An India Bangladesh round table on blue peace in the eastern Himalayas, which was held in Mumbai, called for restructuring of joint rivers commission.

The two-day roundtable that concluded on Tuesday was convened by the Strategic Foresight Group and attended by 25 senior diplomats, Members of Parliament, former ministers and experts from India and Bangladesh.

The roundtable took place at a time when relations between India and Bangladesh are improving, particularly since the visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India in 2010 and the Indian Prime Minister to Bangladesh in 2011.

“It is necessary and possible to finalize the Teesta river agreement, bearing in mind the importance of environmental flows for sustenance of the river and ecological security of the basin. However, in the long run it is not feasible to negotiate a separate agreement for each of the 54 trans-boundary rivers between India and Bangladesh,” Strategic Foresight Group said in a statement.

“It is necessary to move towards integrated collaborative and sustainable management of all shared rivers between the two countries. It is necessary to apply the principles of Integrated Water Resource Management to the entire Ganges-Brahmaputra basin shared by India and Bangladesh,” it added.

The roundtable emphasized the importance of creating robust and sustainable institutions for collaborative water management, which can withstand short term political dynamics.

It also called for establishing an India Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission headed by a prominent Indian or Bangladeshi leader on an alternative basis. The Commission should have a team comprising of nationals from both the countries who can undertake necessary activities for sustainable management of shared water resources in a joint and collaborative manner.

It is also important for the Joint Rivers Commission to have an arbitration clause with a well defined mechanism to resolve differences and conflict of interest.

Considering that many of the rivers shared by India and Bangladesh originate from third countries, it is also important to have a gradual multilateral approach towards including third countries in the process of water cooperation.

The roundtable welcomed the trilateral talks between India, Bangladesh and Bhutan and the possibility of similar talks between India, Bangladesh and Nepal in the future. In the long term it would be necessary to explore ways of cooperation between all countries in the Eastern Himalayan river systems.

The roundtable emphasized the importance of taking into account the impact of climate change on water resources in the river basins shared by India and Bangladesh. Any effort for sustainable management for water resources in trans-boundary resources would only be meaningful if there is also efficient utilization and quality control of resources within the countries.

The roundtable concluded with confidence in the prospects of bilateral cooperation between India and Bangladesh driven by cooperation in shared water resources achieving a momentum with support from all political forces and other stakeholders in the two countries.

Courtesy: Business Standard