- With a population of nearly 170 million, Bangladesh is the eighth largest in the world. Even more important, it is one of the world’s fastest growing economies and has been called the “miracle in the east”
- Bangladesh is bordered by the 5Indian states of Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya, and West Bengal India shares the longest land boundary with Bangladesh among all its neighbors at 4096.7 km.
- India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and established diplomatic relations with Bangladesh immediately after its independence in December 1971. The country’s geography is dominated by the Ganges delta which empties into the Bay of Bengal the combined waters of several river systems, including those of the Brahmaputra and the Ganges.
- The relationship between India and Bangladesh is anchored in history, culture, language, people-to-people ties and shared values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities. In the last couple of years, the relationship has been further strengthened including through cooperation in new and high-technology areas. High Level Visits and Exchanges There have been regular high-level visits and exchanges between the two
- India and Bangladesh share the historical legacy of cooperation and support during the Liberation War of 1971.Various Joint exercises of Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Milan) take place between the two countries.
FORMATION OF BANGLADESH
- Bangladesh War of Independence, or the Liberation War in Bangladesh, was a revolution and armed conflict sparked by the rise of the Bengali nationalist and self-determination movement in what was then East Pakistan during the 1971 Bangladesh genocide.
- It resulted in the independence of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh. The war began after the Pakistani military junta based in West Pakistan launched Operation Searchlight against the people of East Pakistan on the night of 25 March 1971.
- It pursued the systematic elimination of nationalist Bengali civilians, students, intelligentsia, religious minorities and armed personnel. The junta annulled the results of the 1970 elections and arrested Prime minister-designate Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. As a consequence, East Pakistan seceded and the independent state of Bangladesh, or Bengali nation, was proclaimed on March 26, 1971.
- Civil war broke out, and with the help of Indian troops in the last few weeks of the war, East Pakistan defeated West Pakistan on Dec. 16, 1971. An estimated one million Bengalis were killed in the fighting or later slaughtered. Ten million more took refuge in India.
- On 16 December 1971, Lt. Gen Amir Abdullah Khan Niazi, CO of Pakistan Army forces located in East Pakistan signed the Instrument of Surrender. Over 93,000 Pakistani troops surrendered to the Indian forces and Bangladesh Liberation forces, making it the largest surrender since World War II.
- The Mukti Bahini (translates as ‘freedom fighters’, or liberation army), also known as the Bangladesh Forces, was the guerrilla resistance movement consisting of the Bangladeshi military, paramilitary and civilians during the War of Liberation that transformed East Pakistan into Bangladesh in 1971. Mukti Bahini and Kader Bahini were created, armed and provided logistics support by India’s intelligence agency Research and Analysis Wing (RAW) during the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971.
- A number of welfare measures and schemes have been introduced to commemorate the spirit of Liberation War of 1971 and honour the invaluable contribution of Muktijoddhas towards building a better future for Bangladesh.
- Some notable initiatives like-five-year multiple entry visa for all Muktijoddhas, free of cost treatment of all Muktijoddha patients in Indian Armed Forces hospitals and Nutan Muktijoddha Sanatan scholarship scheme.
- A delegation of Muktijoddhas is invited to participate in Victory Day celebrations in Kolkata every year.
IMPORTANCE OF BANGLADESH FOR INDIA
- Bangladesh’s location is a strategic wedge between mainland India and NE seven states. Each of these states is land-locked and has shorter route to the sea through Bangladesh.
- Transit agreement with Bangladesh will spur the socio-economic development of North-East India.The only entry to and exit from the Northeastern region of India is through the Silliguri Corridor that is close to the Chinese border and within striking distance of Bangladesh. The Silliguri Corridor is the most sensitive ‘choke point’ for the Indian Union.
