India Bangladesh Relations

India-Bangladesh Relations – International Relations Notes

Bangladesh and India share bilateral relations and are both South Asian neighbors. Diplomatic relations between the two countries were established in 1971 when India recognized an independent Bangladesh (previously known as East Pakistan). While the relationship between the two countries is considered special, some disputes remain unresolved. In 2015, a historic land boundary agreement was signed, settling decades-old border disputes. However, negotiations are still ongoing over the sharing of water of transboundary rivers.

Despite the cultural ties between Bangladesh and India, rising anti-India sentiments have been observed among Bangladeshi citizens due to perceived anti-Muslim and anti-Bangladeshi activities by the Indian government, such as interference in Bangladeshi politics, killings of Bangladeshis by Indian BSF, Citizenship Amendment Act, and India’s water disputes in common rivers with Bangladesh.

Bangladesh and India are common members of SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA, and the Commonwealth. The two countries celebrate Friendship Day on December 6th, commemorating India’s recognition of Bangladesh and the continued friendship between the two countries.

Since the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in 2015 and the round-back visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in 2017, notable developments have taken place. These include the resolution of long-pending land and maritime boundaries, the conclusion of over ninety instruments comprising in the hi-tech areas such as electronics, cybersecurity, space, information technology, and civil nuclear energy.

Historical Overview

  • Bangladesh shares a close cultural and ethnic connection with West Bengal in India. The language, which is a slightly varied dialect of Bengali, acts as a bridge between East India, North East India, and Bangladesh.
  • In 1971, Pakistan split to become Bangladesh, leading to cordial relations between India and Bangladesh, though some issues did arise.
  • In 1972, India and Bangladesh signed a Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation that became the foundation for modern India-Bangladesh relations.
  • Bangladesh has two main political parties today: the Awami League, headed by Sheikh Hasina, which supports secular ideals and is favorable towards India, and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), headed by Begum Khaleda Zia, which supports Bengali nationalism and is not inclined towards India.
  • The relationship between India and Bangladesh was fluctuating until the end of the Cold War.
  • Since the end of the Cold War, Indo-Bangladesh relations have been mainly driven by the policies of the two political parties – the BNP and the Awami League. The BNP is inclined towards Pakistan and China, while the Awami League favors a partnership with India.

Major issues between India-Bangladesh

Issues that have been a point of contention between Bangladesh and India include:

  • The construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage by India to increase water supply in the River Hooghly have been a major area of contention. Bangladesh claims that it does not receive a fair share of the Ganges waters during the drier seasons, and gets flooded during the monsoons when India releases excess water.
  • Disputes have also arisen over the transfer of the Teen Bigha Corridor to Bangladesh, which surrounds part of Bangladesh in the Indian state of West Bengal.
  • India leased three bighas of land to Bangladesh on June 26, 1992, to connect this enclave with mainland Bangladesh. There was a dispute regarding the indefinite nature of the lease, which was resolved by a mutual agreement between India and Bangladesh in 2011.
  • Terrorist activities are carried out by outfits based in both countries, such as Banga Sena and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami. India and Bangladesh have agreed to jointly fight terrorism.
  • Bangladesh has consistently denied India transit facilities to the landlocked North Eastern Regions of India. Although India has a narrow land link to this North Eastern region, which is famously known as the Siliguri Corridor or “India’s Chicken Neck,” less than 27 kilometers (17 mi) wide, it remains the only bridge between the northeastern part of India and the rest of the country.
  • Illegal Bangladeshi immigration into India has been a problem. The porous border enables migrants to cross illegally, sometimes only in return for financial or other incentives to border security personnel. 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.
  • Continuous border killings of Bangladeshi people by Indian border guards, aiding illegal immigrants, helping in armed dacoity, fake money transfer, and illegal drug trades by both Indian and Bangladeshi people are major issues between Bangladesh and India.
  • Both Bangladesh and India made claims over the same seawater in the Bay of Bengal before the settlement of the issue.

Trade Relations between India and Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh has emerged as India’s primary trading partner in South Asia and is ranked as the fourth-largest market for Indian exports worldwide in 2021-2022.
  • India’s exports to Bangladesh rose by over 66% from $9.69 billion to $16.15 billion between FY 2020-21 and FY 2021-22.
  • Bangladesh is the second-largest trading partner of India and Asia’s top market for exports.
  • Despite Covid-19-related challenges, bilateral trade between both countries increased at an unprecedented rate of around 44% from $10.78 billion in 2020-21 to $18.13 billion in 2021-22.
  • Raw cotton, non-retail pure cotton yarn, and electricity are the primary exports from India to Bangladesh, whereas pure vegetable oils, non-knit men’s suits, and textile waste are the main imports from Bangladesh.

Kushiyara River Water Agreement

  • The Kushiyara River Water Agreement is the first water-sharing agreement since the Ganga Waters Treaty of 1996.
    • A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed between India and Bangladesh to share the waters of the Kushiyara river, a distributary of the Barak river.
    • The Kushiyara river flows through Assam in India and enters Bangladesh through Sylhet.
  • The agreement aims to address flood management and irrigation-related issues between the two countries.
  • Deadly floods in lower Assam and Sylhet highlighted the need for cooperation.
  • The agreement will benefit farmers involved in cultivating Boro rice during the dry season of December to February.
  • As per the agreement, the water will flow through a network of canals, benefiting the farmers.

India and Bangladesh over CEPA

  • Unofficial discussions about Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) between India and Bangladesh have been ongoing since 2018.
  • The COVID-19 pandemic has increased the urgency for both countries to finalize the CEPA.
  • Chinese investments in Bangladesh initially sparked India’s interest in the CEPA, but now both economies are looking to recover from the pandemic shock.
  • A key objective of the CEPA is to reduce the trade imbalance between India and Bangladesh, with a focus on trade in goods, services, and investment.
  • Bangladesh is keen to finalize the CEPA within a year as it aims to transition into a developing country by 2026.
  • If Bangladesh becomes a developing country, it may lose the trade privileges it currently enjoys as a least-developed country.

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