india-bangladesh-relations

Context: Prime Minister of Bangladesh has recently visited India to discuss several issues such as Water-sharing agreement, Defence cooperation and negotiate on signing an FTA (Free-Trade Agreement) such as CEPA (Comprehensive Economic-Partnership Agreement).

India and Bangladesh are closely linked through shared cultured and ethnicity. Historically, India has played pivotal role in creation of Bangladesh. Political, Diplomatic and Military support from India has helped Bangladesh to achieve Independence.

The recent events such as signing of Line of Credit, water-sharing agreement, exchange of enclaves reflects importance to relationship with Bangladesh and highlights deeper understanding on both sides of the India-Bangladesh relationship.

Regional Forums share by India-Bangladesh 

1. SAARC

2. BIMSTEC

3. BBIN

4. Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA)

Areas of cooperation between India and Bangladesh:

  1. Economic Relations: Bangladesh has emerged as largest trade partner in South Asia and fourth largest destination for Indian exports worldwide. On other hand, India is Bangladesh second biggest trade partner and largest export market which grew 44% from $10 Billion to $18.31 Billion. The countries will also negotiations for CEPA (Comprehensive-Economic Partnership Agreement) which could further trade-relations to new level.
  2. Connectivity: Connectivity between two countries has substantially improvised as new bus routes, ports, railway routes have been opened which has strengthened trade relations. Example: Chilhati-Haldibari Rail link, Kolkata-Dhaka-Agartala Bus Service, Maitri-Setu Bridge.
  3. Military Cooperation: Military exercises such as SAMPRITI, MILAN countering-anti-insurgency elements make India-Bangladesh border secure and peaceful.
  4. Defence Cooperation: Signing of 3 Line of Credits agreement (LoC) amounting $8 Billion which allows Bangladesh to buy weapons, ammunition, Tanks, construction of roads, bridges and ports.
  5. Medical Cooperation: Mission “Maitri” has delivered 9 Million doses of Covishield vaccines from India. India’s medical tourism earns 50% revenue from Bangladesh medical patients.
  6. Tourism Cooperation: Tourists from Bangladesh have outnumbered tourists from Europe.

Teesta River Dispute

Teesta Rivers originate in Sikkim and flows though West Bengal and Bangladesh. It merges into Jamuna (Brahmaputra in India). In an ad-hoc water-sharing agreement (signed in 1981) allocated 39% of Teesta water to India and 36% to Bangladesh. Remaining 25% remains unallocated.

In 2011 interim deal was signed to share 42.5% Teesta Water with Bangladesh and 37.5% with India but halted by West Bengal Government as water is state subject.

Challenges in India-Bangladesh relations:

  1. Water-Sharing: Nevertheless, the remarkable progress between both countries on water-sharing agreement, it remains unresolved due to multiple reasons such as unallocated share of Teesta River. (See Box)
  2. National Register of Citizen and CAA: NRC and CAA are irritants in relations as it could trigger communal riots in both countries.
  3. China Axis: The increased presence of China in Bangladesh and soaring investment ($1.159 billion from China in FY-19/20 making it top investor) reflects poorly on India-Bangla relations which signifies India’s decreased presence in South Asia region.  
  4. Drug trafficking: Bangladesh is part of Golden Triangle which is prime transit point of heroin trafficking from South Asia to Europe. International Narcotic Control Bureau in a report mentioned, India is one of the common methods used by drug peddlers and mafia to route drugs.

India must play pioneering relations in India-Bangladesh relations by balancing trade by removing non-tariff barriers, resolve water-sharing disputes and realise full potential of BIMSTEC to enhance strategic autonomy.