Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Friend and neighbour: India-Bangladesh relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not Much

Mains level : Recent trends in India-Bangladesh ties

India must strengthen ties with Bangladesh and appreciate Sheikh Hasina’s challenges

Virtual summit between India and Bangladesh

  • The virtual summit was conducted recently between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina.
  • There was a discussion on issues ranging from the violent border incidents to the COVID-19 fight, demonstrates their desire to reboot India-Bangladesh ties that have faced challenges in recent months.
  • PM Modi called Bangladesh a “major pillar” in India’s neighbourhood first policy, while Ms. Hasina invited him to visit Bangladesh in March for the celebrations of the 50th anniversary of its independence.
  • It is a key opportunity for India, which had played a major role in Bangladesh’s liberation in 1971, to revive the relations and address the issues adversely affecting the partnership.

Importance of India-Bangladesh relationship

  • Bangladesh and India are at a historic juncture of diplomacy embedded in a rich matrix of history, religion, culture, language and kinship.

(1) ‘Blue Economy’ programme’ –

  • Both countries are looking at strengthening economic cooperation through joint investments and cooperation under the ‘Blue Economy’ programme.
  • The programme entails synergized efforts of littoral states in the exploration of hydrocarbons, marine resources, deep-sea fishing, preservation of marine ecology and disaster management.
  • The industry in India needs to look for opportunities for collaboration in defence, such as in military hardware, space technology, technical assistance, exchange of experience, and development of sea infrastructure.

(2) India’s Act East Policy

  • Connectivity offers a game-changing opportunity for India and Bangladesh. This is pivotal to India’s connectivity with its north-eastern region and with countries of ASEAN.
  • This is particularly important in the context of both the Make in India initiative as well as India’s Act East Policy.
  • The two countries also see themselves converging around a lot of commonalities, not just as neighbours battling the scourge of terrorism, but as leading economic partners.
  • In terms of diplomacy in the South Asian region, both countries have had identical views.
  • From how organizations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) should be going forward in promoting cooperation among its member nations to economic growth.

Challenges in India-Bangladesh relations

(1) Violent border incidents

  • Despite the friendship remaining solid, the border has been sensitive.
  • At least 25 Bangladeshis were killed in the first six months of this year along the border by Indian forces, according to a rights watchdog.

(2) Sharing of River Waters

  • The Teesta water dispute between West Bengal and Bangladesh remains unresolved.

(3) The Citizenship (Amendment) Act and the proposed National Register of Citizens, which Ms Hasina called “unnecessary”, have created a negative impression about India.

(4) China’s economic footprint is growing

  • China is making deep inroads into Bangladesh by ramping up infrastructure investments and expanding economic cooperation.
  • Bangladesh is overwhelmingly dependent on China for military hardware.
  • Since 2010, India approved three Lines of Credit to Bangladesh of $7.362 billion to finance development projects. But, just $442 million have been disbursed until December 2018.

Way Forward

  • It is imperative for India to bolster ties with this all-weather friend, and there may not be a better time to do so than when Bangladesh is to celebrate the golden jubilee of its independence.
  • India should support Bangladesh’s fight against radical elements. India should also not allow the ideological inclinations of the ruling party to spoil the historic relationship between the two countries.
  • New Delhi should take a broader view of the changing scenario and growing competition in South Asia, and reach out to Dhaka with an open mind.
  • There is much room for course correction in Delhi and to shift the focus from legacy issues to future possibilities.

Practice Question: Discuss the importance of India-Bangladesh relations and various challenges affecting the relations between the two countries. How they can be addressed?

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Swati Bhardwaj
Swati Bhardwaj
1 year ago

Please Review