Context:

March 2021 will mark the 50th year of India-Bangladesh diplomatic relations and also of the Liberation War.

Bangladesh became an independent nation in 1971 and India was the first country to recognize it as an independent and separate state.

Relevance:

GS-II: International Relations (India’s Neighbours, Bilateral Grouping/Agreement with India, International Policies and Treaties affecting India’s interests), GS-I: History (Post Independent India)

Mains Questions:

To make the recent gains irreversible, both India and Bangladesh need to continue working on the three Cs — Cooperation, Collaboration, and Consolidation. Elaborate. (15 marks)

Dimensions of the Article:

  1. Trends in India-Bangladesh relations
  2. India-Bangladesh border management
  3. Trade relations between India and Bangladesh
  4. Connectivity between India and Bangladesh
  5. India-Bangladesh sharing Water-resources
  6. Other Recent Developments in India-Bangladesh Relationship
  7. Issues and Complications in India-Bangladesh relations
  8. Way Forward

Trends in India-Bangladesh relations

  • The friendship between India and Bangladesh is historic, evolving over the last 50 years ever since the extension of India’s political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War which resulted in Bangladesh’s independence.
  • Post-Independence, the India-Bangladesh relationship has oscillated with the cordial relationship being maintained until the assassination of Bangladesh’s founding President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975.
  • After the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and his family (except his daughters, of whom Sheikh Hasina is the current Prime Minister of Bangladesh), a period of military rule and the rise of General Ziaur Rahman followed.
  • General Ziaus Rahman became the president and was assassinated as well in 1981, following which the India-Bangladesh Relationship became more cordial between 1982-1991 under the military-led government.
  • Since Bangladesh’s return to parliamentary democracy in 1991, relations have gone through highs and lows with the relations becoming friendlier in the last decade (2010-2020).

India-Bangladesh border management

  • India and Bangladesh share more than 4000 kilometres of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours.
  • Bangladesh and India have achieved the rare feat of solving their border issues peacefully by ratifying the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015.
  • Based on the Land Boundary Agreement signed in 1974, enclaves were swapped allowing inhabitants to choose their country of residence and become citizens of either India or Bangladesh in 2015. [The 100th Constitutional Amendment Act in India ratified the land boundary agreement between India and Bangladesh].
  • The present Bangladesh government has made progress in uprooting 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.

Trade relations between India and Bangladesh

  • As of 2021, Bangladesh is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia.
  • India has offered duty free access to multiple Bangladeshi products and trade and on the development front, cooperation has deepened, with India extending three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years amounting to $8 billion for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
  • However, from 2011-2019, only 51% of the first $800 million line of credit has been utilised whilst barely any amount from the next two lines of credit worth $6.5 billion has been mobilised.
  • Bangladeshis make up a large portion of tourists in India, outnumbering all tourists arriving from western Europe in 2017, with one in every five tourists being a Bangladeshi.
  • Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
  • India has given access to Duty-Free and Quota Free Bangladeshi exports to India under the South Asian Free Trade Agreement (SAFTA) since 2011.
  • In the wake of the first-ever meeting of the India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum that was held in 2020, an MOU between the Ministry of Textiles (India) and Ministry of Textiles and Jute (Bangladesh) is yet to be agreed upon.

Connectivity between India and Bangladesh

  • Connectivity between the two countries has greatly improved in the recent years.
  • Direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala through Bangladesh, Passenger and freight railway services running between the two countries, Maitri Setu bridge connecting Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh, upcoming new Riverine Trade Route connecting Sonamura in Tripura to Daudkandi in Bangladesh etc., are testaments to the increasing connectivity between the two countries.
  • Bangladesh allows the shipment of goods from its Mongla and Chattogram seaports carried by road, rail, and water ways to Agartala, hence, allowing landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura to access open water routes through the Chattogram and Mongla ports.
  • Newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) and signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) are also some of the most recent developments in the connectivity of Bangladesh with India.

India-Bangladesh sharing Water-resources

  • An interim agreement for sharing the Teesta Water was discussed where Bangladesh reiterated the need for an early signing of the same.
  • Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar was also discussed.
  • Kushiyara River is also a point of discussion where an MoU for monitoring the withdrawal of water from it is yet to be signed.
Bangladesh - The game of the river | Asia | The Economist

Other Recent Developments in India-Bangladesh Relationship

  • On the account of the COVID-19 pandemic, India assured Bangladesh to make available vaccines for the country as and when produced in India, signifying India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’.
  • India organized events on ‘Mujib Borsho’ which is the birth centenary year of Bangladesh’s founder president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
  • Framework of Understanding (FOU) on Cooperation in Hydrocarbon Sector; Protocol on Trans-boundary Elephant Conservation, MoU on Cooperation in the field of Agriculture and other agreements have also been signed between the two countries.

Issues and Complications in India-Bangladesh relations

  • Despite the remarkable progress, the unresolved Teesta water sharing issue looms large.
  • Border killings are yet to stop, as the year 2020 saw the highest number of border shootings by the Border Security Force.
  • The proposal to implement the National Register of Citizens (NRC) across the whole of India also reflects poorly on India-Bangladesh relations as it is not comprehensible why people of all religions and ethnicities barring Muslims will be excluded from the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA). It remains to be seen how India addresses the deportation of illegal Muslim immigrants, some of whom claim to have come from Bangladesh.
  • Despite India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’, Sri Lanka, Nepal and the Maldives, once considered traditional Indian allies, are increasingly tilting towards China due to China’s massive trade, infrastructural and defence investments in these countries.
  • Bhutan also does not abide by Indian influence as evinced by its withdrawal from the BBIN (Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal) motor vehicles agreement.

Way Forward

  • India and Bangladesh have to focus on investments, cross border energy cooperation, blue economy, cultural economy, environment and disaster management etc., in order to bolster the relationship between the all-weather friends.
  • 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, hence, there is a now an immense attention to be paid on the Implementation of the new CAA rules to identify genuine Indian citizens while identifying illegal Bangladeshis without causing any controversy.
  • Currently, Bangladesh is an active partner of the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) that India has Not signed up to Bangladesh is also a major recipient of Chinese military inventory, therefore, there is also the need to counter China’s influence in the relations.

-Source: The Hindu

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