India’s Tipaimukh assurance

Tipaimukh 0

Yet another “assurance” from India on Tipaimukh dam!

Last week, India’s Manipur parliament was told that their government is committed to go on with the controversial Tipaimukh dam. And yesterday (18 July), India’s water resources minister Vincent Pala assured us that India won’t make any hasty decision on Tipaimukh ‘before informing Dhaka’. He promised that- Delhi would ensure before moving on with Tipaimukh project and will make sure that it did not have any adverse effect on its relation with Dhaka.

The news reminds us an editorial by Nurul Kabir titled “no reason to rest assured over Delhi’s Tipaimukh assurance”. That editorial mainly talked about the environmental fallouts of the dam as a reason for this. However, this piece argues that New Delhi’s history with “Tipaimukh assurance” has been questionable enough to have a distrust.

The first assurance was a hard-earned one by Dhaka in the Indo-Bangla Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting held in October 2003. Bangladesh’s then water resources minister Hafizuddin Ahmed wanted to keep the Tipaimukh issue on the agenda, which also included  the issue of implementation of the 1996 treaty on Ganga waters. However, the Indian counterpart Arjun Charan Sethi argued that the Tipaimukh project was in a conceptual stage and Bangladesh should drop the issue from the agenda. After eight hours of bargaining impasse, the following was included as miscellaneous item

India’s proposed river-link project was raised by Bangladesh to which India replied that it was at conceptual stage and that there was nothing to discuss the matter.

During the discussion, India also “assured” Bangladesh of having prior talks “if it diverted water elsewhere drying up the Surma and Kushiara in Sylhet”.

During the next JRC meeting held in Dhaka in September 2005, India’s water resources minister Priya Ranjan Dasmunshi “assured” that they will provide Bangladesh with the detailed Tipaimukh plan before going for its implementation. In the same meeting, he also assured that

India would inform Bangladesh at the next JRC meeting whether there is any diversion structure on the Barak other than Fulertal.

In other words, India will divert Barak river waters for the dam, and will inform us if they create anymore diversions.

Early next year (2006), India floated international tenders for the construction of Tipaimukh dam and Bangladesh was NOT informed of India’s actions as promised. To which Mahfuz Anam reacted

It seems incredible, therefore, that India being a friendly and highly valued neighbour of Bangladesh, could see fit to have adopted the project without engaging Bangladesh in a consultative process.

In 2009, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh assured Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the NAM summit that- New Delhi would not take any anti-bilateral steps for Tipaimukh Dam that might affect the bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India. The same was repeated this year when Sheikh Hasina visited India. Lot’s of promises were made during that time, and as Zafar Sobhan noted, six months on, “things are very much the way they were before”.

Meanwhile, India is going ahead with the project, and Bangladesh is hardly being informed.

So when I learnt India’s latest assurance on Tipaimukh dam, I had to put it into perspective and admittedly, I couldn’t be assured.

[cross-posted at UV]

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