Ramtanu Maitra is a regular columnist with the Executive Intelligence Review (EIR), a news weekly published from Washington DC. He writes columns for Asia Times of Hong Kong, Frontier Post of Peshawar and some other newspapers in Asia on South Asian political economy and Asian security. He has written on terrorism in a number of publications in the United States and India.
Sheikh Hasina’s Masterstroke for Regional Cooperation
by Ramtanu Maitra
A multi-nation river project, which has been on the books since the 1970s, and will upgrade or save hundreds of thousands of lives of the poorest people in Asia, otherwise in danger of devastation by chronic floods and diseases, is finally on a path to realization.
On March 22, Bangladesh’s Foreign Minister Dipu Moni told a press conference in Dhaka that during her March 17-19 visit to China, Bangladesh’s Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wazed made a proposal to her counterpart, Wen Jiabao, to participate in the development of a joint basin-wide management for the Brahmaputra River. “They have described it as a good proposal. We have also made the proposal to India,” Dipu Moni said.
In January, Hasina concluded a highly successful state visit to India aimed at bringing these two neighboring countries closer, in the joint task of confronting terrorism, and building a new future around trade, transit, and transport. In the first state visit hosted by India in 2010, India’s Prime Minister Manmohan Singh announced a $1 billion line of credit, the largest ever onetime grant India has given to any other country, to spur the economic transformation of Bangladesh. “The two sides [Bangladesh and China] discussed the need for regular exchange of information and consultation on the use of the water resources of the River Yarlu Zangbu/Brahmaputra to ensure sustainable and mutually beneficial cooperation in this regard,” said the joint communiqué issued in Beijing on March 19, on the concluding day of Sheikh Hasina’s visit to the country. It called for basin-wide management for all 54 rivers shared by Bangladesh and India; and for a Joint Rivers Commission, involving all co-riparian countries, including Bhutan and Nepal, a former member of the Indo-Bangla Joint Rivers Commission said.