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All India Radio (AIR) IAS UPSC - Bilateral Relations between India and Bangladesh
Published on Oct. 14, 2019, 7:12 p.m.

Bilateral Relations between India and Bangladesh

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Search 5th October 2019 here http://www.newsonair.com/Main_Audio_Bulletins_Search.aspx

TOPIC: General Studies 2

  • India and its neighbourhood- relations.
  • Bilateral, regional and global groupings and agreements involving India and/or affecting India’s interests

In News: India and Bangladesh have hailed bilateral ties as ‘model good neighbourliness’ as the two sides signed seven agreements and the prime ministers of the two countries inaugurated three projects to deepen their partnership.

  1. MoU between the University of Hyderabad and University of Dhaka
  2. Renewal of the cultural exchange programme
  3. One of the three projects jointly inaugurated by India and Bangladesh allows India to buy liquefied petroleum gas from Bangladesh for consumption in India’s northeastern state of Tripura. The LPG will be transported by Bangladeshi trucks to the Indian state cutting down transport times and costs. 
  4. Inauguration of a skill development centre that will provide basic as well as advanced training some 200-300 Bangladeshi youth on an annual basis for employment in the small and medium scale industry sectors.
  5. MoU for providing a Coastal Surveillance System
  6. Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the use of Bangladesh’s Chattogram and Mongla ports for movement of goods to and from India 
  7. MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusecs of water from the Feni river by India for a drinking water supply scheme for Sabroom town in Tripura 
  8. India would supply a fifth tranche of humanitarian assistance to support Bangladesh’s efforts to shelter the Rohingya in temporary camps in Cox’s Bazar. This tranche will comprise tents, relief and rescue material, and 1,000 sewing machines for skill development among Rohingya women. India has completed a first project to build 250 houses in Rakhine, and is now preparing to implement another set of socio-economic development projects there.

The leaders have also emphasised the importance of effective border management to ensure a “tranquil, stable and crime- free border”. As a step towards this goal, the leaders directed their respective border forces to complete border fencing at all pending sectors at the earliest.

They also agreed to expedite work towards drawing upon the $500 million Defence Line of Credit extended by India, the implementation arrangements for which were finalised in April 2019.

The PMs inaugurated the following projects by video link: 

  • Import of bulk LPG from Bangladesh
  • Inauguration of the Vivekananda Bhaban students hostel at the Ramakrishna Mission in Dhaka
  • Inauguration of the Bangladesh-India Professional Skill Development Institute (BIPSDI) at the Institution of Diploma Engineers Bangladesh, Khulna

Why is Bangladesh important?

Bangladesh is growing at a rapid 8% annually; its economy has grown by a huge 188% since 2009. Its per capita income is around $ 2,000, and the value of its exports to India crossed $1 billion in 2019, a year-on-year growth of 52%. Hasina wants Bangladesh to rise from being a Least Developed Country (LDC) to a Developing Country by 2021, and a developed country by 2041. Both India and Bangladesh are now looking at a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Since 2009, Bangladesh and India have peacefully navigated many contested issues that had remained unresolved since 1947.

Delhi needs to do more to protect and deepen ties with Dhaka

For decades, India has faced difficulty in accessing the Northeast of the country, having to negotiate the so-called chicken’s neck in North Bengal. The friendly government in Dhaka, with an assured political mandate, has more flexiblility in giving access to India’s Northeast through Bangladeshi territory. Several insecurities of the past are fading.

  • The Ganga Waters Agreement had removed what had appeared to be an intractable problem permanently vitiating the relationship. 
  • The Land and Maritime Boundary Agreements, approached by different means, were of mutual benefit. 

but…

  • Bangladesh would seem to have comprehensively addressed Indian concerns with regard to support to militant elements in the North-east, for long an area of Indian concern. On its part, India continues to be unable to deliver on Teesta. 
  • The Ganga Barrage project in Bangladesh carries economic advantages as well as political overtones, but has not been addressed with suitable despatch by India to enable Bangladesh to obtain external funding. 
  • Delay in implementation of the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal initiative) is inexplicable. Even if India is not chiefly responsible, one may have expected greater attention.
  • It remains unclear how the NRC saga will ultimately play out in Indian politics, and the implications it might have for Bangladesh. For now, it has definitely added an extreme level of suspicion about India among ordinary Bangladeshis. And while Prime Minister Modi has assured Prime Minister Hasina during a meeting at the UN that the NRC will have no implications for Bangladesh, this commitment needs continuous reiteration, because an element of noise has been added to the partnership.

In a world where building walls and distrusting neighbours have become the international norm, Prime Ministers Hasina and Modi are likely to demonstrate that forward-looking partnerships on equal terms are possible when bilateral ties are rooted in trust, and a common vision of peace and economic progress.

Note:

  • Bangladesh shares land borders with India to the west, north and the east and Myanmar to the east, whereas the Bay of Bengal lies to its south.
  • Indian states Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and West Bengal share the India-Bangladesh border.
  • In 1971, the Bangladesh Liberation War broke out between East Pakistan and West Pakistan; India intervened in December 1971 on behalf of East Pakistan and helped secure East Pakistan’s independence from Pakistan as the country of Bangladesh.
  • Teesta River that rises in the eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of West Bengal and Sikkim through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal.
  • 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 refuses)

Must read: China’s role in Bangladesh while shaping its ties with Dhaka

Connecting the Dots:

  • The creation of Bangladesh in 1971 changed India’s geopolitics forever. Elucidate.
  • Having so many unresolved issues and irritants with Bangladesh, India’s approach towards her eastern neighbour must be carefully calibrated. Comment.
  • The India-Bangladesh Land boundary agreement (LBA) is more than the diplomatic exercise of maintaining good relations between both the nations.” Examine the significance and implications of the agreement in the light of the statement.
  • “When it comes to national boundaries; regionalism should not get a veto over the larger goal of national integration and development.” Comment on the developments in the India-Bangladesh LBA since its inception in the light of Centre-state relations.