- Further the navigable rivers in India’s Northeast that could connect West Bengal or Orissa ports pass through Bangladesh. Chittagong port, too, is now open to Indian vessels and will ease supply of goods, meaning India is much more connected to the northeast
Economic and Political
- Bangladesh is a natural pillar of ActEast policy. It can act as a ‘bridge’ to economic and political linkages with South East Asia and beyond.
- Main concern is connectivity between India’s mainland and the crucial northeast, which is part of India’s “Look East” Policy.
- Akhaura-Agartala rail project will provide a major boost to development and economy of eastern Bangladesh and north eastern India. The rail project will go a long way promoting the Indian Prime Minister’s “Act East policy”.
- Given Bangladesh’s growing GDP and economic growth, the Indian industry is taking a serious interest in investing in the country
- Dhaka also has the central role in shaping the future of sub-regional cooperation with Bhutan, Burma, India and Nepal. It is also a land bridge to East Asia and the fulcrum of a future Bay of Bengal community.
- India’s relationship with Bangladesh is also linked to its relationship with China. India does not want Bangladesh to become a pearl in China’s “String of Pearls” strategy to hem in India by using its neighbors.
- The Chittagong port can become a modern busy port like Singapore serving the SAARC
- The mutual transit will also give Bangladesh a much shorter route to China and an initiative to link Chinese province of Yunan with Seven Sisters of India, Myanmar, Thailand and Bangladesh.
- To contain insurgency in North-East – Ensuring that no anti-India terror or insurgent activities can be carried out from its soil by ensuring that Bangladesh does not become a shelter for its insurgents.
- It had played a sterling role, flushing out northeastern terrorists from Bangladesh and even handing over the once-dreaded ULFA terrorist Anup Chetia to India.
- The other big security concern for India is that Bangladesh should not turn into the frontline of Islamic terror in the southeast.
- Bangladesh has also seen the rise of Islamic State (ISIS) terror activities
AREAS OF CONCERN/DISPUTES:
A) Water Sharing Disputes
- Ganga River Dispute (Farakka Barrage)
In 1996, the sharing of the Ganga waters was successfully agreed upon between the two nations. However, the major area of dispute has been India’s construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage to increase water supply to the river Hooghly. Bangladesh complains that it does not get a fair share of the water in the dry season and some of its areas get flooded when India releases excess waters during the monsoons.
- Barak River Contention
Bangladesh has been demanding to stop the construction of the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River on the eastern edge of Bangladesh. Bangladesh says that the massive dam will disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the river and have an adverse effect on downstream agriculture, fisheries and ecology of the region.
The popular arguments in Bangladesh against the Tipaimukh project are:
- India should not decide what is good for people of Bangladesh without taking them into confidence;
- No study has been undertaken in Bangladesh to assess the impact of the ecosystems that exist and depend on the natural flow of the water in Surma-Kusiyara-Meghna and their tributaries.
- Teesta River Dispute
Teesta River is a major source of irrigation to the paddy growing greater Rangpur region of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has sought an equitable distribution of Teesta waters, on the lines of Ganga Water Treaty of 1996.
In 2011 India and Bangladesh finalized an arrangement, by which India would get 42.5% and Bangladesh 37.5% while remaining 20% would flow unhindered in order to maintain a minimum water flow of the river.This agreement was not signed due to opposition from chief minister of West Bengal.
B) Illegal Migration
- Illegal migration since the 1971 war of independence of Bangladesh has been a major issue.
- The flow of migrants across Bangladesh boundary due to unstable condition in Bangladesh has also caused tension between the two countries.
- Large influx of such migrants across the boundary has posed serious socio-economic-political problems for the people of Indian states bordering Bangladesh viz, Tripura, Mizoram, Assam, Meghalaya and West Bengal.
- India sought to check problem of refugees by erecting barbed wire fence along the border which was greatly resented by Bangladesh.
- Therefore, India decided to construct a road along the 2,200 km Indo-Bangladesh Border, 150 yards from the demarcation line to check infiltration of unauthorized persons into India. India facilitated the repatriation of Bangladeshi Chakma refugees from camps in Tripura.
