WHY IN NEWS ?
- Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh on 26th and 27th March 2021 to join the celebrations of the Golden Jubilee of the Independence of Bangladesh, the Birth Centenary of the Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and 50 years of establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh.
- 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 in December 1971.
- The relationship between India and Bangladesh is anchored in history, culture, language and shared values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities between the two countries.
- It is based on sovereignty, equality, trust, understanding and win-win partnership that goes far beyond a strategic partnership.
- In the last couple of years, the relationship has been further strengthened including through cooperation in new and high-technology areas.
India-Bangladesh Bilateral Institutional Mechanisms:
- Security of North East: A friendly Bangladesh can ensure that its soil is not used for anti-India activities. Bangladesh’s action resulted in the arrest of many top leaders of the NE insurgent groups like United Liberation Front of Assam & National Democratic Front of Bodoland.
- Connectivity of North East: The north eastern states are land-locked & have shorter route to sea through Bangladesh. Transit agreement with Bangladesh will spur socio-economic development an integration of North-East India.
- Bridge to Southeast Asia: Bangladesh is a natural pillar of Act East policy. It can act as a ‘bridge’ to economic and political linkages with South East Asia and beyond. Bangladesh is important component of BIMSTEC and BBIN initiatives.
- Strengthening South Asia as a regional power: Bangladesh is important for strengthening of SAARC, for promoting cooperation among its member nations to economic growth and securing strategic interests.
- Securing sea lines of communication: Bangladesh is strategically placed nearby important sea lanes. It can play significant role in containing piracy in the Indian Ocean.
- Fighting terrorism and deradicalization : Stable, open and tolerant Bangladesh helps India in stopping extremists from flourishing there and also in cooperation in deradicalization efforts, sharing intelligence, and other counter-terrorism efforts.
- Balancing China: A neutral Bangladesh would ensure containment of an assertive China in this region, and help in countering it’s string of pearls policy.
- Trade relations: Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. India and Bangladesh have facilitative trade agreement. Both are members of the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), SAARC Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) and the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) which govern the tariff regimes for trade.Steps have been taken including reduction in customs and immigration documents, establishment of 49 land customs stations, integrated check posts etc.
- Investment opportunities: Cumulative Foreign Direct Investment from India to Bangladesh has more than doubled from USD 243.91 million in 2014 to USD 570.11 million in December 2018.
- Connectivity: Through Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), India is assisting Bangladesh to capture the potential of waterways for both inter and intra border connectivity of Bangladesh.
- Energy: Rooppur atomic energy project, is an Indo-Russian project in Bangladesh. Under it, India will provide personnel training, consultation support and participate in the construction and erection activity and non-critical materials supply to the site in Bangladesh. India currently exports 660 MW of electricity, on a daily basis, to Bangladesh.
- Defence: Through defence cooperation framework pact, India is providing Military equipment and technology transfer for enhancing cooperation in the field of strategic and operational studies.
- Space and technology: South Asian Satellite (SAARC Satellite) has been launched to boost regional connectivity in the areas of disaster management, tele-education, tele-medicine inter-government networks etc. India has extended National Knowledge Network for digital connectivity of education with Bangladesh.
- Development Cooperation: Bangladesh is the biggest development partner of India today. India has extended 3 Lines of Credits (LOCs) to Bangladesh in the last 8 years amounting to USD 8 billion.
- The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC), High Commission of India, is a Cultural Centre of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of India in Bangladesh. Inaugurated in 2010, IGCC regularly organizes programmes covering a wide-gamut of cultural activities. The IGCC also holds regular training courses in Yoga, Hindi, Hindustani Classical Music, Manipuri Dance, Kathak and Painting. The courses are very popular with Bangladeshi students. IGCC Hindi teacher also teaches Hindi at the Institute of Modern Languages in University.
Challenges in relationship:
- River disputes: India shares 54 trans-boundary rivers with Bangladesh. Some of the major disputes include Teesta River water sharing issue, Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River, Ganga river dispute etc.
- Illegal immigrants: The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list with a group labelled as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” living in Assam post-1971. Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence and that the controversial NRC risks hurting relations.
- Border Management: The Indo-Bangladesh border is of porous nature which provides pathway for smuggling, trafficking in arms, drugs and people and cattle.
- Delay in project execution: As of 2017, India had extended three lines of credit worth approximately $7.4 billion. However, less than 10% of the cumulative commitments have been disbursed so far.
- China factor: China sees Bangladesh as strategic focal point to make inroads into South Asia as an alternative to India.
- Increasing radicalisation: Presence of groups like Harkat-alJihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Jamaat-e-Islami, and HUJI-B fuel Anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh. Their propaganda could spill across border.
- There were five MoUs signed by PM Modi related to connectivity, commerce, IT and sports to build the bilateral ties between the two nations.
- MoU on Disaster Management, strengthen and Mitigation.
- MoU on Bangladesh National Cadet Corps (BNCC) and National Cadet Corps of India(INCC)
- MoU on the establishment of a framework of Cooperation in the Area of Trade Remedial measures between Bangladesh and India.
- Tripartite MoU on Establishment of Sport Facilities at Rajshahi College field and surrounding areas.
- Tripartite MoU on supply of ICT equipment, courseware and reference books and training for Bangladesh-Bharot Digital services and Employment and Training (BDSET) Centre.
- Prime Minister has termed present period of relationship between the two countries as “ SONALI ADHYAY ”( Golden Chapter ). There is further scope for Indo-Bangla ties to move to next level based on 3 Cs i.e., Cooperation, Coordination and Consolidation. Which will consolidate India Geo-economics, Geo strategic and Neighbourhood first policy in the region.