- An evaluation of India- Bangladesh bilateral relation from the past to the present.
- India played an important role in Bangladesh’s independence. India provided political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War.
- For example, India lost 3,900 Indian soldiers and provided accommodation to an estimated 10 million Bangladeshi refugees.
- Following Bangladesh’s Independence, India- Bangladesh bilateral relation had many high and lows.
- For example, during President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1st Bangladesh President) India- Bangladesh relations were in full swing.
- However, after his assassination on August 15, 1975, the relation between India-Bangladesh hit a bottom. Between 1982-1991 a military-led government by General H.M. Ershad ruled the country.
- But since the last decade India- Bangladesh relation has boosted up. Both countries have moved beyond historical and cultural ties. Cooperation is increasing in areas of trade, connectivity, energy, and defence.
- India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations immediately after its independence in December 1971.
- Various Joint exercises of Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Milan) take place between the two countries.
- Border Management: India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours.
- The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) came into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification in June 2015.
Cooperation over Rivers:
- India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) has been working since June 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems.
- Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. India’s exports to Bangladesh for financial year 2018-19 (April-March) stood at US 9.21 billion USD and imports from Bangladesh for the same period stood at US 1.22 Billion USD.
- Bangladesh has appreciated the Duty-Free and Quota Free access given to Bangladeshi exports to India under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011.
Cooperation in Connectivity:
- Both countries jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh).
- Welcomed the signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT).
- Agreed to an early operationalization of the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative Motor Vehicles Agreement through the expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.
Cooperation in Power Sector:
- This has become one of the hallmarks of India- Bangladesh relations. Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.
Partnership on Multilateral forums:
- India thanked Bangladesh for supporting India in its election to the United Nations Security Council.
- Both countries agreed to continue working together towards achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council, combating climate change, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protection of the rights of migrants.
- Highlighted that regional organisations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) have an important role to play.
- Bangladesh thanked India for convening the SAARC leaders Video Conference in March 2020 and for creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund to counter effects of the global pandemic in the South Asian region.
- Bangladesh will assume chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in 2021 and requested the support of India for working towards greater maritime safety and security.
- Recent Development:
- Recently, India and Bangladesh signed seven agreements and also inaugurated three projects to deepen their partnership.
- The use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India, particularly from Northeastern India.
- Use of Bangladesh’s Feni river for drinking water supply in Tripura.
Further areas of Cooperation:
- The two countries need to focus on priority areas, such as investments, security connectivity development, cross border energy cooperation, blue economy, cultural economy, environment and disaster management etc.
- Resolve the refugees (Rohingyas) crisis.
- During Covid 19:
- India also offered collaboration in therapeutics and partnership in vaccine production.
- There should be efforts to resolve pending issues concerning sharing of waters, resolving continental shelf issues in the Bay of Bengal, bringing down border incidents to zero, and managing the media.
- Bangladesh has already raised concerns over roll out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, an exercise carried out to identify genuine Indian citizens living in Assam and weed out illegal Bangladeshis.
- Currently, Bangladesh is an active partner of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that Delhi has not signed up to.
- In the security sector, Bangladesh is also a major recipient of Chinese military inventory, including submarines.
What are the positive developments in India- Bangladesh relation?
- Finding peaceful solutions to settle Land boundary issues. For example, Both countries ratified the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015.
- The government of Bangladesh was cooperative in eradicating anti-India insurgency elements from its borders. This has allowed India to make a massive redeployment of resources in other contentious borders. (LAC, LoC)
- Increasing trade relations. For example, Bangladesh is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia. (FY 2018-19- Export- $9.21 billion, Import- $1.04 billion). Bangladesh enjoys duty-free access to multiple Bangladeshi products.
- Deepening cooperation in developmental activities. For example, India has extended three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years ($8 billion) for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
- Increasing cooperation in Medical tourism. For example, Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
- Cooperation in connectivity has increased many folds. For example,
- A direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala running through Bangladesh.
- Three passenger and freight railway services running between the two countries.
- Recently, the Maitri Setu bridge was constructed. It connects Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
- Improved Connectivity to landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura states. Bangladesh allows the shipment of goods from its Mongla and Chittagong seaports carried by road, rail, and water ways to Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
What are the issues in India- Bangla relations?
- Water security is one of the major issue hampering India- Bangladesh relation. For example, the unresolved Teesta water sharing issue.
- Increasing border killings against illegal Bangladeshi cattle traders. For example, the year 2020 saw the highest number of border shootings by the Border Security Force.
- The implementation of the National Register of Citizens has offended the religious sentiments of Bangladeshis. Also, many of the illegal Muslim immigrants belong to Bangladesh.
- India’s neighbours are increasingly tilting towards China due to its attractiveness of massive trade, infrastructural and defence investments. Despite, India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ approach, India is losing its influence in the south Asian region. For example, Bhutan’s withdrawal from the BBIN (Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal) motor vehicles’ agreement.
- Poor project implementation due to Red tapism in India is hampering developmental activities in Bangladesh.