Developments in India-Bangladesh Ties

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    Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s ongoing state visit to India and meeting with Prime Minister Narendra Modi have resulted in positive outcomes.

    • Bangladesh is now central to India’s “Neighbourhood First Policy”, particularly given the economic crisis affecting Pakistan and Sri Lanka. 

    Latest Developments 

    • During the current visit, seven agreements have been concluded in sectors like connectivity, environment, water management, science and technology, railway, law, information and broadcasting among others. 
      • Five new infrastructure projects have been announced. 
    • Water Sharing : India has requested the finalisation of the temporary water sharing accord on the Feni river, which meets Tripura’s water requirements. 
      • The Joint Rivers Commission has been mandated to examine the sharing of waters of 54 transboundary rivers and flood data sharing. 
      • India and Bangladesh have welcomed the establishment of a joint technical committee that will study the use of the Ganga waters in Bangladesh
      • Significantly, there is an agreement on the water-sharing formula for the river Kushyara that flows into Bangladesh from Assam’s Silchar district. 
    • Scholarships and medical facilities: Bangladesh has announced 200 scholarships to descendants of children of Indian military personnel who laid down their lives in the 1971 War of Liberation. 
      • India has a programme of providing medical facilities for war veterans and their families. These measures cement people-to-people ties.
    • CEPA: Negotiations on the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) are to start shortly. 
      • Bangladesh will graduate from a Less Developed Country (LDC) to a developing country by 2026 and will no longer be entitled to trade and other benefits that are accorded to LDCs under international and regional trading agreements. 
      • The CEPA will help manage this transition and preserve the trade privileges that Bangladesh enjoys.
    • Energy : The rising energy demand in Bangladesh has led to the 1,320 MW thermal power plant being built at Rampal by the NTPC in a 50:50 joint venture.
      • A 1,600 MW power plant in Godda, Jharkhand built by the Adani group will supply power to Bangladesh via a dedicated transmission line by December next year. 
      • The “Friendship” pipeline from Assam’s Numaligarh refinery is nearing completion and will deliver petroleum products to Parbatipur in Bangladesh
    • Connectivity : The two sides also inaugurated the Rupsha rail bridge which will help in connecting Khulna with Mongla port and the Indian border at Petrapole and Gede in West Bengal. 
      • The connectivity initiatives are part of the ongoing projects in Bangladesh that are aimed at converting the country into a major connectivity hub of South and Southeast Asia.
    • Defence : Around $8 billion Line of Credit (LoC) has been extended to Bangladesh, including $500 million for defence-related procurement. 
      • This is significant because Bangladesh’s defence forces have been heavily dependent on Chinese military hardware. 

    India -Bangladesh Ties 

    • Political: India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations immediately after its independence in December 1971.
    • Common Platforms  : Internationally both the nations share the following platforms: SAARC, BIMSTEC, Indian Ocean Coastal Regional Cooperation Association, and Commonwealth.
    • Economic : In 2021-22, Bangladesh has emerged as the largest trade partner for India in South Asia and the fourth largest destination for Indian exports worldwide. Exports to Bangladesh grew more than 66 per cent from $9.69 billion in FY 2020-21 to $16.15 billion in FY 2021-22.
      • India is Bangladesh’s second biggest trade partner, and its largest export market in Asia.
    • Existing frameworks: Under the provisions of the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA), Bangladesh extends preferential tariffs to Indian exports of products outside the ‘sensitive list’ of 993 items.
      • An Agreement on Promotion and Protection of Investments has been in force since 2011.
      •  Joint Interpretative Notes to the agreement were signed during the visit of the Indian Finance Minister to Bangladesh in October 2017.
    • Defence Cooperation: 
      • Various Joint exercises take place between the two countries:
        • Exercise Sampriti (Army) and 
        • Exercise Milan (Navy).
    • Multimodal Connectivity: 
      • The passenger trains between India and Bangladesh:
        • Bandhan Express: 
          • starting from Kolkata for Khulna – Since 2017
          • It covers the distance via Petrapole and Benapole border route to cater to the demands of the people from both countries.
        • Maitree Express:
          • Starting from Dhaka for Kolkata – since 2008
          • The tri-weekly service between Kolkata and Dhaka used to run with 90 percent occupancy. 
        • Mitali Express: 
          • Starting from New Jalpaiguri in North Bengal to Dhaka. 
    • Refugee crisis : The Rohingya refugee issue has imposed a huge burden on Bangladesh. PM Hasina raised this issue and called on India to help in repatriating the refugees to Myanmar. India has done so with humanitarian assistance and quiet dialogue with the military government in Naypyidaw

    Future Prospects :

    • The two countries had resolved many outstanding issues in the spirit of friendship and cooperation and we hope that all outstanding issues including the Teesta Water Sharing Treaty would be concluded at an early date.
    • India needs to look at more ways to deepen its ties with Bangladesh, especially keeping in mind the shifting nature of geopolitics and geoeconomics in South Asia. 
    • India needs to find a fine balance in respecting Bangladesh’s economic growth while maintaining its economic progress. 

    Mains Practice Question 

    [Q] By all accounts, Bangladesh prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India was fruitful with several outcomes on the table. Comment