- Bangladeshi officials have denied the existence of Bangladeshis living in India and those illegal migrants found are described as having been trafficked. This has considerable repercussions for those involved, as they are stigmatized for having been involved in prostitution, whether or not this has actually been the case. Cross border migrants are also at far higher risk of HIV/AIDS infection.
- Intelligence inputs indicate that the Inter Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) of Pakistan is utilizing these migrants as conduits to ferry in terrorists and arms into India.
- Vote bank politics in Assam is the one of obstacle to control illegal migration from Bangladesh, led to communal violence between indigenous Bodos and Muslims (migrants from Bangladesh) in 2012.
- 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
- Because of a large number of illegal immigrants crossing from Bangladesh into India, a controversial shoot-on-sight policy has been enforced by the Indian border patrols. This policy was initiated with reports of violence between the illegal migrants and Indian soldiers.
- The border has also witnessed occasional skirmishes between the Indian Border Security Force and the Border Guards Bangladesh,
C) Smuggling and illegal trade
- Cattle smuggling is also an issue, which is considered to be one of the losses for India of losing its indigenous variety and trade.
- Cattle haats along the India-Bangladesh border are becoming a source of cattle for smuggling. 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.
- The border is used as a route for smuggling livestock, food items, medicines and drugs from India to Bangladesh.
D) Counterfeit Currency
- Dumping of Fake Indian Currency Notes, recently several duplicate notes have been found along the border, which cripple the Indian Economy severely.
- The National Investigation Agency has found links with Pakistan in rackets engaged in printing and smuggling fake currency into India.
- NIA sources said fake currency was now being smuggled into the border with Bangladesh has gaps at some points and immigrants cross into India on foot through the breaks in the fence. Some also swim across rivers on the border to reach India.
- The National Investigation Agency has found links with Pakistan in rackets India through its porous border with Bangladesh.
- Malda district in West Bengal is a key transit point for counterfeiters.
E) Terrorism and Insurgency
- Terrorist Infiltration has been a matter of concern of late.
- The porous border between India and Bangladesh has been used by the insurgent groups for movement to and from their camps such as operatives of the Harkat ul Jihad al Islami – Bangladesh (HUJI-B) and Jama’atul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB)
- Media reports highlighted the presence of a number of camps in Bangladesh operated by National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT), United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFM).
- There are also reports that ULFA has several lucrative income generating projects in Bangladesh to sustain its insurgency activities in India.
- The illegal Bangladeshi immigrants have been one of the key reasons for the rise of insurgent groups in the north-east as some of the insurgent groups like Assam Gana Sangram Parishad started, and got support of the masses, because of the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh.
- Insurgency has been playing the role in straining relations of India with Bangladesh. Northeast India has been facing insurgency since 1956 due to feelings of ethnic separatism among its inhabitants.
- ISI is operating from Bangladesh, supporting the insurgents in the North east India. National Liberation of Tripura (NLFT), Liberation Front of Assam(ULFA) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFM) are major insurgent groups in Northeast India.
F) Chinese Shadow
- Bangladesh is overwhelmingly dependent on China for military hardware.
- China’s economic footprint is growing. Bangladesh uses China card to supplement its bargaining capacity against India.
- In 2016 Bangladesh agreed to join the One Belt, One Road Project (OBOR) with China already investing in a number of infrastructure projects in the country including the deep sea port at Chittagong.
G) Territorial Waters
- The issue of demarcating territorial waters led to serious differences between the two countries.
- Questions of ownership over a new born island known as South Talpatty in Bangladesh and New Moore/ Purbasha in India spotted by a satellite picture in 1975 in the estuary of Haribhanga River on the border of the two countries has been a source of contention since its discovery.
- Till now the sovereignty over the island nation remains undecided.
