NEW DELHI: Visiting Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina seems to have found a new ally in Tripura Chief Minister Biplab Deb, after years of a blow hot and cold relationship with another Bengali speaking Chief Minister - Mamata Banerjee.
Deb flew in to Delhi on Thursday after Hasina requested a specific meeting with the Tripura leader whose state borders Bangladesh.
While Deb requested a direct international flight between Dhaka and Agartala, Hasina seems to have given an in principle go ahead for that. Issues related to an international driving permit between India and Bangladesh through the Tripura border featured in the meeting that lasted for 90 minutes. Both the leaders have agreed on providing temporary permits.
There was a waterway also about to be built between Tripura's Sinamura and Bangladesh. That too is likely to be declared as "international protocol route", post this meeting, subject to the Indo-Bangladesh agreements.
Bangladesh is a Bengali speaking nation and hence had historical bonds with West Bengal. But the relationship between the two leaders, Hasina and Banerjee, hasn't been consistent. Back in 2011, Banerjee had refused to accompany then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh to Bangladesh. In spite of requests from Hasina, the Bengal Chief Minister did not yield.
The Teesta water sharing pact between the two nations was still pending, in spite of India and Bangladesh both keen to seal the deal, due to stiff opposition by Banerjee.
Even this year, the fiery Trinamool Congress supremo reiterated her stiff opposition to the pact, in the West Bengal Assembly. As a consequence, Bangladesh stopped exporting Hilsa, a prized fish for the Bengali platter, creating heart burns in West Bengal.
"Bangladesh has stopped supply of Hilsa for some time. I understand they are sad as we could not give them water from the Teesta," Banerjee had said in July this year.
Though the two met last year and this February, but the meetings hardly could break the ice between them.
Meanwhile, Hasina seems to have cozied up with Tripura, a state where the main language spoken is Bengali. Deb has also warmly reciprocated the move and results have started to reflect.
Rubber and bamboo are indigenous produce of Tripura that are largely exported to neighbouring Bangladesh. Hasina has agreed for a cut on import duty on 14 such products including bamboo.
Bangladesh High Commissioner to India hosted a dinner which the two leader attended, following which Deb termed the interaction "fruitful". Has Deb's Tripura taken the place of Banerjee's West Bengal, for Bangladesh?