India-Bangladesh Cooperation

APR 13

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

WHY IN NEWS:

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the war of liberation showcased the deep history the two nations share, their future plans and the challenges ahead.

HISTORY:

  • India's support to Liberation war:
    • India’s political, diplomatic, military and humanitarian support during Bangladesh’s Liberation War played an important role towards Bangladesh’s independence
    • Nearly 3,900 Indian soldiers gave up their lives
    • An estimated 10 million Bangladeshi refugees took shelter in India.
  • Post-Independence of Bangladesh:
    • India-Bangladesh relationship has oscillated as Bangladesh passed through different regimes
  • 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.

COOPERATION

  • 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.
    • Coordinated Border Management Plan ( CBMP)
      • To control the illegal cross-border activity
    • Land boundary agreement:
      • We 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
    • Three borders haats have been inaugurated:
      • For ex: Nalikata (India), Saydabad (Bangladesh)
  • Economic:
    • Trade:
      • Bangladesh today is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia
      • 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 has given Duty-Free and Quota Free access to Bangladeshi exports to India under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011.
    • India-Bangladesh CEOs’ Forum
    • India-Bangladesh Chamber of Commerce
  • Development assistance:
    • Line of credit:
      • India extending three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years amounting to $8 billion for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
    • Health:
      • For example: India handed over 109 ambulances with life support facilities in 2020
      • India took an initiative to conduct capacity building courses for medical professionals in the Bangla language.
    • Development of Orakandi region:
      • India announced several measures in Orakandi including the upgradation of school infra
  • Tourism:
    • One in every five tourists in India is a Bangladeshi ( outnumbers all of western Europe combined)
    • Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
  • Connectivity
    • Bus services:
      • A direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala runs through Bangladesh ( reduces distance by more than 1000 km)
    • Rail:
      • Three passenger and freight railway services running between the two countries
      • Mitali Express >> a new AC train that will connect Jalpaiguri with Dhaka.
    • Maitri Setu:
      • A 1.9 kilometre long bridge >> built over Feni river which flows between Indian boundary in Tripura State and Bangladesh >>  connecting Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh
    • Port access:
      • Allows landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura to access open water routes through the Chattogram and Mongla
    • Civil aviation:
      • Bangladesh also offered the airports of Sylhet and Chittagong for the passengers of the North eastern States
    • BBIN initiative:
      • 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
  • 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
  • Cooperation in Power Sector:
    • This has become one of the hallmarks of India- Bangladesh relations.
    • Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India
    • Implementation of the following projects:
      • India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline
      • Maitree Super Thermal Power Project
  • Defence cooperation
    • Anti-terrorism cooperation:
      • Since 2009 >>Bangladesh shut down anti-India terror camps and hand over nearly two dozen of India’s “most wanted”
    • Military exercises:
      • Various Joint exercises of take place between the two countries.
      • For example:
        • Army >> Exercise Sampriti, Shantir Ogrosena
        • Navy >> Exercise Milan, Exercise Bongosagar
  • Resolved maritime dispute:
    • India accepted an international tribunal verdict in 2014 in favour of Bangladesh that resolved a 40-year-old maritime dispute between two countries
  • 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.
  • Pandemic response:
    • Partners in creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund to counter effects of the global pandemic in the South Asian region.
    • 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.
    • Bangladesh received two million doses of COVID vaccine on January 21 as part of India’s Vaccine Maitri initiative
  • Promotion of solar energy:
    • Bangladesh is member of Indian led International Solar Alliance (ISA)
  • Cultural Sector:
    • A commemorative postal stamp was jointly unveiled to mark Mujib Borsho >> birth centenary year of Bangladesh’s founder president Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

CONCERNS

  • Unutilized line of credit:
    • Until 2019, only 51% of the first $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.
  • Unresolved water disputes:
    • Teesta origins in Sikkim – flows through the northern part of West Bengal in India before entering Bangladesh
    • n 1983, an ad-hoc water sharing agreement was reached between India and Bangladesh
    • Construction of the Tipaimukh Dam
      • It is another contentious issue between India and Bangladesh. Tipaimukh Dam is a hydel power project proposed on the river Barak in Manipur. Bangladesh's objection is that it would have adverse ecological effects in its eastern Sylhet district
  • Maritime disputes:
    • Due  to  competing  claims  of  the  two countries,  delimitation  of  the  sea boundary  and  determining  Bangladesh’s exclusive  economic  zones  have  remained unresolved.
  • Illegal immigrants:
    • Illegal migration is one of the bones of the contention of these two countries
    • Since the 1971 war of independence that created the state of Bangladesh, millions of Bangladeshi immigrants (the vast majority of them illegal) have poured into neighbouring India
  • Border killings:
    • Because of a large number of illegal immigrants crossing from Bangladesh into India, a controversial shoot-on-sight policy has been enforced by the Indian border patrols
    • Border killings are yet to stop >> The year 2020 saw the highest number of border shootings by the Border Security Force
    • The shots are fired at civilians, usually cattle traders, who are usually unarmed, trying to illegally cross the border
  • Enactment of CAA and Proposal to implement the National Register of Citizens
    • This bring back the issue of deportation of illegal muslim immigrants from India to Bangladesh
  • Concerns over the treatment of minorities in Bangladesh:
    • There are instances of violence against the Hindu minority by Islamist mobs.
    • There were protests against Mr. Modi’s recent visit >> by the members of the Hefazat-e-Islam >> it turns violent
  • China factor:
    • China and Bangladesh enjoys significant economic and defence relations.
  • Tariff barriers:
    • Delhi imposed duties on jute products of Bangladesh since 2017.
  • Smuggling across borders:
    • Indo-Bangladesh border is used as a route for smuggling livestock, food items, medicines and drugs from India to Bangladesh.
  • Drug trafficking
    • Bangladesh is increasingly being used as a transit point by drug dealers and the drug mafia,  which  dispatches  heroin  and opium  from  Burma,  and  other  countries of  the  golden  triangle,  to  different destinations.

SUGGESTIONS:

  • Improve people-to-people contact:
    • People-to-people contact needs to be encouraged; hence liberal visa system should be put in place
  • Cooperating on common challenges:
    • Progress can be made by cooperating on common challenges like disaster management, food and energy security.
  • Due legal proceedings should be followed in tackling border crimes:
    • Stop encounter killings
  • Improve bilateral trade:
    • Streamline certificate of origin procedures
    • Rationalize anti-dumping duty on Jute products from Bangladesh
    • India should take efforts to harmonization of standards
    • Remove port restrictions
    • Conduct feasibility study on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).
    • Solve trade infrastructure-related issues
    • Sharing of trade data
    • Trade could be more balanced if non-tariff barriers from the Indian side could be removed
  • Steps for robust border management:
    • Up-gradation of border trading infrastructure.
    • Vulnerability mapping of Border Out Posts (BOPs) to assess the sensitivity of area of responsibility for cross border crimes
    • Deploying additional manpower in sensitive BOPs
    • Erection of border fencing
    • Upgradation of intelligence network and coordination with other security agencies.
    • Co-ordinated Patrolling with  Border Guard Bangladesh

CONCLUSION

  • Both countries need to continue working on the three Cs — cooperation, collaboration, and consolidation.

PRACTICE QUESTION:

Q. “Recent events underline the need for a deeper understanding on both sides of the sensitivities of the India-Bangladesh relationship, even as its many successes are counted and celebrated” Discuss