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Brief Analysis of India- Bangladesh Bilateral Relations

Synopsis: An evaluation of India- Bangladesh bilateral relation from the past to the present.

Background
  • India played an important role in Bangladesh’s independence. India provided political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War.
  • For example, India lost 3,900 Indian soldiers and provided accommodation to an estimated 10 million Bangladeshi refugees.
  • Following Bangladesh’s Independence, India- Bangladesh bilateral relations have had many high and lows.
  • For example, during President Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1st Bangladesh President) India- Bangladesh relations were in full swing.
  • However, after his assassination on August 15, 1975, the relation between India-Bangladesh hit a bottom. Between 1982-1991 a military-led government by General H.M. Ershad ruled the country.
  • But since the last decade India- Bangladesh relation has boosted up. Both countries have moved beyond historical and cultural ties. Cooperation is increasing in areas of trade, connectivity, energy, and defence.
What are the positive developments in India- Bangladesh relation?
  • First, finding peaceful solutions to settle Land boundary issues. For example, Both countries ratified the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015.
  • Second, the government of Bangladesh was cooperative in eradicating anti-India insurgency elements from its borders. This has allowed India to make a massive redeployment of resources in other contentious borders. (LAC, LoC)
  • Third, increasing trade relations. For example, Bangladesh is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia. (FY 2018-19- Export- $9.21 billion, Import- $1.04 billion). Bangladesh enjoys duty-free access to multiple Bangladeshi products.
  • Fourth, deepening cooperation in developmental activities. For example, India has extended three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years ($8 billion) for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
  • Fifth, increasing cooperation in Medical tourism. For example, Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
  • Sixth, cooperation in connectivity has increased many folds. For example,
      • A direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala running through Bangladesh.
      • Three passenger and freight railway services running between the two countries.
      • Recently, the Maitri Setu bridge was constructed. It connects Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
      • Improved Connectivity to landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura states. Bangladesh allows the shipment of goods from its Mongla and Chittagong seaports carried by road, rail, and water ways to Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura.
What are the issues in India- Bangla relations?
  • First, water security is one of the major issue hampering India- Bangladesh relation. For example, the unresolved Teesta water sharing issue.
  • Second, increasing border killings against illegal Bangladeshi cattle traders. For example, the year 2020 saw the highest number of border shootings by the Border Security Force.
  • Third, the implementation of the National Register of Citizens has offended the religious sentiments of Bangladeshis. Also, many of the illegal Muslim immigrants belong to Bangladesh.
  • Fourth, India’s neighbours are increasingly tilting towards China due to its attractiveness of massive trade, infrastructural and defence investments. Despite, India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy’ approach, India is losing its influence in the south Asian region. For example, Bhutan’s withdrawal from the BBIN (Bhutan-Bangladesh-India-Nepal) motor vehicles’ agreement.
  • Fifth, poor project implementation due to Red tapism in India is hampering developmental activities in Bangladesh. For example, only 51% of the first $800 million lines of credit has been utilised. While the amount from the next two lines of credit worth $6.5 billion has not been mobilised yet.

India and Bangladesh need to continue working on the three Cs (cooperation, collaboration, and consolidation) to materilaise the recent gains.

Source: The Hindu

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