Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Teesta Water Sharing Issue


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : International Hydropower Association (IHA), Teesta River

Mains level : India-Bangladesh Relations

EAM S. Jaishankar has discussed comprehensive management of rivers between India and Bangladesh.

What is the news?

  • Bangladeshi Foreign Minister is on a visit to India.
  • Both ministers discussed the long-standing disputes over Teesta river water sharing.
  • The two sides shared 54 rivers that required both nations to work together and share “environmental responsibility” in areas such as the Sundarbans.

About Teesta River

  • Teesta River is a 315 km long river that rises in the eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal.
  • It is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh), flowing through India and Bangladesh.
  • It originates in the Himalayas near Chunthang, Sikkim and flows to the south through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
  • Originally, it continued southward to empty directly into the Padma River but around 1787 the river changed its course to flow eastward to join the Jamuna river.
  • The Teesta Barrage dam helps to provide irrigation for the plains between the upper Padma and the Jamuna.

What is the dispute about?

  • The point of contention between India and Bangladesh is mainly the lean season flow in the Teesta draining into Bangladesh.
  • The river covers nearly the entire floodplains of Sikkim while draining 2,800 sq km of Bangladesh, governing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
  • For West Bengal, Teesta is equally important, considered the lifeline of half-a-dozen districts in North Bengal.
  • Bangladesh has sought an “equitable” distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty of 1996, but to no avail.
  • The failure to ink a deal had its fallout on the country’s politics, putting the ruling party of PM Sheikh Hasina in a spot.

Q.The hydrological linkages between India and Bangladesh are a product of geography and a matter of shared history. Discuss this statement in line with the Teesta water sharing dispute.

The deal

  • Following a half-hearted deal in 1983, when a nearly equal division of water was proposed, the countries hit a roadblock. The transient agreement could not be implemented.
  • Talks resumed after the Awami League returned to power in 2008 and the former Indian PM Manmohan Singh visited Dhaka in 2011.
  • In 2015, PM Modi’s visit to Dhaka generated more ebullient lines: deliberations were underway involving all the stakeholders to conclude the agreement as soon as possible.

Issues from the Indian side

  • It remains an unfinished project and one of the key stakeholders — West Bengal CM is yet to endorse the deal.
  • Her objection is connected to “global warming. Many of the glaciers on the Teesta basin have retreated.
  • The importance of the flow and the seasonal variation of this river is felt during the lean season (from October to April/May) as the average flow is about 500 million cubic metres (MCM) per month.
  • The CM opposed an arrangement in 2011, by which India would get 42.5% and Bangladesh 37.5% of the water during the lean season, and the plan was shelved.

Why does this deal matters?

  • India and Bangladesh have resolved border problems through the Land Boundary Agreement of 2015.
  • However, both nations have locked horns over the sharing of multiple rivers that define the borders and impact lives and livelihoods on both sides.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

India Bangladesh Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Railway links mentioned

Mains level : India-Bangladesh connectivity

Two years after they were stopped due to the onset of the pandemic, passenger train services between India and Bangladesh resumed with the Bandhan Express setting off from Kolkata for Khulna and the Maitree Express starting its run from Dhaka for Kolkata.

History of Rail Connectivity

  • The Bandhan Express was resumed by rebooting a long-forgotten rail link between Kolkata and the industrial hub of Khulna, the third-largest city of Bangladesh.
  • In 1965, this route was served by the Barisal Express, which was stopped due to the India-Pakistan war.
  • The Modi government along with the Sheikh Hasina regime restarted that with Bandhan in 2017.
  • The Bandhan Express was the second train to be flagged off after the introduction of Maitree Express between Kolkata and Dhaka Cantonment in April, 2008.
  • It covers the distance between Kolkata and Khulna via Petrapole and Benapole border route to cater to the demands of the people from both the countries.
  • The Bandhan Express was resumed in 2017 by rebooting a long-forgotten rail link between Kolkata and the industrial hub of Khulna.

Beyond passenger travel

  • The governments of both the countries have been working towards strengthening the rail link between them, and not just through passenger trains.
  • In August 2021, the two sides started regular movement of freight trains between the newly-restored link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh.
  • The Haldibari-Chilahati rail link between India and the then East Pakistan was also operational till 1965 and stopped due to the war.
  • This was part of the broad gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri at the time of Partition.
  • The two sides envisage at least 20 freight trains to cross the border per month on this link.

