Impact of West Bengal Politics on India–Bangladesh Relations

Anand Kumar is Associate Fellow at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses. Click here for detailed profile
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  • May 2013

    It was expected that Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's visit to Dhaka in September 2011 would transform India–Bangladesh relations. However, this did not happen as India could not sign the Teesta water sharing agreement, the biggest deliverable of the visit. It also made some people brand West Bengal (Paschimbanga) Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee as a spoiler. But did West Bengal stop central government from achieving a historic diplomatic breakthrough for narrow political objectives, or were its leaders only protecting their state interests, which central government may not have been fully able to understand being far away from the region? This article examines the impact of West Bengal politics on India–Bangladesh relations and argues that the role played by the states can often add value to foreign policy making and might actually prevent the centre from jeopardising local interests, thereby protecting national interests as well. The India–Bangladesh relationship can improve if treaties are negotiated in such a way that they become win-win for both sides. This will happen if the treaties are signed after due diligence, taking into account all stakeholders, and if they are implemented sincerely.