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The Big Picture – Takeaways from Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s India Visit

  • April 28, 2017
  • 1
The Big Picture- RSTV
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Takeaways from Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s India Visit

Archives

TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests
  • Effect of policies and politics of developed and developing countries on India’s interests

Takeaways

Significant developments like:

  1. A ‘fraternal relation’ was addressed for two nations and also called as a unique relationship. PM called it shonali adhyaya– the golden period of relationship. In broad framework, the meeting between two leaders gave significant push to bilateral partnership.
  2. 5 billion USD credit line for projects and 500 million USD for defence. It is the highest given to any country. Overall it is 8 billion dollars in last 6 years which is significant extension of credit.
  3. Defence agreements included training, working together, interoperability etc.
  4. Nuclear cooperation- a framework agreement and 2 other agreements between agencies.
  5. Space exploration
  6. Connectivity- its ramifications for large number of segments- trade, creation of job, illegal migration etc. Bus, rail and rakes of diesel oil being supplied from India
  7. Energy- there was agreement on 600MW of supply of power and another provision of 16MW.
  8. Business- 13 agreements in addition to 22 agreements for a value of 9 billion USD.
  9. Terrorism- area where both the countries have been cooperating and collaborating extensively.

When PM of India visited in 2015, most of the projects that were identified have seen forward movement. For the present credit line, the identification of projects has already began in terms of infrastructure, airports upgradation, port development etc. The personal rapport between two leaders was reflected throughout the visit.

Misses

On Teesta, a breakthrough was already seemed not possible. The project has taken a long time- it has had emotional connect in Bangladesh and has become an issue of politics in India.

Today, Bangladesh is one of the best in relationship with India as compared to all other neighbours. Vital national interest cannot suffer because of provincial politics or federal tensions. These two factors are eating up Indo-Bangladesh relations. Teesta issue was almost done under previous government in 2011 but its blockage since then shows lack of political will in the state government. There is politics when federal relations are concerned but they need to be set aside when national interests are in foray.

Sharing water of other rivers

There are 54 rivers between India and Bangladesh. The proposal to share water of 5 other rivers instead of Teesta had no takers.

There is no forward movement on what exactly West Bengal wants from Teesta is not known. This is amounting to stalling any agreement on Teesta without letting know the reason for it.

The kalanrudra committee for this issue had given a report but it hasn’t been made public.

Teesta water is crucial for Bangladesh, especially in the lean period between December and March when the water flow often comes down to less than 1,000 cusecs from 5,000 cusecs. And west Bengal is also saying that there is not enough water while objecting to the water sharing pact.

The central government would not enter into any agreement where the welfare of citizens of WB is not taken care of. Thus it is important to work on the nitty gritty of WB’s demand than just putting the issue aside.

Trying basin-wise management

Basin-wise river management is a classic idea which is implemented for all international rivers, like the Rhine, the Colorado and the Mekong

The demand and availability of water varies in the upstream and downstream of a river. Usually, the water flow in the upstream surpasses the demand, while it is the opposite in the downstream.

The optimum solution to balance the supply and demand could be creating proper modelling of the rivers based on water quantity and quality. This way, issues like flood, navigation, irrigation, hydro-power and fisheries for the entire basin of a particular river can be resolved.

Why WB not agreeing?

WB CM says that there is not enough water in Teesta and North Bengal will suffer if water is shared.

The unstated reason is consolidation of North Bengal constituencies for ruling party and question of taking more money from centre by WB as a state. These are internal issues and it is for centre and state to come together and have scores settled in other areas rather than an area which is critical for India Bangladesh relationship.

India Bangladesh have a Ganges water treaty of 1996 which is working very well. India has always been generous with its lower riparian neighbours so there is a need to put this issue together. Bangladesh India relationship is a multi-sectoral relationship, perhaps the best in the last 40 years. So the focus should not be taken away from so many fields of close relations- people to people contact, S&T. The LBA is a high point of the bilateral relations between both nations.

Presence of China

China delivered two submarines to Bangladesh in November 2016. There was stir up in Indian defence community to some extent. But India has not extended help to Bangladesh only on this pretext. This is because when Hasina came to power in 2008, there has been significant cooperation between two nations. The joint anti-terror exercises go back to 2009. So credit of 500 million to Bangladesh defence sector just because of China is not true. The intelligence cooperation, sharing, training of officers of military academics is visible. There have been high level defence visit from both countries.

There is no threat per se from Chinese but the access they will have in terms of training by using submarine to Bangladeshi official and thereby mapping the floor of the ocean in the Bay of Bengal is much more significant threat in terms of maritime security rather than presence of submarines.

Bangladeshis since their military regimes have cooperation with China for last more than 30 years. The Chinese have consolidated huge influence on Bangladesh. Despite that Bangladesh refused China for deep sea port in Chittagong which has had defence implications. Thus, China is a factor but not the only factor.

India has defence and security cooperation with all its neighbours- SL, Maldives (maritime), Myanmar (security), Nepal and Afghanistan. India is going beyond Maldives to more island countries.

Leaving aside USD 500 million credit line, 4-5 defence agreements have been singed. Thus there is an attempt to bring it under some sort of framework. The fruits of neighbourhood first policy is seen in the relationship with Bangladesh. Thus, defence partnership to be put under some framework is needed. In this sense, China’s presence will help India to regulate what is happening.

Conclusion

India has to move away from obsession with few smaller issues for larger positive relationships. Chinese activities in and around areas is a matter of concern. But there is no need to compete with China on their own rules. India’s relation with Bangladesh is very different from Chinese relationship. Bangladesh and China have decades old defence relationship but India and Bangladesh share people to people contact, goodwill, historical relationship. It is a broad based relationship and deep-rooted by its cultural context too. The Teesta river issue should be solved at the earliest to give the fillip to the bilateral ties.

Connecting the dots:

  • India and Bangladesh share a deep bond but it has become prominent recently. What are the factors contributing for the growth of the relationship between the two?

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