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 India-Bangladesh Relationship

Context

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to arrive in India today for an official visit. The visiting leader is expected to emphasise water sharing, energy cooperation, uninterrupted commercial flow, and increased connectivity.

Relevance

GS Paper 2: India and its neighborhood- relations.

Mains Question

India has civilizational, cultural, social, and economic ties with Bangladesh. Discuss the current areas of collaboration as well as the associated concerns. Also, where should the future focus be? (250 words)


Bangladesh-India Bilateral Relationship

  • The India-Bangladesh relationship is founded on two pillars of Indian diplomacy: the Neighbourhood First Policy and the Act East Policy.
  • The spirit of friendship, understanding, and mutual respect that arose during Bangladesh’s liberation continues to pervade various aspects of this relationship.

A Golden Chapter in 2021

  • The year 2021 marks the triveni of epochal (memorable event or date) significance:
    • Bangladesh’s golden jubilee of liberation
  • Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centennial
    • The 50th anniversary of diplomatic relations
  • Bangladesh’s decision to build a memorial to honour the sacrifices made by members of the Indian armed forces in 1971 was a significant step toward preserving this history of shared sacrifice.

Trade

  • Bangladesh is India’s largest South Asian trade partner, and India is Bangladesh’s second largest trade partner.
  • Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has steadily increased over the last decade, reaching $10.17 billion in fiscal year 2020-21.
    • During this time period, Bangladesh exported $1.28 billion to India and imported $8.6 billion from India.
  • Ready-made garments account for the majority of Bangladesh’s exports to India.
  • In 2011, India offered duty-free and quota-free entry to Bangladeshi goods under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA).
    • However, once Bangladesh is no longer classified as a Least Developed Country (LDC), it will no longer be eligible for this benefit. Bangladesh has been approved by the UN to graduate from LDC status by 2026.
  • As a result, India and Bangladesh are thinking about signing a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Connectivity

  • The India-Bangladesh Friendship Bridge 1 (also known as the Feni Bridge) has been built, connecting Tripura to Bangladesh’s Chittagong port.
  • In July 2019, a ship carrying cargo from Bhutan to Bangladesh was flagged off from Assam. It sailed along the Brahmaputra River and the Indo-Bangladesh Protocol Route.
    • This was the first time an Indian waterway was used as a cargo transit channel between two countries.
  • The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) was signed in June 2015 to improve sub-regional connectivity.
    • In March 2022, India, Bangladesh, and Nepal signed an enabling Memorandum of Understanding for
    • BBIN implementation

Cooperation in Energy

  • The two sides’ energy cooperation has also been very positive.
    • Tripura, an Indian state, has supplied a total of 160 MW of power to Bangladesh, in addition to the 500 MW received from West Bengal since 2013.
  • In September 2018, the Indian Prime Minister and his Bangladeshi counterpart used video conferencing to jointly inaugurate the construction of a friendship pipeline project.
    • The 130-kilometer India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline Project will connect Siliguri in West Bengal, India, and Parbatipur in Bangladesh’s Dinajpur district.

Indian Aid During the COVID-19 Pandemic

  • India gave Bangladesh 100,000 hydroxychloroquine anti-malarial tablets and 50,000 surgical gloves. It also gave Bangladesh 30,000 COVID-19 test kits.
  • India provided assistance to neighbouring countries, including Bangladesh, through the SAARC framework. It trained member countries’ medical staffs and was instrumental in establishing the SAARC COVID-19 emergency fund.
  • As part of the Vaccine Maitri initiative, India provided 2 million doses of Made-in-India Covid-19 vaccines to Bangladesh in January 2021.
  • Ahead of her four-day visit, Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged India to be more generous in sharing river waters.

Some of the topics that will most likely be discussed during this visit

  • River water distribution
    • India and Bangladesh share 54 transboundary rivers of various sizes. River water sharing has been a source of contention between these two countries.
  • Ganga River Controversy
    • The Ganga water sharing agreement was successfully reached in 1996.
    • The main point of contention, however, has been India’s construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage to increase water supply to the Hooghly River.
    • Bangladesh complains that it does not receive a fair share of water during the dry season, and that some of its areas flood when India releases excess water during the monsoon season.
  • Teesta River squabble
    • According to a 2011 agreement, the two sides agreed to share the river’s water 50:50, similar to the neighbours’ 1996 Ganges water-sharing pact.
    • This agreement was not signed due to opposition from West Bengal’s chief minister.
  • Bangladesh will seek assistance in repatriating Rohingya refugees to Myanmar.
    • More than a million refugees are living in camps in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazaar area, putting a strain on the country.
  • As part of ‘Operation Insaniyat,’ India has provided humanitarian aid to Bangladesh in response to the Rohingya crisis. Bangladesh, on the other hand, expects India to put pressure on Myanmar to repatriate over a million Rohingyas.

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September 2022
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