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'Teesta after polls'

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The two neighbours discussed sharing of waters of trans-border rivers on Thursday, when Bangladesh foreign secretary Shahidul Haque met External Affairs Minister Salman Khurshid, National Security Adviser Shiv Shanker Menon and foreign secretary Sujatha Singh in Delhi.The meetings took place amidst shrill accusations by West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee accusing the federal government of 'clandestinely' releasing river waters to Bangladesh without informing her administration in Kolkata.Foreign Secretary Md Shahidul Haque was assured by the senior officials that New Delhi would look into Dhaka’s allegation about drastic flow of water on Teesta into Bangladesh.Haque and Sujatha Singh reviewed the entire gamut of bilateral relation, including the outstanding issues like the stalled negotiation for an agreement for sharing of waters of Teesta.Sources said that both Singh and Menon told Haque that a fresh effort to end the impasse over the bilateral negotiation for the agreement on Teesta could be made only after the new Government took over in New Delhi after the ongoing Lok Sabha elections in India.Haque had on Wednesday raised the issue of fall in water level of Teesta in Bangladesh with Indian Government’s Secretary of Water Resources Alok Rawat.Sources said that Rawat and Singh assured Haque that New Delhi would consult with the State Governments in Sikkim and West Bengal to find out if the fall in water level of Teesta was beyond the seasonal variations.The 543 parliamentary constituencies across India will go to polls in nine phases in April and May to elect the new Lok Sabha or lower House of the country’s Parliament.The poll code, which has already come into force since the Election Commission of India declared the schedule of the elections, bars the United Progressive Alliance Government of Prime Minister Manmohan Singh from taking any major decision till the new Government takes over in New Delhi.India and Bangladesh were close to signing an interim agreement for sharing the Teesta waters during Manmohan Singh’s visit to Dhaka in September 2011.But that was stalled by Mamata Banerjee's furious objections as she pulled herself out of the Prime Minister's entourage, though other chief ministers of Indian states bordering Bangladesh accompanied Singh and supported him on improving bilateral relations.“Why was Farakka sluice gates broken and Bhagirathi river water given away? Teesta river has also dried up,” Banerjee said on Thursday, while addressing her party’s workers in Murshidabad district of the State.“One day we got information that Farakka’s gates have broken and using that alibi, water was given away for three months without informing us,” Press Trust of India quoted her in a report from Murshidabad.“In a planned way, Teesta water was also released keeping us in the dark. We had said that through negotiation, West Bengal will do as much as it can, but without telling us, water was given away depriving the people of Jalpaiguri and Siliguri of irrigation and drinking water,” alleged Banerjee.She had in 2012 ended her party’s alliance with the ruling Congress, which has been leading the coalition Government at India’s centre, in 2012. “I had learnt about it late as I had given the irrigation department in my government to the Congress. It is my misfortune,” she said.She was apparently referring to her party’s past alliance with the Congress in West Bengal when a Congress minister had the irrigation portfolio.The Foreign Office Consultation led by Haque and his Indian counterpart Singh on Thursday also covered issues like border management, including creating infrastructure along the border, sources said in New Delhi. Haque had on Thursday also met Indian Government’s Commerce Secretary Rajiv Khera and Shipping Secretary Vishwanath Tripathi.Bilateral security cooperation was also discussed when he met Indian Prime Minister’s National Security Advisor Menon on Thursday.

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