India – Bangladesh

GS 2 International Relations India and its neighborhood- relations.

GS 3 Infrastructure: Energy, Ports, Roads, Airports, Railways etc.

Introduction 

          Bangladesh and India are South Asian neighbours. Diplomatic Relations between the two countries was followed by the visit of Indian Prime Minister on 1 1972, at Dhaka

  • where there she had signed the Indo-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation and Peace Relations 
  • popularly known as the ‘Indira-Mujib Treaty of 1972.

Contemporary Context:

  • A virtual summit will be held between PM Narendra Modi and Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina on December 17.
  • They would hold comprehensive discussions on ties, including strengthening cooperation in the post-Covid era.
  • The signalling of the summit is also important, coming as it does when there is speculation in the popular discourse of a dilution in this strategic partnership.
  • It said both the countries have continued to maintain regular exchanges at the highest level
  • Ties between India and Bangladesh have witnessed a significant upswing in the last few years.
  • Both sides have scaled up trade and economic engagement besides implementing a number of connectivity and infrastructure projects.
  • Bangladesh is commemorating 2020-21 as ‘Mujib Borsho’ on the occasion of the centennial birth anniversary of ‘Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the founding leader of the country.

India-Bangladesh ties:

  • India’s links with Bangladesh are civilizational, cultural, social and economic.
  • India played the great role in emergence of independent Bangladesh 
    • and was the first country to recognise Bangladesh as a separate state.
  • The historic land boundary agreement signed in 2015 opened a new era in the relations.
  • Both the countries are the common members of SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA and the Commonwealth.
  • India has always stood by Bangladesh in its hour of need with aid and economic assistance 
    • to help it cope with natural disasters and floods. 

Recent Agreements:

  • The use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh 
    • for movement of goods to and from India, particularly from Northeastern India.
  • Use of Bangladesh’s Feni river for drinking water supply in Tripura.
    • However, no progress was reported on the long pending Teesta water sharing agreement.
  • Exchange of data and information to prepare a framework of interim sharing agreements for six rivers — 
    • Manu, Muhuri, Khowai and Gomati rivers of Tripura 
    • Dudhkumar river of West Bengal
    • Dharla river of Bangladesh 
  • Daudkanti (Bangladesh)-Sonamura (Tripura) inland water trade route to be included under Protocol of the Inland Water Transit and Trade.
  • Consensus on lifting restrictions on entry and exit from land ports in India for Bangladeshi citizens travelling on valid documents.
  • Implementation of the Lines of Credit (LoCs) committed by India to Bangladesh.

Agreements to be sign in virtual summit:

  • Virtual summit will include more connectivity and high-impact infrastructure projects and a possible mechanism to oversee projects under concessional Lines of Credit (LoCs) of nearly $10 billion from India in 2017.
  • Progress on a petroleum friendship pipeline from Siliguri to Dinajpur(Bangladesh) 
    • that was agreed to in 2018 and began construction, will also be discussed.
  • In addition, talks are on for a sub-regional electricity grid sharing project which would see Bhutan and Bangladesh contribute power
    • but officials said they are awaiting Cross-Border Trade in Electricity (CBTE) guidelines from India.
  • Major issues including the water sharing agreement for the Teesta and at least six other rivers 
  • continued reports of killings of its nationals at the border would also be raised by PM Hasina.

Contentions that need to be solved:

  • Teesta river water sharing agreement has not been signed due to opposition from West Bengal
    • (River is a State subject and is notable in this context).
  • The two countries have also had initial talks on water sharing for other peninsular rivers including 
    • the Monu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gomti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
  • India shares a porous border with Bangladesh 
    • as a result illegal immigration from Bangladesh to Indian territories like West Bengal and North Eastern states 
    • have become a source of conflicts in these areas.
  • Indian visa for Bangladeshi travellers is not easy to obtain.
  • Bangladesh has recently suffers from political and social crisis 
    • due to communal violence and increase in terrorist activities.

Concerns regarding NRC and CAA:

  • National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship (Amendment) Act (CAA)
    • which led to massive protests in Dhaka last year ahead of PM Modi’s visit there, which was subsequently cancelled.
  • Four ministerial visits to India from Bangladesh were also cancelled.
  • Also formally raised the issue of blacklisting and arresting more than 2,500 Bangladeshi Tablighi Jamaat members
    • who had been accused of violating the coronavirus lockdown, but were released by the courts.
  • India will hold talks with Bangladesh 
    • a day after Bangladesh’s “liberation day”, 
    • the anniversary of the day in 1971 the Pakistani army surrendered
    • which is celebrated in both India and Bangladesh as Bijoy or Vijay Diwas.
  • The timing of the virtual summit was significant and the two sides would “acknowledge the contributions of the then Indian Prime Minister [(Indira Gandhi]” in Bangladesh’s victory.

Way Forward 

  • Deepening relationship  with  Bangladesh  has  become  a  necessity  in  the  face  of  shifting  geo-economics.
  • Bangladesh, with its  growing  economic  success,  and  with  its  8  percent  growth  rate  provides  a  vital partnership  in  the  region.
  • There is scope for India-Bangladesh ties  to move  to  the  next  level
    • based  on cooperation,   coordination   and   consolidation as   Prime   Minister   has   termed   the   present   period   of relationship between the two countries as ‘Sonali Adhyay’(golden chapter).

Conclusion              
India needs to consolidate the golden chapter in India-Bangla relations by jointly developing and pursuing with Dhaka an ambitious framework for shared prosperity.

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