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In last trip abroad, Manmohan will keep Sheikh Hasina in good humour

Tuesday, 4 March 2014 - 9:00am IST | Place: Kolkata | Agency: dna

Soft-spoken Manmohan Singh will have a lot of explaining to do when he meets Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday in Nay Pyi Taw, capital of Myanmar, on the sidelines of the seven-nation Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC).

Today's meeting assumes significance as it will be Singh's last official engagement with his Bangladeshi counterpart -- India's staunchest ally in south Asia along with the Bhutan king.

Singh made several promises to Hasina but failed to deliver making pro-India Bangladeshis, particularly the Hasina-led Awami League Party, feel like suckers badly let down by Big Brother.

Government and party sources said that as a goodwill gesture Singh will quietly explain to Hasina why India failed to execute the Teesta water sharing treaty or ratify the land boundary agreement after he promised to swing both during his September 2011 state visit to Bangladesh.

"Knowing Dr Singh, he will make a clean breast of it and tell her the truth," a top source said. "He finds himself in a very awkward position vis-à-vis Hasina who looks up to him and holds him in very high esteem."

Singh's visit to Myanmar for the BIMSTEC summit will be his last overseas trip before his decade-long innings as PM ends. Hasina was sworn in last month as Bangladeshi premier for a record third term after a controversial election boycotted by the opposition alliance and marred by violence and low turn-out of voters.

Sources in Dhaka told dna that while there is lingering disappointment over India's failure to honour commitments made to Hasina in 2011, there is also appreciation for New Delhi standing by the Awami League during the run-up to last month's elections which were criticised by USA, UK and European Union.

"The West was thinking of slapping sanctions but India stood like a rock behind Bangladesh and ultimately prevailed upon Washington to address Hasina's concerns about religious extremism in Bangladesh," a Bangladeshi official said.

It's commonly known that the Teesta agreement was scuttled by Mamata Banerjee – chief minister of West Bengal, over whom Singh has no control whatsoever. And the land boundary agreement couldn't be ratified in parliament because BJP torpedoed it as it would have handed over 10,000 acres of Indian territory to Bangladesh on a platter.

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