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RSTV: THE BIG PICTURE- INDIA- BANGLADESH: SCRIPTING HISTORY

RSTV


Introduction:

In his first trip to a foreign country since the outbreak of the coronavirus pandemic, Prime Minister Narendra Modi arrived in Dhaka, the capital of neighbouring Bangladesh on Friday morning. He was accorded a special welcome at the airport, his counterpart Sheikh Hasina personally received him and a salute of 19 guns and Guard of honour were accorded to Prime Minister Modi. He visited the National Martyr’s memorial and paid homage to those who died in the 1971 Bangladesh War of Independence. He then joined the celebration programme as the guest of honour at the National Parade Square to mark celebrate the golden jubilee of Bangladesh’s independence and the birth centenary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bilateral talks with the Bangladeshi PM will take place on Saturday, where at least five MoUs are expected to be signed and a number of projects will be inaugurated virtually. Ahead of his departure, the Prime Minister had said in his message that India’s partnership with Bangladesh is an important pillar of our Neighbourhood First policy, and that we are committed to further deepen and diversify it.

25-year treaty of friendship and cooperation between India and Bangladesh:

  • Fifty years ago, PM Indira Gandhi and PM Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, through signing a 25-year treaty of friendship and cooperation between their two countries, solidified the links that India and Bangladesh had forged in the course of the Bangladesh War of Liberation in 1971.
  • Half a century on, as PM Narendra Modi arrives in Dhaka to be part of the golden jubilee celebrations of Bangladesh’s independence, it is the enduring nature of the ties between the two nations that takes centre stage.
  • Added to that are two complementary realities, namely, the 50th year of close ties between the two neighbours and the centenary of the birth of Bangladesh’s founding father Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

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.

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 $10 billion and Bangladeshi exports increased by 42.91%.
  • 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 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.

Recent Agreements between India and Bangladesh:

  • Virtual summit included more connectivity and “high-impact” infrastructure projects and mechanism to oversee projects under concessional Lines of Credit (LoCs) of nearly $10 billion from India in 2017.
  • 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 and Dharla river of Bangladesh and Dudhkumar river of West Bengal.
  • 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.

 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:

  • 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.
  • 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.
  • 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.