50 Years of Bangladesh’s Independence

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    Recently, the Prime Minister of India has visited Bangladesh for celebrations of 50 years of the War of Liberation and also for Mujib Borsho, the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

    • During the visit, two sides signed five MoUs covering areas such as connectivity, commerce, information technology and sports.

    Highlights of the Meeting

    • The two sides signed five Memorandums of Understanding (MoUs) namely,
      • Disaster Management, Resilience and Mitigation.
      • Cooperation between Bangladesh National Cadet Corps (BNCC) and National Cadet Corps (NCC).
      • Establishment of a Framework of Cooperation in the Area of Trade Remedial Measures.
      • Supply of Information and Communication Technology (ICT) equipment, courseware and reference books and training for Bangladesh-Bharat Digital Service and Employment and Training (BDSET) Center.
      • Establishment of Sports facilities at Rajshahi College field and surrounding areas.
    • Joint Inaugurations
      • Jointly inaugurated several projects virtually, including opening three new border haats on India-Bangladesh borders and inaugurating a new passenger train Mitali Express‘ connecting Dhaka and New Jalpaiguri on the Indian side.
        • This is the third passenger train after Maitree Express (Dhaka-Kolkata) and Bandhan Express (Khulna-Kolkata) running between the two countries.
      • Released India-Bangladesh Friendship stamps to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations.
      • Other Projects: foundation stone laying of a monument at Bangladesh’s Ashuganj in memory of 1971 martyred Indian soldiers; extended development work at Rabindra Bhawan Kuthibari in Shilaidaha of Bangladesh’s Kushtia and groundbreaking for Infrastructure Development for Power Evacuation Facilities of Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.
    • Other Areas of Mutual Interest
      • Recognised terrorism as a threat to global peace and security and reiterated commitment to eliminate its all forms and manifestations.
      • Reiterated India’s “sincere and continued efforts” to conclude the Teesta water-sharing agreement in consultation with relevant stakeholders.
      • Directed Water Ministries to work towards an early conclusion of the Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six common rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
      • India also requested for early finalisation of a pending draft for sharing of water of Feni River.

    Places Visited by the PM

    • Jeshoreshwari Temple in Ishwaripur
      • Dedicated to Goddess Kali, it is a famous Hindu temple located in Ishwaripur village in Shyamnagar Upazila of Satkhira, which borders West Bengal.
      • It is one of the 51 Shakti Peeths, scattered across India and neighbouring countries.
      • Records suggest a Hindu king set up the temple in the 16th century.
      • India announced to build a multipurpose community hall at the temple which would also act as a shelter for all at the time of disasters like cyclones.
    • Tungipara, Gopalganj
      • It is the birthplace of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and also hosts his mausoleum.
        • He played a key role in Bangladesh’s liberation and was the first President of Bangladesh and later also became the Prime Minister of it.
        • He is known as the “Father of the Nation” or simply “Mujib” in Bangladesh.
        • He was posthumously awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2020.
    • Thakurbari, Orakandi
      • The Matua Thakurbari temple in Bangladesh’s Orakandi holds special significance to Bengal’s Matua community, whose votes will be decisive in the Matua belts of Bengal.
      • Orakandi is a pilgrim site for Matua as it is the birthplace of Harichand Thakur who formed the Matua sect, which migrated from Bangladesh to West Bengal and can be a deciding factor in the upcoming assembly elections in West Bengal.
        • Born in a peasant family in 1812, Harichand quickly gained a following in erstwhile-undivided Bengal among the lower-castes.

    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 officials, police 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 SAARC, BIMSTEC, Indian 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

    • The river water management must be taken seriously and India should integrate the regional dimension into its national policy making.
    • Both countries should develop a long-term joint strategy that will facilitate national identification and generate a system of work-permits for legitimate movement of labour.
    • Both must manage and balance their geo-political realities for the interest of the people. Areas of concern need to be looked into holistically and ratified as soon as possible.
    • There is a need for a deeper understanding on both sides of the sensitivities of the India-Bangladesh relationship, even as its many successes are counted and celebrated.

    Source: LM