India-Bangladesh relations

Historic overview

  • Bangladesh is closely linked to India through its shared culture and ethnicity with West Bengal. The language, a slightly varied dialect of Bengali, acts as a bridge between East India, North East India and Bangladesh.
  • Pakistan witnessed a split in 1971 to become Bangladesh. In the period after the creation of the new nation of Bangladesh, the relations between India and Bangladesh were cordial, but some issues did erupt.
  • In 1972, India and Bangladesh signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation which became the foundation of the modern India–Bangladesh relations.
  • Today, in Bangladesh, there are two key parties. Awami League, headed by Sheikh Hasina, is a party which has stood up for secular ideals and is favourable towards India. While Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) which is headed by Begum Khaleda Zia, is a party that favours Bengali nationalism and is not favourably inclined towards India.
  • The entire period, till end of the Cold War, witnessed a fluctuating relationship between the neighbouring states.
  • Since the end of the Cold War, Indo–Bangladesh relations are primarily driven by the policy orientations of the two parties—the BNP and the Awami League. The BNP has a propensity to incline its polices to favour Pakistan and China while the Awami League favors a partnership with India.

Division of East Pakistan

  • The factors that led to divisions of East Pakistan in 1971 emerged in the period after 1947. East Pakistan always had inadequate representation; it got access to fewer resources and, despite the popularity of the Bengali language, Urdu was imposed as the administrative language.
  • In 1970, when elections took place, the Awami League won the elections. The regime in West Pakistan refused to recognise the mandate of the election and unleashed violence, disallowing Sheikh Mujibur Rehman to take power.

The subsequent planning of a pre-emptive attack on India by Pakistan forced India to militarily retaliate and support the formation of independent Bangladesh as a new nation.



India and Bangladesh have a land boundary of approximately 4,100 km. This boundary was determined by the 1947 Radcliffe Award as the India-East Pakistan land boundary, but disputes quickly arose regarding certain aspects. On 6 June 2015, the 1974 India Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement entered into force, following the exchange of instruments of ratification. More than 5 years after the historic Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) between India and Bangladesh, a report released by civil rights organisations on the situation in erstwhile enclave’s states that protest and resistance have become an essential part of their survival in India.


Crux of the matter

  • When India became independent, Sir Radcliffe demarcated the boundary between India and Pakistan as well as India and East Pakistan (now Bangladesh).
  • While dividing the territory in East Pakistan, Radcliffe did not pay attention to small patches of land called ‘enclaves’. These enclaves were, in the pre independence era, called Chitmahals and they were used by the Raja of Cooch Behar and Maharaja of Rangpur as stakes in the game of chess.


Efforts made to resolve issue

  • The Nehru–Noon agreement resolved this issue – Efforts were made by Nehru in 1958 to divide the territories through an agreement with Feroz Khan Noon. As per the agreement, India got the enclave of Dahagram and Angarpota while half of Berubari enclave was to be given to East Pakistan.
  • To give effect to the Nehru–Noon agreement 1958, an amendment under article 368 of Indian constitution was made under the 9th Amendment Act of 1960. When Bangladesh was created in 1971, Indira Gandhi decided to resolve the pending disputes with Mujibur Rehman.


Land Boundary Agreement

  • Following the independence of Bangladesh, India and Bangladesh signed the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement (“1974 LBA“), in an effort to resolve outstanding issues.
  • In 1974, a Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) was designed which clarified the need to exchange 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. In these enclaves, citizens were living with no available rights and facilities.
  • The agreement was signed but was not ratified by India and thereby the exchange under the LBA could not proceed successfully.
  • The 1974 LBA was amended in 2011 by an additional Protocol (“2011 Protocol“, together with the 1974 LBA, the “Land Boundary Agreement“).


Implementation of Land Boundary Agreement

As the implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement involved the acquisition and cessation of territory by India, its ratification by India required an amendment to the Constitution. This was affected by the Constitution (One Hundredth Amendment) Act 2015.

Thus, the 2015 LBA implements the unresolved issues, which were first addressed in the 2011 Protocol. It is important to note that in the land swap, Bangladesh gained more territory than India did.

The Land Boundary Agreement entered into force on 6 June 2015. Implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement deals with three outstanding border issues, relating to:

(i) Adverse possessions;

(ii) Enclaves; and

(iii) An undemarcated land boundary of approximately 6.1 km.


