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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS : India-Bangladesh ties, a model for bilateral cooperation

Source: The Hindu

  • Prelims: Current events of international importance(India-Bangladesh relations, SAARC, Teesta water agreement etc
  • Mains GS Paper II: Bilateral, regional and global grouping involving India, Significance of Indo-Pacific for India etc

 

ARTICLE HIGHLIGHTS

  • The state visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh to India has amply showcased the high stakes of both polities in their bilateral ties, imbued with regional significance.

 

INSIGHTS ON THE ISSUE

Context

India-Bangladesh Relations:

  • Shared culture and ethnicity with West Bengal: Bangladesh is closely linked to India through its shared culture and ethnicity with West Bengal.
  • Bridge: The language, a slightly varied dialect of Bengali, acts as a bridge between East India, North East India and Bangladesh.

 

India-Bangladesh trade:

  • Sixth largest trading partner: Bangladesh is India’s sixth largest trade partner with bilateral trade rising from $2.4 billion (two point four) in 2009 to $10.8 billion in 2020-21.
  • Industrial raw materials: Bangladesh imports critical industrial raw materials from India on which its exports are reliant.
  • World Bank working paper: Bangladesh’s exports could rise 182% under a free trade agreement.

 

Projects to boost eastern India-Bangladesh connectivity:

  • Economic growth: India’s connectivity projects with ASEAN and Bangladesh will open up the region to economic growth.
  • Joining IMT project: Bangladesh’s interest in joining the India-Myanmar-Thailand highway project.
  • Use of Bangladesh ports: India-Bangladesh bilateral waterway trade will get boosted as India can now use the Mongla and Chittagong
  • Use of Indian ports: India is rallying Bangladesh to divert its exports through Indian ports in place of Malaysian or Singaporean ports.
  • Train and bus connectivity: Three express trains and international bus services operate between India and Bangladesh.

 

Issues that trouble the India- Bangladesh relations:

  • Rohingya issue:The continued presence of 1 million Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar has created enormous pressure on the economy and social harmony.
    • Bangladesh has said India is a big country that should “accommodate” them.
  • Absence of agreements: The sharing of the Teesta’s waters, pending since 2011 due to West Bengal’s refusal to relent
  • Joint management: The broader issue of joint management of 54 common rivers, have been constant grievances.
  • China factor: India’s sensitivity to growing cooperation between Bangladesh and China rankles the authorities in Bangladesh.
  • Case of minorities: Despite the government’s secular policy in Bangladesh, “incidents” against the Hindu minority have occurred, but her government has acted against miscreants.
    • At the same time, Bangladesh has expressed concern about the safety of minorities in India.

 

Specific outcomes of Bangladesh PM’s visit:

  • Security cooperation: Agreement “to continue close security cooperation” over counter-terrorism, border crimes, and border management.
  • Development partnership: The two sides recommitted themselves to enhancing their development partnership which is already quite extensive and multi-faceted.
  • Build resilient supply chains: Between the two countries and “across the region.
  • Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022: To conclude negotiations by the time Bangladesh graduates from least developed country status in 2026.
  • Expanding connectivity: Through more rail, road, inland waterways, and coastal shipping linkages.
  • Logistics for power trade: Between Bangladesh and its neighbours — India, Nepal and Bhutan — have been put in place.
  • Startups: India will assist Bangladesh by sharing its rich experience of innovation through startups.

 

Key Agreements signed:

  • Agreement on withdrawal of water river Kushiyara
  • Flood water related information
  • Agreement on training of personnel:
  • Unit 1 of Maitree power plant(1320 MW)
  • Rupsha rail bridge
  • Mujib scholarships: For 200 family members of the personnel of the Indian military.

 

Way Forward

  • Financial crisis: The country faces escalating protests on the streets that have been triggered by a sharp rise in fuel prices, an erosion of foreign currency reserves, and a deepening financial crisis.
    • It needs economic cooperation with other countries, particularly India and China.
  • The rising influence of fundamentalist forces: Extremism, and radicalisation poses a serious danger to political stability which needs a secular government to continue the precedence of Bangladesh.
  • The Role of Sheik Hasina: The contribution of Sheik Hasina to building a strong relationship with their largest neighbour is enormous and widely appreciated in India.
  • A role model for bilateral and regional cooperation:Their leaders have jointly crafted and nurtured “a role model for bilateral and regional cooperation”.
    • It deserves to be protected and strengthened, whatever the future may hold.
  • Earn the trust and confidence across the spectrum: For India, the challenge is to earn the trust and confidence of Bangladeshis across the spectrum and strata.

 

 

QUESTION FOR PRACTICE

  1. Q. Project ‘Mausam’ is considered a unique foreign policy initiative of the Indian Government to improve relationships with its neighbours. Does the project have a strategic dimension? Discuss. (UPSC 2015)

(200 WORDS, 10 MARKS)