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INDIA BANGLADESH BILATERAL RELATIONS: EXPLAINED

Written by Talent KAS

Related Topics: International Relations, Land Boundary Agreement (LBA)

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India and Bangladesh hailed bilateral ties as “model good neighbourliness” as the two sides signed seven agreements and the Prime Ministers of the two countries inaugurated three projects to deepen their partnership.

Key Highlights

Following Bilateral documents were signed, exchanged, adopted and handed over during the visit:

  • Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) on the use of Chattogram and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh for Movement of goods to and from India.
  • MoU for providing a Coastal Surveillance System.
  • MoU on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water from Feni River by India for drinking water supply scheme for Sabroom town, Tripura, India
  • Agreement concerning Implementation of the Lines of Credit (LoCs) committed by India to Bangladesh.
  • MoU between University of Hyderabad and University of Dhaka
  • Renewal of Cultural Exchange Programme
  • MoU on Co-operation in Youth Affairs

Following Bilateral development partnership projects were launched:

  • Import of Bulk LPG (Liquefied Petroleum Gas) from Bangladesh for distribution in the North Eastern states.
  • Inauguration of Vivekananda Bhaban (students hostel) at Ramakrishna Mission, Dhaka
  • Inauguration of Bangladesh-India Professional Skill Development Institute (BIPSDI) at the Institution of Diploma Engineers Bangladesh (IDEB), Khulna

India – Bangladesh Relationship

  • India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as a separate and independent state and established diplomatic relations with the country immediately after its independence in December 1971.
  • India and Bangladesh enjoy one of the best periods of their relationship, with positive development in the areas of diplomatic, political, economic and security relations.

Security & Border Management

  • India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours.
  • 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.
  • The longstanding maritime boundary dispute between India and Bangladesh was settled as per arbitration award of 7th July 2014.
  • The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) came into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification in June 2015, where the two neighbours amicably resolved a long-outstanding issue.
  • On July 31, 2015, the enclaves of India and Bangladesh in each other’s countries were exchanged and strip maps were signed.

Defence Cooperation

  • Various Joint exercises of Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Milan) take place between two countries.
  • Scholarships are given to heirs of Muktijoddhas (Bangladesh War Veterans) for Higher Secondary & Undergraduate students every year by the Government of India.

Sharing of River Waters

  • India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers.
  • A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) is working since June 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems.

Bilateral Trade and Investment

  • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia.
  • India’s exports to Bangladesh for the financial year 2018-19 (April-March) stood at US $ 9.21 bn.
  • Imports from Bangladesh for the same period stood at US $ 1.22 bn.
  • India and Bangladesh are members of various regional trade agreements including 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.
  • Four Border Haats, two each in Tripura and Meghalaya, have been established for the benefit of bordering communities.
  • Cumulative Foreign Direct Investment from India to Bangladesh has more than doubled from USD 243.91 mn in 2014 to USD 570.11 mn in December 2018.

Development Partnership

  • India has extended 3 Lines of Credits (LOCs) to Bangladesh in the last 8 years amounting to US$ 8 billion.
  • In addition to LOCs, the Government of India has also been providing grant assistance to Bangladesh for various infrastructure projects such as the Agartala- Akhaura rail link, dredging of inland waterways, India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, and high impact community development projects (HICDPs).

Power and Energy Sector Cooperation

  • Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.
  • 1320 MW coalfired Maitree thermal power plant, a 50:50 JV between National Thermal Power Corporation (NTPC) of India and Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB), is being constructed at Rampal.
  • Indian Government is also extending financial assistance for construction of 130 Km India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline for supply of diesel from Siliguri to Parbatipur in Bangladesh.

Connectivity

  • India and Bangladesh have a Protocol on Inland Waterways Trade and Transit (PIWTT), to facilitate trade and transit between the countries, since 1972.
  • India and Bangladesh signed an agreement in October 2018 on the use of Chittagong and Mongla Ports for transshipment of goods to and from India.
  • Various additional services on railway sector co-operation were introduced including launching of Kolkata- Khulna ‘Bandhan Express’ train services in November 2017 and introduction of end-to-end immigration and customs clearance for travelers in the ‘Maitree Express’ between Kolkata and Dhaka.

Cultural Exchanges

  • The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) in Dhaka regularly organizes cultural programmes and also conducts classes in various Indian cultural elements including Hindi, yoga, Hindustani music and Manipuri and Kathak dances etc.
  • The ICCR has initiated a Tagore Chair in the University of Dhaka since 2011.

Tourism

  • Bangladeshi tourists accounted for 21.6% of the total percentage of tourists visiting India in 2018 (83.7% tourists and 10.28% medical patients).
  • At present, Bangladesh contributes 50% of India’s health tourism

Areas of Concern

Teesta Water Sharing Agreement

  • West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to endorse water-sharing terms agreed upon by Prime Minister Modi in 2015 has resulted in the current impasse.
  • A lack of water has affected 100,000 hectares of land, with contamination affecting the soil; the increased cost of pesticides and irrigation has made farming less profitable.

National Register of Citizens (NRC)

  • NRC has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list with a group labelled as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” living in Assam post-1971.
  • Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence and the controversial NRC risks hurting relations.

Rohingya Issue

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 by one of the world’s most brutal military regimes.

Way Forward

  • India-Bangladesh relations have matured in the last decade with development in many areas of cooperation.
  • In a neighbourhood where distrust and cynicism prevail over friendship and hope, the relationship between the two countries has given hope for optimism.
  • Removal of non-tariff barriers will help Bangladeshi exports such as harmonising the standards for goods accepted by India.
  • Both countries must try to reach consensus on the issues like NRC, Rohingya and Teesta rivers.
  • The shared colonial legacy, history and socio-cultural bonds demand that the political leadership of the two countries should try to inject momentum into India-Bangladesh relations.

[Source: The Hindu, mea.gov.in]

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Talent KAS

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