Rail infrastructure

  • Once part of a single, seamless railway network under British rule, trains continued to pass between the two countries even after the Partition.
  • The infrastructure to connect the two sides through railways was, therefore, largely present.
  • Policymakers on both sides viewed this as an opportunity to deepen diplomatic ties using cross-border movements of goods and passengers.
  • Five rail links have so far been rebooted between India and Bangladesh:

Petrapole (India)-Benapole (Bangladesh), Gede (India)- Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh), Radhikapur (India)-Birol (Bangladesh) and the Haldibari-Chilahati link


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Bangladesh offers Chittagong Port to India


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Chittagong Port

Mains level : India-Bangladesh connectivity

In a major development in India-Bangladesh ties, India has now gained access to the crucial Chittagong Port after it was offered by Bangladeshi PM Sheikh Hasina.

About Chittagong Port

  • The Chittagong/Chattogram Port is the main seaport of Bangladesh.
  • It is located in the port city of Chittagong and on the banks of the Karnaphuli River,
  • The port handles eighty percent of Bangladesh’s export-import trade, and has been used by India, Nepal and Bhutan for transshipment.
  • According to Lloyd’s, it ranked as the 58th busiest container port in the world in 2019. The port is one of the oldest in the world.
  • Chittagong Port is now being developed and modernized with Chinese investment and help.
  • It was widely believed that China will retain the right to use this port according to its plans and needs.

Significance of the port

  • The use of Chattogram port was made possible under an agreement that allows the use of Chattogram and Mongla ports as transhipment hubs.
  • The port is significance for north-eastern states for enhancing connectivity between the neighboring countries.
  • This will reduce the distance, time and cost of logistics for transporting goods.
  • Currently, the road route between West Bengal to the northeast covers a distance of over 1,200 km.

Some of the benefits India hopes from this new and shorter route are:

  • An additional connectivity route that’s economical and environment-friendly
  • States like Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya to get access to a port for transportation of goods
  • Lend a fillip to multi-modal connectivity between India and Bangladesh
  • Ease stress on supply chains that have been disrupted by the pandemic
  • Important bridge for India to reach Southeast Asia, East Asia and beyond

Benefits for Bangladesh

  • Fresh investment flow in the logistics sector
  • New trade routes are expected to generate employment and give a fillip to transport, finance and insurance.
  • Generate revenue by way of administrative and port-related fees
  • Lead to economic transformation of cities such as Cumilla, Tamabil and Akhaura as well.


  • India has settled the four-decade-old land boundary issue and also showing positive attitude towards Teesta water sharing issue.
  • At this moment, it is normal that Bangladesh would show some liberality towards use of ports.

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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with Bangladesh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Land Boundary Agreement

Mains level : India-Bangladesh Relations

Union Home Minister has said that the Northeast States will be linked by road and railway to Bangladesh in a year or two under the historic Land Boundary Agreement (LBA).

Land Boundary Agreement (LBA)

  • India and Bangladesh have signed the LBA in 2014 to ensure proper connectivity in the region.
  • The operationalization of LBA lays the way for the exchange of 162 enclaves under the control of either country as per the 1974 pact.
  • Under the Agreement, 111 border enclaves will be transferred to Bangladesh in exchange for 51 that will become part of India.
  • The agreement settles an old land boundary dispute which dates back to colonial times as India transfers 111 border enclaves to Bangladesh in exchange for 51 enclaves.
  • It also settles the question of citizenship for over 50,000 people residing under these enclaves.

Why was such an agreement needed?

  • India and Bangladesh share a 4,096 km land boundary covering West Bengal, Assam, Tripura, Meghalaya and Mizoram.
  • This is the largest among the international boundaries that India shares with its neighbors.
  • On this boundary, some 50,000-100,000 people reside in so-called Chitmahals or Indo-Bangladeshi enclaves.
  • There are 102 Indian enclaves inside Bangladesh and 71 Bangladeshi ones inside India.
  • Inside those enclaves are also 28 counter-enclaves and one counter-counter-enclave, called Dahala Khagrabari.

The inception of the agreement

  • For the first time, a vision to solve this issue had been enshrined in the Indira-Mujib pact of 1972.
  • Accordingly, the India-Bangladesh LBA was signed between the two countries in 1974.
  • However, this agreement need ratification from the parliaments of both countries as it involved the exchange of the territories.
  • While Bangladesh had ratified it as back as 1974 only, it was not ratified by the Indian parliament till 2014.
  • The 119th Amendment Bill 2013 sought to ratify the land boundary agreement between the two countries.