Adverse possessions

  • Adverse possessions are territories contiguous to the border of one country and within the control of that country, but legally part of the bordering country (e.g. contiguous to India’s border and within Indian control, but legally part of Bangladesh). Residents of these adverse possessions were considered to be citizens of the country in adverse possession, despite the territory being legally part of the bordering country.
  • The 1974 LBA called for these adverse possessions to be exchanged. However, both India and Bangladesh agreed in the 2011 Protocol to redraw the international boundary to recognise the status quo.
  • It was recognized that the people living in territories in adverse possession had strong ties to their land and were unwilling to be uprooted. The 2011 Protocol also recognised that the areas of adverse possession which the 1974 LBA called to be transferred were, in reality, within the de facto possession of the country in adverse possession.
  • In this regard, the 2011 Protocol was merely the legal (de jure) recognition of this fact by both India and Bangladesh.



  • An enclave is a territory of one State which is surrounded completely by the territory of another State (for example, West Berlin before the reunification of Germany). The enclaves on the India-Bangladesh border were hundreds of years old, but remained unsettled following the independence of India and East Pakistan.
  • Because the enclaves were physically cut-off from the “home” State, the inhabitants of the enclaves, while citizens of the “home” State, suffered from a lack of access to basic State services, such as electricity, health services and schooling. Under the terms of the Land Boundary Agreement, India transferred 111 enclaves to Bangladesh and Bangladesh transferred 51 enclaves to India. The inhabitants of the enclaves were given the right to remain on the territories as nationals of the State to which the territories were transferred.
  • As with the territories on adverse possession, the transfer of the enclaves is legal (de jure) recognition by both India and Bangladesh of the de facto situation on the ground.


Demarcation of 6.1 km land boundary

  • The Land Boundary Agreement also demarcated the boundary between India and Bangladesh in three sectors (in the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura and Assam), totalling 6.1 km.

Importance of this agreement

  • Boundary disputes (whether relating to land or maritime boundaries) between neighbouring territories can cause significant risk and difficulties for companies looking to operate or invest in the disputed areas.
  • In the energy sector in particular, boundary uncertainties have the potential to curb exploration or to create uncertainty in ownership of oil or gas.
  • They also introduce risk to those who seek to invest in other sectors (for example, infrastructure, construction and telecommunications), which is particularly significant where the dispute itself may have led to under-development of essential services.
  • The implementation of the Land Boundary Agreement has paved the way for significant cross-border investment by Indian investors in Bangladesh and will offer increased opportunities for foreign investment from further afield.
  • In the energy sector, the two countries have indicated that an annual India-Bangladesh Energy Dialogue will be introduced between energy Ministers from both countries. The dialogue will undertake comprehensive energy sector cooperation including in areas of coal, natural gas, LNG, supply of petroleum products in the sub-region, renewable energy and oil and gas pipeline.


What’s the issue now?

  • The situation has not improved. There are marked continuities in the problems that existed in the pre-LBA years, although the nature and context of the problems have perceptibly changed.
  • On India’s part, the spotlight has now shifted from the identity crisis faced by erstwhile enclave dwellers in the pre-LBA situation, to issues of poor governance, as well as conflict of interest between the Centre and the state in the post-LBA years.
  • The intractable discord regarding the implementation of the measures as promised to the new citizens, coupled with lack of coordination between the Centre and the state in India, has apparently transformed the enclaves into hotbeds of local politics.





Context: India and Bangladesh have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over water-sharing in the Teesta. Adding to the existing tensions, Bangladesh is now discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river. Bangladesh’s discussions with China come at a time when India is particularly wary about China following the standoff in Ladakh.

Another issue that needs attention is Farakka Barrage Issue which is now resolved


The year 2021 witness celebrations of 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence and 50 years of Bangladesh-India diplomatic relations.

Bangladesh was not only a key part of India’s “neighborhood first policy” but also crucial for New Delhi’s “Act East policy”, which aims to cement ties between India and South-East Asia.


