INDIA BANGLADESH RELATIONS

DEC 30

Mains   > International relations   >   India and Neighbours   >   India-Bangladesh

IN NEWS:

  • The United Nations General Assembly recently adopted a historic resolution to graduate three nations, including Bangladesh and Nepal, from the least developed country (LDC) category to the developing country grouping.

HISTORY:

  • The Liberation movement of Bangladesh (East Pakistan) began with the declaration of Independence by the Mukti Bahini led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on March 26, 1971.
  • To counter the rising atrocities in East Pakistan, India declared war against Pakistan. The 13-day war led to the surrender of Pakistani forces to the Indian army and Mukti Bahini.
  • During the course of war, nearly 3,900 Indian soldiers attained martyrdom and an estimated 10 million Bangladeshi refugees took shelter in India.
  • Vijay Diwas is observed on 16th December every year to mark India's victory over Pakistan in the 1971 war.
  • 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.

AREAS OF COOPERATION:

  • Diplomatic:
    • There have been regular high-level visits and exchanges between the two countries, which included top-tier leaders, ministers and bureaucrats.
  • Trade:
    • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. In the FY 2019-20, India’s exports to Bangladesh were USD 8.2 bn and imports were USD 1.26 bn.
    • India and Bangladesh are members of various regional trade agreements like Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), SAARC Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) and the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA).
    • India has given Duty-Free and Quota Free access to Bangladeshi exports to India under SAFTA.
  • Border management:
    • Longest border:
      • India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours.
    • Peaceful borders:
      • 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.
    • Boundary agreements:
      • The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) of 2015 (100th Constitutional Amendment Act) and the settlement of maritime boundary arbitration in 2014 has facilitated strong border management between the two countries.
    • Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP)
      • To control the illegal cross-border activity
    • Borders haats:
      • For ex: Srinagar and Kamalasagar in Tripura, Kalaichar and Balat in Meghalaya and Saydabad in Bangladesh
  • Security:
    • Defence exercises:
      • Exercise Sampriti, Shantir Ogrosena, Exercise Bongosagar and Exercise Milan.
    • Anti-terrorism cooperation:
      • Since 2009, Bangladesh shut down anti-India terror camps and hand over nearly two dozen of India’s “most wanted”.
    • Defence agreements:
      • A number of agreements related to security cooperation have been signed between both the countries. For eg: India has extended a $500 million line of credit to Bangladesh for defence imports from India.
  • Energy Sector Cooperation:
    • Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India
    • India is investing in energy infrastructure in Bangladesh, such as in the Rooppur nuclear power plant project, India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, Maitree Super Thermal Power Project
  • Connectivity:
    • India and Bangladesh have established connectivity through all modes of transport. Eg: A direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala runs through Bangladesh; Mitali express, a new AC train that will connect Jalpaiguri with Dhaka.
    • India and Bangladesh agreed to an early operationalization of the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative Motor Vehicles Agreement through the expeditious signing of the enabling MoU.
  • Aid and Assistance:
    • India has extended 3 Lines of Credits (LOC) to Bangladesh in the last 8 years amounting to USD 8 billion for development of infrastructure in various sectors including roads, railways, shipping and ports.
    • High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) constitute an active pillar of India’s development assistance.
    • India also extends aid at times of crisis like cyclones and pandemic. For Eg: In March 2021, India gave 1.2 million free doses of coronavirus vaccine to Bangladesh.
  • Training and Capacity-Building:
    • A number of training courses are being conducted for Bangladesh officials from administration, police, narcotics etc. Also, scholarships are granted to Bangladeshi students for pursuing courses in India.
    • Bangladesh is also an important ITEC partner country, and around 800 participants from Bangladesh avail of training courses under the ITEC programme annually.
  • Cultural Exchanges:
    • Akashvani Maitree, a radio channel, was established to provide a platform for blending content both from India and Bangladesh and preserving Bengali culture.
    • The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) is a Cultural Centre of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of India in Bangladesh. It regularly organizes programmes covering a wide-gamut of cultural activities like Yoga, Hindustani Classical Music, Manipuri Dance, Kathak and Painting.
  • Tourism:
    • One in every five tourists in India is from Bangladesh.
    • Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
  • Water sharing:
    • India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers.
    • A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) has been working since June 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems.
    • Framework of Interim Agreement over the six common rivers - Monu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar – has been signed recently
  • Indian diaspora:
    • About 10,000 strong Indian community is estimated to be living in Bangladesh. They are mostly engaged with the textile sector industries of Bangladesh.
  • Partnership on Multilateral forums:
    • UNSC:
      • Bangladesh supports India in its election to the United Nations Security Council.
      • Both countries agreed to continue working together towards achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council
    • Regional cooperation:
      • Both countries are partners in South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC)
      • Bangladesh will assume chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in 2021 and requested the support of India for working towards greater maritime safety and security.

Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme:

            The Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) Programme was instituted by a decision of the Indian Cabinet on 15 September 1964 as a bilateral programme of assistance of the Government of India. The decision regarding setting up the ITEC programme was predicated on the underlying belief that "it was necessary to establish relations of mutual concern and inter-dependence based not only on commonly held ideals and aspirations, but also on solid economic foundations. Technical and economic cooperation was considered to be one of the essential functions of an integrated and imaginative foreign policy."

AREAS OF CONCERN:

  • China’s presence:
    • China is making strong inroads into Bangladesh, which often contradict Indian interests.
    • Eg: Bangladesh is part of the Belt and Road initiative and Bangladesh enjoys tariff-free access on more than 90 per cent of its products exported to China.
  • River water disputes:
    • Teesta river remains the bone of contention between the two riparian nations. Another contentious issue in the hydro-political relations has been the construction of the Farakka barrage.
  • Porous borders:
    • India and Bangladesh border runs through marshy wetlands. This makes it difficult to monitor and thus provide easy route for illicit activities. Also, lack of proper demarcations has resulted in a few cases of civilians being killed at the border by security forces.
  • Extremism:
    • There has been a noticeable increase in religious extremism in Bangladesh, particularly against Hindu minorities. Such elements could use Bangladesh as a launch platform for activities against India.
  • Trafficking:
    • Porous borders are used to traffic items like cattle, fertilizers, fake currency, drugs and humans. This is hurting India economically and threatening its internal security.
  • Illegal migrants and refugees:
    • Bangladesh has emerged as a major source of illegal migrants to India. Rohingyas from Myanmar are using Bangladesh as a transit route to India.
  • Opposition to Indian legislations:
    • Bangladesh has been vocal against India’s implementation of Citizenship Amendment Act and National register of citizens. The implementation of these legislations could potentially strain the relationship between the two countries.   
  • Anti-India sentiments:
    • Due to river water disputes and India’s big brotherly attitude, there is strong Anti-India sentiments. This is further fuelled by the Pak-backed extremist elements.
  • Unutilized line of credit:
    • Until 2019, only 51% of the first USD 800 million line of credit has been utilised
    • Mostly due to red-tapism from India’s end, and slow project implementation on Bangladesh’s end.
  • Underdeveloped connectivity:
    • Despite long borders, connectivity between India and Bangladesh remains restricted to a few check posts, rail lines and border haats.

WAY FORWARD:

Maintaining stable and friendly relations with India has been to Bangladesh’s advantage in terms of both countries sharing a common position on regional security.

  • Improve connectivity:
    • Transforming the transport corridors into economic corridors will be key to strengthening India Bangladesh relations. For the same, modalities of public-private partnerships and cross-country joint private sector initiatives needs to be explored.  
  • Strengthen hydro diplomacy:
    • India and Bangladesh need to develop a strong water sharing treaty over Teesta River. However, this will require India bringing the states onboard, since river water is a state subject.
  • Technology in border management:
    • Drone, LIDAR and satellite-based technologies have proved to be effective border area management in India-Pak border. The same can be used in India-Bangladesh border. 
  • Comprehensive refugee policy:
  • Improve people-to-people contact:
    • People-to-people contact needs to be encouraged; hence liberal visa system should be put in place.
  • Improve bilateral trade:
    • Streamline certificate of origin procedures and rationalize anti-dumping duty on Jute products from Bangladesh

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. Discuss the significance of Bangladesh in India’s foreign policy priorities? What are the challenges in developing strong India-Bangladesh relations?