4th India-Bangladesh Annual Defence Dialogue

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    • Recently, the 4th India-Bangladesh Annual Defence Dialogue was held in Delhi which agreed to further elevate the engagement between the two armed forces.
      • The dialogue was co-chaired by Indian Defence Secretary and Principal Staff Officer of Armed Forces Division (AFD) of Bangladesh. 

    Major Highlights of the Dialogue 

    • Military exercises
      • The talks covered the existing bilateral exercises and training and agreed to increase the complexity of these exercises.
      • Both the sides reviewed the progress on various bilateral defence cooperation.
    • USD 500 million Line of Credit (LOC)
      • Both sides emphasised the need to work closely to implement the USD 500 million Line of Credit (LOC) extended from India for defence items.
      • Various aspects of defence industrial and capability building cooperation came up for detailed discussions.
    • UN peacekeeping
      • The Indian side commended Bangladesh for their efforts in UN peacekeeping.
    • Tri-services Staff Talks (TSST)
      • The TSST is a forum established to boost defence cooperation between both the nations through regular talks at the strategic and operational levels between HQ IDS and Bangladesh Armed Forces Division. 

    India-Bangladesh Relations

    • Historical Background
      • India enabled erstwhile East Pakistan’s (now Bangladesh) liberation in December 1971 and militarily assisted it to acquire freedom from erstwhile western Pakistan which ordered a genocide of Bangla citizens.
      • During the war, the US and China supported Pakistan and were opposed to India’s assistance to East Pakistan.
      • With support from the USSR, India became successful in liberating Dhaka and handed power to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman who symbolised political leadership.
      • India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations after its independence.
    • Security and Border Management
      • Director-General Level Talks (DGLT) between Border Security Force (BSF) and the Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
      • Regular border coordination conferences between Regional Commanders of BGB and the Frontier Inspectors General of BSF to discuss management and security of 4096.7 km of the India-Bangladesh land border.
    • Defence Cooperation
      • High-level exchanges include the second edition of India-Bangladesh CORPAT ‘Bangosagar’ exercise, Regional Commanders meeting of Coast Guards and Annual Defense Dialogue.
      • Muktijoddha related engagements and implementation of the Muktijoddha Medical Scheme for the first time in Bangladesh in 2020.
      • High level exchanges at the level of services chief of Indian Navy, Bangladesh Navy and Indian Air Force, conduct of second annual defense dialogue and inaugural tri-services staff talks, service specific talks of Navy and Air Force and the DG level talks between the Coast Guards.
      • Various Joint exercises of Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Milan) take place between the two countries.
    • Connectivity
      • Various measures to restore the pre-1965 rail links and other connectivity links that existed between India and Bangladesh.
      • Jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Chilahati (Bangladesh) and Haldibari (India) to enhance people to people contacts.
      • Both countries also started using side-door container and parcel trains to maintain uninterrupted supply chains during the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.
      • Decided to commence Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka and Dhaka-Siliguri-Darjeeling-Dhaka bus service and the trial run of Dhaka-Siliguri-Gangtok-Dhaka was also held.
      • Feni Bridge (Maitree Setu) connecting LCS Subroom (Tripura) and LCS Ramgarh (Bangladesh) has been jointly inaugurated.
      • The second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT) was signed for including two new India-Bangladesh Protocol Routes (Sonamura-Daudkandi on river Gomti and extension of Dhulia to Godagiri up to Aricha on river Padma).
    • Economic and Commercial
      • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh.
      • In the FY 2019-20, India’s exports to Bangladesh were USD 8.2 bn and imports were USD 1.26 bn.
      • India-Bangladesh CEO’s Forum was launched to provide policy level inputs and to facilitate exchanges among the business communities.
      • The first meeting of the India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum was held to enhance linkages and collaboration in the textile sector.
      • Cooperation in the power sector has become one of the hallmarks of India-Bangladesh relations.
        • Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.
    • Development Partnership
      • Bangladesh is the biggest development partner of India today.
      • India has extended 3 Lines of Credits (LOC) to Bangladesh in the last 8 years amounting to USD 8 billion for the development of infrastructure.
      • India has also been providing grant assistance to Bangladesh for various infrastructure projects like the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, dredging of inland waterways in Bangladesh and construction of the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline.
      • High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) constitute an active pillar of India’s development assistance.
    • Capacity Building and Human Resource Development
      • The Government of India has been training Bangladesh Civil Service officialspolice officials and judicial officials at national institutes in India.
      • Bangladesh is an important Indian Technical and Economic Cooperation (ITEC) partner country.
      • The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) awards scholarships every year to students from Bangladesh for pursuing under-graduation, post-graduation and other courses in Indian institutes.
    • Cultural Cooperation
      • The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) in Dhaka plays an important role in celebration of common cultural links between the two countries.
    • Visas
      • In pursuance of the policy of the Government of India to further liberalize Indian visa application process and to strengthen people to people contacts, six new Indian Visa Application Centers (IVACs) were opened in Bangladesh.
      • Both countries have commenced a temporary air travel bubble to facilitate the urgent requirements of travelers of India and Bangladesh during the Covid-19 pandemic.
    • Cooperation amidst Covid-19
      • India extended three tranches of medical assistance including surgical masks, Hydroxychloroquine medicine tablets and RT-PCR test kits to Bangladesh.
      • India has also been conducting various online training modules to train the health professionals of Bangladesh.
      • India gifted Covishield (Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccines) to Bangladesh.
    • Multilateral Cooperation
      • Both are members of SAARCBIMSTECIndian Ocean Coastal Regional Cooperation Association and Commonwealth.
      • For India, Bangladesh has been a key partner in the Neighbourhood First Policy and Act East Policy.

    Concerns

    • The countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) 2019 caused troubles to the relations as Bangladesh expressed reservations about the Act and has held it unnecessary.
    • Failed river water sharing agreements like the Teesta agreement.
      • It was signed in 2011 but has not made any progress due to the political tensions between the state and the central government.
    • Pending upgradation of the Ganga-Padma barrage project.
    • Delays in the implementation of the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal Initiative (BBIN).
    • The communal environment in India directly affects the public perception of India in Bangladeshi citizens.
    • The Land and Maritime Boundary Agreements and the problem of Bangladeshi civilians being killed at the border has dented relations.

    Way Forward

    • Increased engagements are a positive sign for the future of the relations of both countries.
    • Def-Expo 2022: India also invited the Bangladeshi delegation for the upcoming Def-Expo 2022 and stated that in the domain of defence industry both countries have great potential of cooperation in defence trade, co-development and joint production. 

    Source: TH