H) Drug Trafficking
- Bangladesh is increasingly being used as a transit point by drug dealers and the drug mafia, which dispatches heroin and opium from Burma, and other countries of the golden triangle, to different destinations.
- Bangladesh has become the prime transit route for trafficking heroin to Europe from Southeast Asia, according to a report from the International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) 2007 annual report
- The most common methods and routes for smuggling heroin into Bangladesh are by courier from Pakistan, commercial vehicles and trains from India, and via sea through the Bay of Bengal or overland by truck or public transport from Burma.
I) Trade and Investment
- The trade deficit with India is frequently highlighted by Bangladesh as a major contentious issue. Trade deficit for Bangladesh is more than $4 billion.
- Bangladesh has been urging India to reduce this gap by lifting the tariff barriers as they were a major impediment to the growth of Bangladesh’s exports to India.
- Responding to Bangladesh’s concern, in November 2011, India granted duty free access to all products, except 10 tobacco and liquor items from Bangladesh which amounts 30% of Bangladesh export.
- As much as 98 per cent of Bangladesh products now enjoy zero duty benefits in the Indian market. Bangladesh’s exports to India are expected to cross $1 billion in 2012.
- Bangladesh is now urging India to remove all non-tariff barriers (NBTs) as it views NTBs as the major obstacles to its export growth.
- Some of these barriers are: laboratory test for every consignment of food products, cosmetics, and leather and textile products; delay in getting test results; imposition of state tax; packaging requirement, anti-dumping and countervailing duties; inadequate infrastructure facilities such as warehousing, trans-shipment yard, parking yard and; connecting roads at land customs stations of India.
- A Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International report says: “In 2010, value of unexplored market was more than 48 per cent of total value of India- Bangladesh trade and potential saving, which is a proxy for cost of non-tariff barriers, is more than seven per cent of total value of Indo-Bangla trade”
- Bangladesh’s initial reluctance to granting India rail and road transit was on the grounds that transit facility once given was difficult to take back .
- Other concerns included damage to the roads and bridges in Bangladesh by the increased traffic flow from the Indian side.
MAJOR DEVELOPMENTS IN RELATIONS IN RECENT YEARS
A) Border and Security
- The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) came into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification in June 2015. On 7 May 2015 the Indian Parliament, in the presence of Bangladeshi diplomats, unanimously passed the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) as its 100th Constitutional amendment, thereby resolving all 68-year old border disputes since the end of the British Raj.
- The Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) signed in 2011 aims to synergize the efforts of both the Border Guarding Forces for checking cross border illegal activities and crimes as well as for maintenance of peace and tranquility along the India-Bangladesh border.
- Sundarban Moitry – A joint exercise between Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
- Both sides noted the progress made in finalization of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) on Establishment of Coastal Surveillance Radar System in Bangladesh. India has provided such systems to Mauritius, Seychelles, Maldives and planning one in Myanmar.
B) Bilateral Trade and Investment
- The first Trade Agreement between India and Bangladesh was signed in India has provided duty free quota free access to Bangladesh on all tariff lines except tobacco and alcohol under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011.
- Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. India’s exports to Bangladesh for financial year 2018-19 (April-March) stood at US $ 9.21 bn and imports from Bangladesh for the same period stood at US $ 1.22 bn.
- Bangladeshi tourists accounted for 6% of the total percentage of tourists visiting India in 2018 with Bangladesh accounts for 50% of India’s health tourism revenue
- Four Border Haats, two each in Tripura and Meghalaya, have been established for the benefit of bordering communities. India has extended 3 Lines of Credits(LOC) to Bangladesh in the last 7 years amounting to US$ 8 billion. This makes Bangladesh the largest recipient of LOC funds from India till date.
- In addition to LOC funds, Government of India also providesgrant assistance to Bangladesh for projects under ‘Aid to Bangladesh’. At present, three Sustainable Development Projects (SDPs) are being undertaken in the cities of Rajshahi, Khulna and Sylhet.
