Kolkata: Stoking speculations that they may have discussed crucial issues during their one hour long meeting in Kolkata last week, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and West Bengal chief minister Mamata Banerjee said it was a courtesy meeting and they only talked about the friendly relationship between the two countries.
Neither of them took questions from the media after emerging from the meeting held at a hotel where Hasina checked into after arriving in the morning. Earlier in the day, Hasina and Banerjee watched the first Pink Ball Test Match between India and Bangladesh in which the visiting team fared badly. “We are not doing so well in cricket. Hopefully we will do better in future,” Hasina said after her meeting with Banerjee.
“I came here because of the first day-night pink ball cricket tournament. Indians helped us a lot during the 1971 Liberation War when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman led us. I offer my respects and gratitude to the people and the Government of India. It always feels good to be here. One crore refugees from our country found shelter in India (during the war). We always want the two neighbouring countries to share a friendly relationship,” said Hasina.
Banerjee, who emerged first from the meeting, said, “It was a courtesy meeting. The two countries share a warm relationship. That is what we discussed. I invited her to come again. Our talks were homely.” She left without taking questions from reporters. Earlier, Banerjee said, “We will meet thrice tomorrow. First during the match at Eden Gardens, then at a get-together with cricketers in the evening, also at the Eden. The third meeting has been finalised today. I will pay her a courtesy visit at the hotel (where Hasina would put up) at 6 pm.” She also said that Hasina spoke to her over the phone earlier.
After this, speculation was rife in political circles that the two leaders might discuss issues such as sharing of Teesta river water and India’s planned citizenship screening exercise that is principally aimed at weeding out infiltrators from Bangladesh. Though the former UPA government was in favour of sharing water from the Teesta (a major river in north Bengal) with Bangladesh, the deal could not be sealed due to opposition from Banerjee who argued that it would badly affect north Bengal.
Public expectation from a possible Mamata-Hasina meeting and discussion on Teesta increased in Bangladesh soon after Hasina accepted Sourav Ganguly’s invitation for attending the first day and night Pink Ball Test match in India. However, while interacting with journalists in Dhaka, Hasina urged them not to combine Teesta and cricket. But at the same time she touched upon the ethnic connection by saying that she had accepted the invite only because it came from a Bengali i.e Sourav Ganguly, president of the Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI).