Recent Indian Offer to Finance the Teesta Barrage

A new Indian offer to fund the Teesta barrage, Bangladesh’s largest irrigation project, has put Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in a difficult position. By taking part in the initiative, India seeks to address a long-standing internal and diplomatic problem amicably. However, Bangladesh had first requested China to build the project, and the Chinese were enthusiastic about it. India’s offer so puts Hasina in a difficult position.

Background to the Teesta River Issue

For years, India and Bangladesh have clashed over the Teesta River. The river flows southward from the slopes of Sikkim in India, through the northern section of West Bengal, and into Bangladesh’s Rangpur Division. It is Bangladesh’s fourth biggest river and is critical to agriculture, sustaining over 10 million people. Historically, dams built by India restricted the river’s flow into Bangladesh, hurting irrigation on more than 100,000 hectares of land. This has resulted in a dramatic drop in water availability, particularly during the dry summer months.

India’s Offer to Fund the Teesta Barrage

During a recent visit to Dhaka, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra suggested finance for the Teesta barrage project, which is anticipated to cost more than $1.1 billion. This offer is timed strategically, to strengthen bilateral ties and resolve the long-standing water-sharing problem. This action also demonstrates India’s desire to counteract China’s rising influence in the region.

Bangladesh’s Approach To China

Before India’s offer, Bangladesh had contacted China to build the Teesta barrage. China, seeking to extend its influence in South Asia, expressed a strong interest in the project. The Chinese cooperation was part of a larger initiative to build infrastructure in Bangladesh under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s dilemma

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is now facing a dilemma. Accepting India’s offer may strain ties with China, Bangladesh’s biggest trade partner and key investor in its infrastructure. On the other side, accepting India’s offer might harm bilateral ties and aggravate internal political pressures, since the opposition routinely criticizes her for failing to resolve the Teesta water conflict.

India-China Rivalry in Bangladesh

India and China’s rivalry in South Asia is widely known. Both countries compete for influence in Bangladesh, which India regards as a critical zone of influence. The Teesta barrage project is the newest battleground in this continuous conflict, reflecting larger geopolitical factors.

Security concerns

India is concerned about China’s participation in the Teesta project due to its closeness to the Siliguri corridor, which links northeastern India to the rest of the nation. The presence of Chinese infrastructure in this important area is seen as a possible danger to India’s security.

Economic implications

Financing the Teesta barrage is a huge economic project. Comparing the financial arrangements provided by India and China is critical. Historically, Chinese-funded projects have been completed on time, but at greater prices and under stricter constraints. Conversely, Indian-funded projects have experienced delays and financial difficulties, raising worries about their viability.

Potential diplomatic solutions

One possible answer is cooperative development by India and China, although this is unlikely given their present competition. Alternatively, Bangladesh might take a balanced diplomatic strategy, negotiating arrangements that secure the project’s completion while without endangering its ties with either country.

Past precedents

Previous choices, such as the cancelation of the Sonadia deep sea port project owing to security concerns voiced by India, the United States, and Japan, set a precedent. This decision prompted Japan to build the Matarbari port instead. Such antecedents shape present tactics and underscore the difficulty of balancing economic and geopolitical issues.

Challenges of Indo-Bangladeshi Projects

Indian-funded projects in Bangladesh have encountered several problems, including budgetary limits and delays. According to sources, Bangladesh has withdrawn multiple projects from the Indian Line of Credit (LOC) owing to severe loan conditions, excessive contractor demands, and bureaucratic impediments.

Domestic political ramifications

The decision on the Teesta barrage project will have a considerable influence on Sheikh Hasina’s political status. Accepting India’s offer may draw criticism from the opposition and harm her support base. In contrast, rejecting the offer might damage Indo-Bangladeshi ties and jeopardize her diplomatic status.

Expert Opinions

Political pundits and experts give a variety of opinions on the problem. Touhid Hossain, a former diplomat, emphasizes Hasina’s difficult decision, while Imtiaz Ahmed, a political observer, views India’s offer as a viable solution to the long-standing water problem. Shahab Enam Khan, a political pundit living in Dhaka, expresses worry regarding the project’s finances and its completion.


The Teesta barrage project is an important geopolitical and economic choice for Bangladesh. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina faces a complicated environment of internal demands, foreign connections, and strategic concerns. Her choice will have far-reaching consequences for Bangladesh’s future, its ties with India and China, and the overall regional dynamics.

Read more: How Satellite Data and AgriTech Are Revolutionizing Indian Agriculture?


What is the importance of the Teesta River to Bangladesh?
The Teesta River is critical to agriculture in northern Bangladesh, sustaining the livelihoods of over 10 million people and accounting for approximately 14% of the country’s agricultural output.

Why is India agreeing to fund the Teesta Barrage Project?
India’s offer seeks to settle a long-standing water issue with Bangladesh, enhance bilateral ties, and offset China’s expanding influence in the area.

What are the security issues surrounding China’s participation in the Teesta project?
India is worried about Chinese development along the Siliguri corridor, a critical route connecting northeastern India to the rest of the nation.

How have previous Indo-Bangladeshi initiatives fared?
Indian-funded projects in Bangladesh have experienced delays and financial difficulties, raising doubts about their viability and timely completion.

What are the possible diplomatic solutions to the Teesta barrage issue?
Potential options include cooperative development by India and China, as well as a balanced diplomatic strategy that assures project completion without damaging Bangladesh’s ties with either country.

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