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India-Bangladesh Relations and the Road Ahead

  • IASbaba
  • July 7, 2021
  • 0
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TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • India and its neighbourhood

India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as a separate and independent state and established diplomatic relations with the country immediately after its independence in December 1971. The relationship between India and Bangladesh is anchored in history, culture, language and shared values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities between the two countries. It is based on sovereignty, equality, trust, understanding and win-win partnership that goes far beyond a strategic partnership.

In the last decade, India-Bangladesh relations have warmed up, entering a new era of cooperation, and moving beyond historical and cultural ties to become more assimilated in the areas of trade, connectivity, energy, and defence.

Border Settlement
  • Bangladesh and India have achieved the rare feat of solving their border issues peacefully by ratifying the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015, where enclaves were swapped allowing inhabitants to choose their country of residence and become citizens of either India or Bangladesh. 
Security & Insurgency
  • The Bangladesh government has uprooted anti-India insurgency elements from its borders, making the India-Bangladesh border one of the region’s most peaceful, and allowing India to make a massive redeployment of resources to its more contentious borders elsewhere.
Economic & Trade relations
  • Bangladesh today is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia with exports to Bangladesh in FY 2018-19 at $9.21 billion and imports at $1.04 billion. 
  • India has offered duty free access to multiple Bangladeshi products.
  • India extended three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years amounting to $8 billion for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
Act East Policy
  • Bangladesh allows the shipment of goods from its Mongla and Chattogram (Chittagong) seaports carried by road, rail, and water ways. 
  • This allows landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura to access open water routes through the Chattogram and Mongla ports.
Tourism
  • Bangladeshis make up a large portion of tourists in India.
  • Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.

Concerns in India-Bangladesh relations

  • Unresolved Teesta water sharing issue looms large. 
  • Border killings are yet to stop.
  • National Register of Citizens across the whole of India reflects poorly on India-Bangladesh relations.
  • China, in lieu of its cheque-book diplomacy, is well-entrenched in South Asia, including Bangladesh, with which it enjoys significant economic and defence relations.

Recent Meeting between India and Bangladesh

India and Bangladesh recently signed 5 MoUs in the fields of Disaster Management, trade, NCC, ICT and setting up of sports facilities recently. 

Key takeaways 

  • Foundation stone was laid for infrastructure development for power evacuation facilities from the Rooppur Nuclear power plant.
  • The Bangladesh leg of the Banagabandhu-Bapu Digital Exhibition was inaugurated by the two Prime Ministers. 
  • It will be taken to other parts of the world including the UN.
  • Both the leaders also unveiled the foundation stone for the construction of a memorial at Ashuganj honoring the martyrs of Indian armed forces in the 1971 Liberation War of Bangladesh.
  • India gifted 109 life support ambulances to Bangladesh and also 1.2 million doses of the Covishield vaccine.
  • Three border haats were also opened along the India-Bangladesh border.

Other announcements made:

  • A direct passenger train named ‘Mitali Express’ will run between Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri.
  • Indian Prime Minister invited 50 young entrepreneurs from Bangladesh to connect with India’s start up ecosystem
  • 1000 Subarno Jayanti Scholarships were announced for the Bangladeshi students to study in India at the Undergraduate and postgraduate levels.
  • A Bangabandhu Chair will be established at Delhi University to facilitate Bangladesh studies.
  • Both countries agreed to start a new area of cooperation in the Civil nuclear and space sectors.

Following places were visited by Indian Prime Minister on his Bangladesh visit:

  • Birthplace of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at Tungipara. 
  • Jeshoreshwari temple in Satkhira. 
  • Harimandir in Orakandi and addressed the representatives of the Matua community.

Conclusion

Both Bangladesh and India have great opportunities to resolve all the outstanding issues. India as a regional super power needs to take initiative and Bangladesh requires cooperating with India for fixing outstanding issues. Both the counties have to think for the economic ties instead of valuing the domestic politics. Central political objectives must supersede the regional or the state objectives for continuing and establishing the future relations.

Connecting the dots:

  1. China twist in Teesta Challenge
  2. If Indo-Bangla relations are to move to “newer heights”, then unresolved issues have to be dealt with soon. Discuss.

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