Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Enhancing the Indo-Bangladesh cooperation


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Bangladesh relations in 50 years

The article highlights the areas of cooperations and issues between the India and Bangladesh as it celebrates the golden jubilee of its independence from Pakistan.

New era of cooperation

  • In the last decade, India-Bangladesh relations have warmed up, entering a new era of cooperation.
  • These ties have moved beyond historical and cultural ties to become more assimilated in the areas of trade, connectivity, energy, and defence.
  • Bangladesh and India have achieved the rare feat of solving their border issues peacefully by ratifying the historic Land Boundary Agreement in 2015.
  • The Bangladesh government led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has uprooted anti-India insurgency elements from its borders.

Bilateral trade and tourism

  • Bangladesh today is India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia with exports to Bangladesh in FY 2018-19 at $9.21 billion and imports at $1.04 billion.
  • India has offered duty free access to multiple Bangladeshi products.
  • While India has given duty-free access to a number of Bangladeshi goods, its physical enormity precludes circumstances that could have Bangladesh enhance the quantum of exports.
  • Trade could be more balanced if non-tariff barriers from the Indian side could be removed.
  • Bangladeshis make up a large portion of tourists in India with one in every five tourists being a Bangladeshi.
  • Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes more than 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.

Cooperation on development

  • India extended three lines of credit to Bangladesh in recent years amounting to $8 billion for the construction of roads, railways, bridges, and ports.
  • However, in eight years until 2019, only 51% of the first $800 million line of credit has been utilised.
  • Barely any amount from the next two lines of credit worth $6.5 billion has been mobilised.
  • This has been mostly due to red-tapism from India’s end, and slow project implementation on Bangladesh’s end.


  • Connectivity between the two countries has greatly improved.
  • A direct bus service between Kolkata and Agartala runs a route distance of 500 km, as compared to the 1,650 km if it ran through the Chicken’s Neck to remain within India.
  • There are three passenger and freight railway services running between the two countries, with two more routes on their way to be restored.
  • The inauguration of the Chilahati-Haldibari railway link has been a significant move in enhancing connectivity between the countries.
  • Recently, a 1.9 kilometre long bridge, the Maitri Setu, was inaugurated connecting Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
  • Bangladesh allows the shipment of goods from its various ports.
  • This allows landlocked Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura to access open water routes through the Chattogram and Mongla ports.


  • Despite the remarkable progress, the unresolved Teesta water sharing issue looms large.
  • While smuggling needs to be dealt with firmly, it is not acceptable for Bangladeshis that rather than apprehending people trying to make an illegal entry into India, the BSF has been shooting them.
  • Indian government’s proposal to implement the National Register of Citizens across the whole of India reflects poorly on India-Bangladesh relations.

Way forward

  • India-Bangladesh relations have been gaining positive momentum over the last decade.
  • As the larger country, the onus is on India to be generous enough to let the water flow and ensure that people are not killed on the border for cattle.

Consider the question “As Bangladesh celebrates the golden jubilee of its independence, it is also time for celebrating the enduring Indo-Bangladesh ties despite hiccups that have sometimes disturbed the waters. In light of this, examine the areas of cooperation and issues between the two countries.


To make the recent gains irreversible, both countries need to continue working on the three Cs — cooperation, collaboration, and consolidation


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