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India - Bangladesh relations

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July 03, 2024

Why in news?

The third consecutive meeting between the Indian and Bangladesh Prime Ministers marks a pivotal moment in their relations.

What are the pillars India - Bangladesh relations?

  • Historical relations – Both India and Bangladesh were under erstwhile undivided India during the British colonial rule.
  • Poet Rabindranath Tagore wrote the national anthem for both countries.
  • Cultural relations – Bangladesh has large number of Hindu Bengali population and has large number of religious-cultural sites associated with India.
  • Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC), Dhaka plays an important role in the celebration of common cultural links between the two countries.
  • Geographical relations – India shares about 4096.70 Km land border a 180 km long marine border with Bangladesh.
  • The longest land border for India and the fifth-longest land border in the World.
  • Assam, West Bengal, Mizoram, Meghalaya and Tripura are the five Indian states that share their border with Bangladesh.
  • Land Boundary Agreement (2015) between them swapped the disputed islands and allowed the inhabitants to choose their country of residence.

India-Bangladesh

  • Diplomatic relation – India provided critical military and material support during Bangladesh Liberation War 1971.
  • Bangladesh liberation day, 16th December, is celebrated as “Vijay Diwas” in India.
  • India was the first to grant diplomatic recognition to Bangladesh as an independent and sovereign country and
    • Maitri Diwas – Bangladesh and India celebrate Friendship Day on 6th December.
    • Sonali Adhyay – Also, the current PM of India referred the current state of the bilateral relationship as golden phase.
  • Economic ties – It has grown with bilateral trade reaching $15.9 billion in 2023 spanning across various sectors, including textiles, pharmaceuticals, agriculture and more.
  • The Shared Vision for India-Bangladesh Digital Partnership will boost collaboration in emerging digital economies.
  • Commencement of negotiations for a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) and operationalization of two Special Economic Zones (SEZs) offered by Bangladesh to India in Mongla and Mirsharai.
  • Opening of new border-haats can transform our geographical proximity into new economic opportunities for our peoples.
  • Defence relations Exercise Sampriti and CORPAT ‘Bangosagar’ exercise and annual defence dialogue.
  • The newly signed MoU between the Defence Services Staff College (DSSC), India and Defence Services Command and Staff College (DSCSC), Bangladesh for cooperation in military education.
  • Energy tiesIndia has been supplying power to Bangladesh, with exports reaching 1,160 MW in 2023.
  • Construction of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant in Bangladesh with India-Russia cooperation.
  • The Maitree super thermal power plant, a JV with its recently added Unit II, showcases collaboration in critical infrastructure.
  • The MoU on Blue Economy and Maritime Cooperation to catalyse collaboration in maritime resources and ocean-based industries.

The Kushiyara Pact between India and Bangladesh was agreed to share the waters of a significant transboundary river, the Kushiyara.

  • Infrastructure & Connectivity – The Akhaura-Agartala, and the Khulna-Mongla port rail line are landmark initiatives connects India’s northeast to Bangladesh.
  • Development partnership – Since 2010, India has approved three lines of credit to Bangladesh of $7.362 billion to finance development projects.
  • A $500 million line of credit was extended by India for defence purchases.
  • Geopolitical relations – Bangladesh is at the converging point of India’s Neighbourhood First policy, Act East policy, SAGAR doctrine and the Indo-Pacific vision. 
  • India and Bangladesh have been cooperating on multilateral platforms such as SAARC, BIMSTEC, etc.

What are the major challenges?

  • Border issues – Managing illegal cross-border activities while ensuring civilian safety remains a continuous challenge.
  • The Comilla–Tripura land border, which stretches for 6.5 kilometers, has not been demarcated, leaving the border dispute unresolved.
  • Security challenges – Having the long international border common challenges like terrorism, extremism, and transnational crimes persists.
  • According to media sources, the United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), the National Democratic Front of Bodoland, and the National Liberation Front of Tripura all run camps in Bangladesh.
  • River water sharing issuesTeesta River sharing remains a bone of contention as India currently controls 55% while Bangladesh claiming 50% during the dry season.
  • Farakka barrage dispute is regarding the diversion of water from the Ganges to the Hooghly River by India.
  • Migrant issuesIndia’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list, who were labelled as ‘illegal immigrants from Bangladesh’ living in Assam post-1971.
  • Bangladesh’s stance is that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence.
  • Rohingya issue – India’s remarks in 2017 that Rohingya refugee’s infiltrate India through Bangladesh had upset the relations.
  • India has been facing the challenge of providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees.
  • Financial Constraints – While India committed to credit Bangladesh of $7.362 billion to finance development projects, only $442 million was been disbursed till 2018.
  • China has already submitted a $1 billion proposal for the Teesta River Comprehensive Management and Restoration Project and India is now playing catch up by offering to fund it.

What lies ahead?

  • Strengthen initiatives like the BBIN motor vehicles agreement, and the BIMSTEC free trade agreement could further strengthen economic cooperation, regional integration, and stability across the subcontinent. 
  • Both should work together to achieve the common goal of development and prosperity for their people.
  • Establish framework to resolve water sharing issues.
  • India should launch initiatives like “Operation Insaniyat” to provide relief assistance for the refugee camps in Bangladesh.

References

  1. The Indian Express| 3rd Innings of Modi-Hasina Friendship
  2. MEA| India-Bangladesh Shared Vision for Future
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