Key features of the LBA

  • The LBA envisages a transfer of 111 Indian enclaves to Bangladesh in return for 51 enclaves to India.
  • The area transferred to India is less than that transferred by India to Bangladesh. In totality, India incurs a net loss in terms of area occupancy.
  • This remained a major concern of opposition from the north-eastern affected states and west Bengal.
  • Also, most of the area concerned is occupied by the tribals of the North-Eastern states and hence the swapping takes away their land rights leaving them more vulnerable.
  • Current Status of the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill has been passed by the Parliament of India on 7th May 2015.
  • While India will gain 510 acres of land, ten thousand acres of land will notionally go to Bangladesh.
  • This legislation will redraw India’s boundary with Bangladesh by exchanging enclaves in Assam, West Bengal, Tripura and Meghalaya.

Implications of the Agreement

  • It will secure the long-stranded boundary and enable to curb the illegal migration, smuggling and criminal acts across the border.
  • It would help those stateless citizens by granting them citizenship from their respective countries. It would help settle the boundary dispute at several points in Meghalaya, Tripura, Assam, and West Bengal.
  • It would improve the access to underdeveloped north-eastern states and would further enhance the developmental works in the region.
  • It would help to increase the connectivity with south-east Asia as part of India’s North-eastern policy.


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Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

India-Bangladesh Relations


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much

Mains level : Paper 2- India-Bangladesh relations

The article highlights the need for Indian leaders to respect the sentiments of Bangladesh by avoiding adverse comments during elections and recognition of Bangladesh’s importance for India.

 Diplomacy with Bangladesh

  • Long-standing bilateral problems: As a neighbour nearly surrounded on all territorial sides by India, there are the inevitable bilateral problems of long duration.
  • Such problems include a perennially favourable balance of trade for India, drought and flood in the 54 transboundary rivers flowing from India to Bangladesh, and the smuggling of goods and vulnerable human beings across the approximately 4,100 kilometre land border.
  • Cultural ties with India: There are several sections who regard their Bengali roots and traditions as being of equal validity as their religious affiliation, and treasure the linguistic and cultural ties with adjacent India.
  • India’s expectations: For India’s attentions and support, India’s expectations are that a neighbour will keep India’s concerns in mind when devising and pursuing its policies.

Steps taken to consolidate the bilateral ties

  • Bangladesh has successfully dealt with Muslim fundamentalist terrorists.
  • Bangladesh has also controlled the Northeast militant movements sheltering in Bangladesh.
  • This has facilitated the pacification of India’s Northeast.
  • Bangladesh facilitated a considerable degree of connectivity between India and its Northeast by land, river and the use of Bangladeshi ports.
  • Indian investments in Bangladesh have been encouraged.
  • There are at least 100,000 Indian nationals now living and working in that country.
  • For economic integration along with free movement of commerce and capital, the movement of persons on the lines of Nepal and Bhutan will have to be considered.

Consider the question “To a certain degree both India and Bangladesh depend on each other for security and stability. In light of this, take an overview of the consolidation of the bilateral ties between the two countries and discuss the issues that need to be addressed between the two countries.”


Responsible individuals on both sides of the border, whether in government or the Opposition, must be actively discouraged from words and actions detrimental to the consolidation of the existing cordiality.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Currency swap between Bangladesh and Sri Lanka


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Currency Swap

Mains level : Bangladesh economic growth

Bangladesh’s central bank has approved a $200 million currency swap facility to Sri Lanka.

Practice question for mains:

Q. What are Currency Swaps? Discuss the efficacy of Currency Swap Agreements for liberalizing bilateral trade.

What is a Currency Swap?

  • In this context, a currency swap is effectively a loan that Bangladesh will give to Sri Lanka in dollars, with an agreement that the debt will be repaid with interest in Sri Lankan rupees.
  • For Sri Lanka, this is cheaper than borrowing from the market, and a lifeline as is it struggles to maintain adequate forex reserves even as repayment of its external debts looms.
  • The period of the currency swap will be specified in the agreement.

