Insights into Editorial: Furthering this neighbourhood friendship
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina made her first official visit to India, post the general elections in Bangladesh (December 2018) and India (May 2019).
She addressed the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit followed by the bilateral visit.
India and Bangladesh today enjoy one of the best periods of their relationship, with positive development in the areas of diplomatic, political, economic and security relations.
India- Bangladesh relations:
Indian states Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and West Bengal share the India-Bangladesh border.
India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours.
India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and established diplomatic relations with Bangladesh immediately after its independence in December 1971.
The relationship between India and Bangladesh is anchored in history, culture, language, people-to-people ties and shared values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities.
The country’s geography is dominated by the Ganges delta which empties into the Bay of Bengal the combined waters of several river systems, including those of the Brahmaputra and the Ganges.
There is scope for India-Bangladesh ties to move to the next level, based on cooperation, coordination and consolidation.
Major Developments in recent years:
- The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) came into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification in June 2015.
- A number of security related agreements (Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners, Combating International Terrorism, organized Crime and Illicit drug trafficking, MoUs on Prevention of Circulation of Fake Currency Notes and Prevention of Human Trafficking and Extradition Treaty) have been signed between both the countries and working groups have been constituted to curb illegal activities in the border areas.
- Though bilateral trade was just over $9 bn in FY 2017-18, but the pertinent point is, Bangladeshi exports to India increased by 43%, reaching $1.25 bn in FY 2018-19 and this was made possible because of removal of non-tariff barriers.
- Bangladeshi tourists accounted for 6% of the total percentage of tourists visiting India in 2018. Today, Bangladesh accounts for 50% of India’s health tourism revenue
- In 2018, in addition to the 660 MW of power already imported by Bangladesh, Indian export of electricity increased by another 500 MW.
- A 1,600 MW power station with a dedicated transmission system is being developed to boost power trade.
- Train services in Dhaka-Kolkata and Kolkata-Khulna are doing well, the third one, Agartala-Akhaura route, is under construction. Five additional bus services were introduced in 2018. Recently, the first ever Dhaka-Kolkata cruise ship was launched.
However, the areas that need of concern are:
Teesta waters issue remains a big problem due to continuous protest by the Mamata Banerjee led West Bengal government.
National Register of Citizens has left out 1.9 million people in Assam and they are being labelled as illegal immigrants from Bangladesh.
But Bangladesh is firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence and NRC may risk the relations.
The Rohingya issue and India’s remarks in 2017 on the issue have been upsetting for Bangladesh which has been facing the challenge of providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution
Bangladesh is overwhelmingly dependent on China for military hardware. China’s economic footprint is growing.
Since 2010, India approved three Lines of Credit to Bangladesh of $7.362 billion to finance development projects. But, because of bureaucratic red tapism, just $442 million have been disbursed until December 2018.
Though Bangladesh is slow in implementation, India’s requirement of the disbursement process to be approved by Exim Bank has not helped either.
Since the ban by India on cattle export, cattle trade has fallen from 23 lakh in 2013 to 75,000 till the end of May this year.
India-Bangladesh border is one of India’s most secured.
Bangladesh-India relations have reached a stage of maturity. Bilateral ties can be expected to grow stronger in the future. It is for India to take the lead to remove these irritants.
Removal of non-tariff barriers will help Bangladeshi exports such as harmonising the standards for goods accepted by India.
Both countries must reach consensus on the issues like NRC, Rohingya and Teesta rivers.