- Trade has been growing steadily between the two countries. At about 17% in the last 5 years.
C) Power and Energy Sector Cooperation
- Cooperation in power sector has become one of the hallmarks of bilateral relations with Bangladesh currently importing about 660 MW of power from India.
- The 1320 MW coal-fired Maitree thermal power plant, a 50:50 JV between National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), is being developed at Rampal.
- Many Indian public sector units such as Indian Oil Corporation, Numaligarh Refinery Limited, Petronet LNG Ltd are working with their Bangladeshi counterparts .
- India has agreed to fund the construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline from Siliguri to Parbatipur for supply of Diesel to Bangladesh from Numaligarh Refinery Limited.
- ONGC Videsh Ltd has acquired two shallow water blocks in consortium with Oil India Limited and is currently exploring these
- In 2018, in addition to the 660 MW of power already imported by Bangladesh, Indian export of electricity increased by another 500 MW. A 1,600 MW power station with a dedicated transmission system is being developed to boost power trade. India will supply 100 megawatt (MW) of electricity in return for 10 Gigabits per second Internet bandwidth to North East.
- Nuclear Energy Pacts: India would set up nuclear reactors in Bangladesh and technical cooperation and sharing of information in the field of nuclear safety and radiation protection.
D) Connectivity India-Bangladesh
- The movement of goods by road is operationalized through 36 functional Land Customs Stations (LCSs) and 2 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) along the border such as thePetrapole-BenapoleICP
- The Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit (PIWTT) has been operational since 1972 which permits movement of goods over barges/vessels from India through the river systems of Bangladesh on 8 specific
- Trans-shipment of goods to Northeastern States of India through Ashuganj river port and further through Akhaura-Agartala by road commenced in June 2016 under the PIWTT. Coastal Shipping Agreement has also enabled direct sea movement of containerized/bulk/dry cargo between the two
- In February 2017,container ship services have started between Kolkata and Pangaon (which is just around 20 km from Dhaka) under this framework.
- The ‘Maitree Express’ between Kolkata and Dhaka now operates 4 days a week and has been converted into a fully AC train
- The Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement for movement of goods and passengers between the member countries who are willing and ready; or to work towards a bilateral India-Bangladesh Motor Vehicles Agreement, as appropriate.
- Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) has been signed on the development of Ashuganj-Zakiganj stretch of Kushiyara river and Sirajganj-Daikhawa stretch of the Jamuna river to improve connectivity between the two countries and this will help reduce logistics cost of cargo movement to northeast India and also reduce congestion through the Siliguri’s Chicken’s Neck corridor.
E) Training, Capacity-Building and People engagement
- A number of training courses are being conducted for interested Bangladesh officials / nationals including personnel of administration, police, judiciary, fire-fighters, narcotic officials, nuclear scientists, teachers etc.
- Bangladesh is an important ITEC partner country, and around 800 participants from Bangladesh avail of training courses under the ITEC programme annually.
- In addition, scholarships are granted by ICCR (Indian Council for Cultural Relations) every year to students from Bangladesh for pursuing general courses in arts, sciences, engineering and also specialized courses for culture, drama, music, fine arts and sports, etc.
- The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC), High Commission of India, is a Cultural Centre of the Indian Council for Cultural Relations of India in Bangladesh holds regular training courses in Yoga, Hindi, Hindustani Classical Music, Manipuri Dance, Kathak and Painting.
- High Commission of India has been publishing a print and electronic edition of Bengali literary monthly magazine ‘Bharat Bichitra’ for the last 43
- Indian community in Bangladesh About 10,000 strong Indian community is estimated to be living in
- Most of the Indians are engaged in Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector or as top professionals in Around 3000 Indian students are also pursuing medical courses in different Universities/colleges in Bangladesh.
F) Defense relations
- In April 2017, Bangladesh and India signed two defense agreements, the first such agreements between India and any of its neighbors. Under the agreements, the militaries of the two countries will conduct joint exercises and training.
