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India-Bangladesh Relation – Loss & Gains

Bangladesh Supreme, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to make her first official visit to India post the general elections in Bangladesh (December 2018) this month. She will also be addressing the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit followed by the bilateral visit.
Under Sheikh Hasina as the Bangladesh PM, both the countries are primed to enjoy one of the best phases of their relationship with positive developments in all aspects.

Gains from Favorable Relationship
The current Bangladeshi Government led by Sheikh Hasina is keen to maintain healthy relations with India. In this context, they have made several inroads, proving to be effective. They Include:

  • Numerous security threats and insurgency acts against India has diminished and uprooted over the past 2-3 years. The Bangladesh border is one of India’s most secured front.
  • The Land Boundary Agreement was signed in 2015 between both the countries, where the neighbors amicably resolved the long-standing boundary dispute.
  • Bilateral trade among the neighbors have demonstrated an upward curve and taking into account FY 2018-19, it was valued at $1.25 billion.
  • In 2018, the Indian export of electricity to Bangladesh was increased by 500 MW. This was in addition with the development of a 1600 MW power station with a dedicated transmission system to boost power trade.
  • Bangladeshi Tourists account for almost 21.6% of the total tourists visiting India in 2018. The country contributes 50% of India’ health tourism revenue.

Lingering Issues
Despite recent developments, there are certain outstanding issues still hovering over the bilateral relations among both the countries. They Include:

  • The prime of all issues, the Teestha Water Sharing Agreement. The standstill is caused due to the West Bengal Chief Minister, Mamata Banerjee’s refusal to endorse the water sharing terms agreed upon back in 2015.
  • The National Register of Citizens (NRC) has marked out 1.9 million citizens of Assam from the list, terming them as ‘illegal immigrants from Bangladesh’ is threatening to derail the Indo-Bangla relations. While India claim that these citizens migrated from Bangladesh during 1971 and Bangladesh is holding its own fort stating that no migrants crossed the borders during that war of independence in 1971.
  • Cattle trafficking across the border is another pressing issue hurting the relations. But since the ban on cattle export by India, such instances have decreased considerably and as per the BSF statement, it is tipped to go down further.
  • Since 2010, India has approved credits to Bangladesh tuning to $7.362 billion to fund development projects in Bangladesh. But due to bureaucratic red tape, only $442 billion has been disbursed. Adding to it, Bangladesh has been slow in its implementation and India’s requirement of the disbursement process to be approved by the country’s Exim Bank has not helped the cause either. This may prove a bitter pill to swallow, concerning the relations among the neighbors.
  • The Rohingya Issue and India’s stand related to it has not gone down well with the Bangladeshi regime which is managing around a million Rohingya refugee from Myanmar. But the recent visit of India’s External Ministry seems to ease the flagging issue a bit.

Given its geographical proximity with Bangladesh, India cannot afford unpleasant relations with the neighbors. With China gaining prominence in the background, it becomes all the more important for India to establish steady and healthy relations with Bangladesh.

The relations have matured in the last decade owing to developments in various areas. In a country where distrust and cynicism prevail over friendship and hope, the relationship between the two countries has given hope for optimism. In this context, India should forget history and Bangladesh should forget geography to help the relations graduate to new levels of strengthening the three C’s: cooperation, Coordination and Consolidation.


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