Why was Narasimha Rao scared of visiting Bangladesh?

Narasimha Rao
New Delhi, Sep 2: P V Narasimha Rao never went to Bangladesh on an official bilateral visit as prime minister to avoid the "embarrassment" of being confronted with the Farakka barrage issue for which he had no solution to offer, says former Foreign Secretary Muchkund Dubey.

In his soon-to-be-released book "India's Foreign Policy: Coping with the Changing World", Dubey writes that Rao kept "postponing an official visit to Bangladesh, ultimately not paying such a visit during his entire five-year tenure from 1991-1996.

"The reason for this given by him privately was that the Bangladesh government would raise during the visit, the issue of the distribution of water at Farakka, which would put him in an embarrassing situation because he had no solution to offer."

Rao visited Dhaka as prime minister in 1994 to attend the SAARC summit, a multilateral event. The contentious issue of sharing of Ganga waters and the Farakka barrage on the river had been a major irritant in Indo-Bangladesh ties until a water-sharing agreement was signed in 1996.

Dubey, a former Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh (1979-82), says that Rao's logic was "hardly convincing".

"We are destined to have difficult and at times, seemingly intractable bilateral problems with our neighbours. This cannot be a valid excuse for abjuring or keeping in abeyance summit-level contacts and dialogues which have come to be recognised as an effective means of removing mistrust and suspicion and laying the basis for resolving bilateral issues."

"If there were any diplomatic designs behind these postponements of dialogue, they were never articulated explicitly and publicly. They, therefore, did not serve any purpose except being viewed as instances of India's arbitrary and overbearing demeanour," he writes.


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