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RSTV: INDIA’S WORLD- INDIA-BANGLADESH TIES

rstv

 

Introduction:

Prime Minister Narendra Modi will joined the birth centenary celebration of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman through video conference. The PM had postponed his visit to Dhaka after coronavirus scare had caused Bangladesh to defer public events beginning March 17. The Foreign Secretary told a delegation of 20 Bangladeshi journalists that the PM will also send a video message on the occasion. A two-day-long special session of the Parliament of Bangladesh to mark Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s birth centenary will be held from March 22. President Abdul Hamid will delivered his speech on March 22 and Parliament will be prorogued on March 23 with the passage of a resolution on the colourful political life of Rahman. India had received formal notification from Bangladesh about public events being deferred because of the detection of coronavirus cases and the larger global public health situation. This was PM Modi’s second foreign visit to be called off because of Covid-19-related concerns. Earlier in March, India had put off his visit to Brussels for the India-EU Summit on March 13.

Background:

  • 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 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.

India’s Bilateral Relations post CAA and NRC:

  • Triggering these concerns are instances of reverse migration of a few hundred people who have been arrested after the crossing of the border into Bangladesh. All these people have reportedly declared that they are ‘Bangladeshi Muslims’ and have returned home because they no longer have any hope of getting Indian citizenship after the CAA came into force.
  • Bangladesh’s dilemma is an acute one because it has a policy of not acknowledging illegal migration from its territory into India. There is little doubt that during 2001-2006, when the BNP-Jamaat government was in power in Bangladesh, there were large scale atrocities against Hindus, resulting in migration into India.
  • The ground reality is that there is always a flow of migrants into India from Bangladesh, though numbers have come down. How the Indian government will deal with illegal Muslim migrants who will become stateless, is the million-dollar question.
  • Reports of large detention centres being built in Assam has spooked Muslim migrants who find their names in the NRC, though there are provision for appeal. This fear is aggravated by the talk of having a country wide NRC. Bilateral ties with Bangladesh are at risk of going downhill, if this issue is not managed with sensitivity.

Bilateral Relations:

  • 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.
  • Bilateral trade was a little over $9 billion in FY 2017-18 and Bangladeshi exports increased by 42.91%, reaching $1.25 billion in FY 2018-2019.
  • The India-Bangladesh border is one of India’s most secured.
  • By signing of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015, the two neighbours amicably resolved a longoutstanding issue.
  • In 2018, in addition to the 660 MW of power imported by Bangladesh, Indian export of electricity increased by another 500 MW.
  • Train services on the Dhaka-Kolkata and Kolkata-Khulna are doing well, while a third, on the Agartala-Akhaura route, is under construction.
  • Today, Bangladesh contributes 50% of India’s health tourism revenue.
  • Relations between the two border guarding forces are at their best right now.

 Concerns:

  • 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.

Way Forward:

  • India’s attempts to equate Bangladesh to fundamentally theocratic Muslim nations such as Pakistan and Afghanistan is something that is unacceptable to Bangladeshis, where religious and racial harmony have always been a priority, unlike in many neighboring countries so we not need to equate it with Pakistan.
  • 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.
  • There is scope for India-Bangladesh ties to move to the next level, based on cooperation, coordination and consolidation.
  • India’s continued partnership with Bangladesh benefits both countries.
  • New Delhi must keep up the partnership that allows for economic growth and improved developmental parameters for both countries.
  • It is important to address specific issues like Teesta and to respond to Dhaka’s call for help on the Rohingya issue.
  • The two countries share 54 transboundary rivers, and water management is the key to prosperity.
  • Effective border management for ensuring a tranquil, stable and crime free border.