Geopolitical significance

  • Security of North East: A friendly Bangladesh can ensure that its soil is not used for anti-India activities. Bangladesh’s action resulted in the arrest of many top leaders of the NE insurgent groups like United Liberation Front of Assam &National Democratic Front of Bodoland.
  • Bridge to Southeast Asia: Bangladesh is a natural pillar of Act East policy. It can act as a ‘bridge’ to economic and political linkages with South East Asia and beyond. Bangladesh is important component of BIMSTEC and BBIN initiatives.
  • Securing sea lines of communication: Bangladesh is strategically placed nearby important sea lanes. It can play significant role in containing piracy in the Indian Ocean.
  • Fighting terrorism and deradicalization: Stable, open and tolerant Bangladesh helps India in stopping extremists from flourishing there and also in cooperation in deradicalization efforts, sharing intelligence, and other counter-terrorism efforts.
  • Balancing China: A neutral Bangladesh would ensure containment of an assertive China in this region, and help in countering its string of pearls policy.


Economic significance

  • Four Border Haats, two each in Tripura and Meghalaya, have been established for the benefit of communities living along border areas of both countries.
  • Steps have been taken including reduction in customs and immigration documents, establishment of 49 Land customs stations, integrated check posts etc.



  • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in SouthAsia. India and Bangladesh have facilitative trade agreement. Both are members of the Asia Pacific Trade Agreement (APTA), SAARC Preferential Trade Agreement (SAPTA) and the Agreement on South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) which govern the tariff regimes for trade.


Connectivity of North-East

  • The north eastern states are land-locked& have shorter route to sea through Bangladesh. Transit agreement with Bangladesh will spur socio-economic development and integration of North-East India.
  • Through Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT), India is assisting Bangladesh to capture the potential of waterways for both inter and intra border connectivity of Bangladesh.
  • 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.

Cultural ties

  • India and Bangladesh have a shared history and common heritage. Greater people to people contact would percolate to other areas like economic and trade relations especially near the border areas. It would also help in curbing hostilities and lack of trust specially Bangladesh being a smaller neighbour.



Challenges in Relationship

  • River disputes: India shares 54 trans-boundary rivers with Bangladesh. Some of the major disputes include: Teesta River water sharing issue, Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River, Ganga River dispute etc.
  • Illegal immigrants: The National Register of Citizens (NRC) labeled many as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh”. Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence and that the controversial NRC risks hurting relations.
  • Rohingya crisis: There are almost 11 lakh Rohingyas refugees in Bangladesh. India has supplied humanitarian aid to Bangladesh under ‘Operation Insaniyat’ for Rohingya crisis but Bangladesh expects India to put pressure on Myanmar for repatriation of over a million of Rohingyas.
  • Border Management: The Indo-Bangladesh border is of porous nature which provides pathway for smuggling, trafficking in arms, drugs and people and cattle.
  • Delay in project execution: As of 2017, India had extended three lines of credit worth approximately $7.4 billion. However, less than 10% of the cumulative commitments have been disbursed so far. Also, there is delay in implementation of the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal initiative)project.
  • China factor: China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports. Recently, China declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh. The concession flowed from China’s duty-free, quota-free programme for the Least Developed Countries. China is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh.
  • The smaller countries like Bangladesh uses China card to supplement its bargaining capacity against India.
  • Increasing radicalization: Presence of groups like Harkat-alJihad-al-Islami (HUJI), Jamaat-e-Islami, and HUJI-B fuel Anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh. Their propaganda could spill acrossborder.



  • The BBIN project was conceived when SAARC at its 18th Summit in Kathmandu failed to sign a SAARC Motor Vehicles Agreement in November 2014-chiefly because of Pakistan.
  • Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal have signed a sub-regional Motor Vehicle Agreement (MVA) in June 2015 for regulation of passenger, personnel and cargo vehicular traffic between the four BBIN countries.
  • Originally, the BBIN MVA mentioned 30identified priority transport connectivity projects with an estimated cost of over US $8 billion that will rehabilitate and upgrade remaining sections of trade and transport corridors in the BBIN countries.
  • India, Nepal and Bangladesh have ratified the Agreement while Bhutan failed to get its Parliament’s nod to ratify the same. It has some reservations about its environmental impact owing to increased traffic of heavy- duty vehicles.
  • Under South Asia Sub-regional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) programme, Asian Development Bank(ADB) has been providing technical, advisory, and financial support to this initiative.
  • On November 1, 2015, a cargo vehicle made the first successful trial run from Kolkata to Agartala via Bangladesh that reduced the distance by over a thousand kilometres.

BBIN Agreement