- India will help Bangladesh set up manufacturing and service centers for defense platforms that both countries possess with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency in defence manufacturing in Bangladesh, and will also provide the Bangladesh military with expert training, and technical and logistic support.
- India also extended its first ever defense-related line of credit to a neighbouring country, by providing Bangladesh with $500 million to purchase defence equipment.
- Expanding security cooperation with India could only enhance Dhaka’s global leverage. For India, a strong partnership with Bangladesh will help boost the prospects of peace and prosperity in the eastern subcontinent.
G) Health and Disaster Relief
- India and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the fields of health and medical sciences
- Promoting cooperation between the two countries in the fields of health and medical sciences through exchange of scientific materials and information
- India has stood by Bangladesh in its hour of need with aid worth over Taka 250 crore (over US $ 37 million) to help it cope with natural disasters and floods in 2007-08 including supply of 1,000 MT of skimmed milk powder, and 40,000 MT of rice.
- India has completed and handed over 2,649 core shelters in the affected villages in Bagerhat district in southern Bangladesh.
INITIATIVES THAT CAN IMPROVE RELATIONS BETWEEN INDIA AND BANGLADESH
- Agreement on water sharing should be given priority. Early resolution of the Teesta issue is necessary
- India should give prominence to the ratification of land boundary agreement.
- Security cooperation between the two countries has been good. But there is need for institutionalizing this cooperation so that it does not remain restricted to the tenure of a particular government in either country. In this regard, a beginning could be made by signing the bilateral extradition treaty.
- Connectivity should be given top most priority.
- There is need for addressing the issue of illegal migration. In this regard innovative measures should be taken to resolve the problem, being extra careful to ensure that illegal migrants do not acquire voting rights and Indian nationality.
- People-to-people contact needs to be encouraged; hence liberal visa system should be put in place.
- Trade relationship has improved significantly between the two countries. India has provided zero duty access of Bangladeshi products thereby addressing the tariff related issue to a great extent. The two countries should now consider an agreement on non-tariff barriers.
- Indian investment should be encouraged in Bangladesh through visits of trade delegations, trade fairs, and bilateral assurances on protection of the interests of potential investors.
- Progress can be made by cooperating on common challenges like disaster management, food and energy security.
- Greater involvement of people and wider public debate on foreign policy issues will discourage conspiracy theories and distrust.
- A greater level of people-to-people contact should be encouraged.
- Implement the no-firing policy fully. Ensure accountability to ensure that the image of India as an enemy ceases to exist.
- Fencing needs to be completed speedily and monitored effectively. This would create misgivings but also ensure that Bangladesh knows that India means business. The state governments and the Indian border forces seem receptive to such an idea
- India and Bangladesh need to strengthen their military ties. They are being revived after a long gap but much more can be done in terms of increasing visits, contacts at various level as well as by selling military hardware.
- India should consider the China model of gifting hardware in the initial instance, and offer technical expertise that Bangladeshi military is in need of. They have to be weaned away from Pakistan and China. There can be no overnight successes but sustained efforts are essential.
- Long-term economic co-operation could provide substance to bilateral relations and might enable both countries to overcome their political differences.
- The border states of West Bengal, Assam and Tripura share geography and cultural linkages with Bangladesh and they also have greater economic and trade interactions with it.The understanding and experience of these states could provide valuable inputs to New Delhi to enhance bilateral co-operation.
- India-Bangladesh border is one of India’s most secured. In the long run, India’s national interests primarily lie towards and beyond its eastern flanks to South East Asia and the new geographical and strategic construct namely Indo-Pacific Asia.
- 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.
- Removal of non-tariff barriers will help Bangladeshi exports such as harmonising the standards for goods accepted by India.
- Both countries must reach consensus on the issues like NRC, Rohingya and Teesta rivers.
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