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India, Bangladesh, Pakistan: What east can teach the west

GS Paper 2

Syllabus: International Relations


Source: The Indian Express

Context: Based on the editorial in the Indian Express. He discusses how good Indo-Bangladesh relations can guide Indo-Pakistan relations.

Direction: C Raja Mohan’s articles are important for IR. Do go through it once, and note 1-2 unique points.

Indo-Bangladesh Relations positive takeaways:

  • Security Dimension:
    • Settlement of border disputes: E.g., 2015 land boundary agreement between India and Bangladesh, and the settlement of the maritime dispute.
      • (Indian government accepted the award of the international arbitrationon settling the maritime boundary dispute between Delhi and Dhaka)
    • Cooperation in reducing Cross-Border Terrorism: Incidences of support from insurgents in Bangladesh have reduced significantly. This has helped build much-needed political trust between the two national security establishments.
  • Economics dimension:
    • Flourishing Border Trade: India opened the Indian market for Bangladeshi goods, and Dhaka allowed Indian goods to transit to India’s northeast.
      • Transboundary bus services (Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata ‘Maitri’ (friendship) bus), reopening of railway lines (Bandhan Express), and the revitalization of waterways are restoring connectivity in the eastern subcontinent that was severed.
    • Growing trade: Bilateral trade touched nearly $16 billion last year. Bangladesh is one of India’s top export markets.
      • Developed inter-connected power grids facilitating Dhaka’s purchase of power from India. It now imports 1200 MW of power from India, with plans to add another 1500 MW.
    • Geopolitical Dimension
      • Cooperative strategy: Bangladesh has discarded the temptation to balance India. Instead, it has embarked on a cooperative strategy with India, focusing on its economic growth and lifting itself in the regional and global hierarchy.


Issues in the India-Pakistan Relations:

  • Continuance of cross-border terrorism
  • Border disputesg. war over Kashmir,
  • Militarization of the border
  • Lack of connectivity: There is almost insignificant trade between India and Pakistan currently
  • Absence of official intergovernmental dialogue: no formal inter-governmental negotiations between the two countries.

Lessons which can be learnt from India’s good relations with Bangladesh:

  • Overcome past to build a mutually-beneficial future:g., Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Narender Modi have proclaimed a “Sonali adhyay” or “golden chapter” in Indo-Bangladesh bilateral relations.
  • Reduced defence expenditure can be directed towards social goals: good relations with Bangladesh have significantly eased its security challenges. India’s northeast has seen increased trade and economic engagement.
  • Common stand on the issue of global governance: South Asia faces a similar issue and is on a similar level of development. Thus, good relations have helped them take a common stand on global issues such as Climate change, WTO governance, UNSC reforms etc.


A lot of issues are still to be resolved in the east between Delhi and Dhaka. For example, protecting the rights of minorities, sharing the waters of more than 50 rivers, promoting cross-border investments facilitating trade and preventing illegal migration, etc. The 75th anniversary of independence offers Delhi and Dhaka a special opportunity to elevate the ambition for their bilateral partnership.

In related news:

India and Bangladesh in talks for major river agreement

  • In the upcoming meeting of the Joint River Commission (JRC), India and Bangladesh will try to reach an agreement on the Kushiyara that flows from Assam into Bangladesh as well as on Ganga Water Treaty (signed in 1996 and due to be renewed in 2026).
  • Further, countries will intensify collaboration on the rivers like Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gomti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.

Bangladesh and India share 54 rivers and Dhaka has been keen on accessing more data from the Indian side to plan better fisheries and flood control strategies.


India-Bangladesh Teesta Dispute: The treaty is an agreement to share surface waters at the Farakka Barrage near their mutual border. Bangladesh sought a fair and equitable distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty 1996.


Insta Links

Basics: India-Bangladesh Relation

Mains Links

Q. Highlight the recent developments in the India-Bangladesh relationship. What are the straining points and major issues in the bilateral relations? Explain (15M)


Prelims Links

With reference to river Teesta, consider the following statements

  1. The source of the river Teesta is the same as that of Brahmaputra but it flows through Sikkim
  2. River Rangeet originates in Sikkim and it is a tributary of river Teesta.
  3. River Teesta flows into Bay of Bengal on the border of India and Bangladesh.

Which of the statements given above is/are correct?

(a) 1 and 3 only

(b) 2 only

(c) 1 and 3 only

(d) 1, 2 and 3

Answer: B

Teesta originates from Pahunri glacier while Brahmputra originates from Angsi glacier near Mount Kailash. River Rangeet is largest river of Sikkim and is also a tributary to Teesta.