he is prepared to make a quid pro quo offer to help out with West Bengal’s finances.

Mamata Banerji appeared quite desperate on her finances when she said this week that the Centre (Delhi) must do something to help her government out. Kolkata newspapers have been saying that her government will find it difficult paying salaries to its employees soon enough if the finances don’t improve.

India’s central government is also pushing her to change her mind on the Land Boundary agreement with Bangladesh, so that the same can be placed before the Parliament for approval. She is the only chief minister who is opposing this agreement.

Analysts say Delhi does not want to bypass Mamata Banerji on issues like Teesta — rather it would try to persuade her and win her over by sops on the financial front.

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