A helping hand for SL

  • Bangladesh Bank, the central bank, has in principle approved a $200 million currency swap agreement with Sri Lanka.
  • Dhaka decided to extend the facility after a request by Sri Lankan PM Mahinda Rajapaksa to Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina.
  • It will help Colombo tide over its foreign exchange crisis, according to media reports from Bangladesh, quoting the bank’s spokesman.
  • Sri Lanka, staring at an external debt repayment schedule of $4.05 million this year, is in urgent need of foreign exchange.

An unusual move

  • Bangladesh has not been viewed so far as a provider of financial assistance to other countries.
  • It has been among the most impoverished countries of the world, and still receives billions of dollars in financial aid.
  • But over the last two decades, its economy has pulled itself up literally by the bootstraps, and in 2020, was the fastest growing in South Asia.
  • Bangladesh’s economy grew by 5.2 percent in 2020 and is expected to grow by 6.8 percent in 2021.
  • The country has managed to pull millions out of poverty. Its per capita income just overtook India’s.

A break in monopoly

  • This may be the first time that Bangladesh is extending a helping hand to another country, so this is a landmark of sorts.
  • It is also the first time that Sri Lanka is borrowing from a SAARC country other than India.
  • The presumption was that only India, as the regional group’s largest economy, could do this.
  • The Bangladesh-Sri Lanka arrangement shows that is no longer valid.

Why didn’t SL approach India?

  • Last year, it requested for a $1 billion credit swap, and separately, a moratorium on debts that the country has to repay to India.
  • But India-Sri Lanka relations have been tense over Colombo’s decision to cancel a valued container terminal project at Colombo Port.
  • India put off the decision, but Colombo no longer has the luxury of time.

Is SL in a crisis?

  • With the tourism industry destroyed since the 2019 Easter attacks, Sri Lanka had lost one of its top foreign exchange pullers even before the pandemic.
  • The tea and garment industries have also been hit by the pandemic affecting exports.
  • Remittances increased in 2020, but are not sufficient to pull Sri Lanka out of its crisis.
  • The country is already deep in debt to China. According to media reports, Sri Lanka owes China up to $5 billion.

What about the previous swap facility that India gave Sri Lanka?

  • Last July, the RBI did extend a $400 million credit swap facility to Sri Lanka, which the Central Bank of Sri Lanka settled in February. The arrangement was not extended.
  • RBI has a framework under which it can offer credit swap facilities to SAARC countries within an overall corpus of $2 billion.
  • According to RBI, the SAARC currency swap facility came into operation in November 2012 with the aim of providing to smaller countries in the region.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Teesta Water Sharing Deal


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Teesta River

Mains level : Teesta dispute

PM while on his tour of Bangladesh assured his best to ink the long-awaited deal over the Teesta and other common rivers. On at least two occasions—2011 and 2017—Bangladesh and India came close to signing a deal on the Teesta.

Teesta River

  • Teesta River is a 315 km long river that rises in the eastern Himalayas, flows through the Indian states of Sikkim and West Bengal through Bangladesh and enters the Bay of Bengal.
  • It is a tributary of the Brahmaputra (known as Jamuna in Bangladesh), flowing through India and Bangladesh.
  • It originates in the Himalayas near Chunthang, Sikkim and flows to the south through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh.
  • Originally, it continued southward to empty directly into the Padma River but around 1787 the river changed its course to flow eastward to join the Jamuna river.
  • The Teesta Barrage dam helps to provide irrigation for the plains between the upper Padma and the Jamuna.

What is the dispute about?

  • The point of contention between India and Bangladesh is mainly the lean season flow in the Teesta draining into Bangladesh.
  • The river covers nearly the entire floodplains of Sikkim while draining 2,800 sq km of Bangladesh, governing the lives of hundreds of thousands of people.
  • For West Bengal, Teesta is equally important, considered the lifeline of half-a-dozen districts in North Bengal.
  • Bangladesh has sought an “equitable” distribution of Teesta waters from India, on the lines of the Ganga Water Treaty of 1996, but to no avail.
  • The failure to ink a deal had its fallout on the country’s politics, putting the ruling party of PM Sheikh Hasina in a spot.

The hydrological linkages between India and Bangladesh are a product of geography and a matter of shared history. Discuss this statement in line with the Teesta water sharing dispute.

The deal

  • Following a half-hearted deal in 1983, when a nearly equal division of water was proposed, the countries hit a roadblock. The transient agreement could not be implemented.
  • Talks resumed after the Awami League returned to power in 2008 and the former Indian PM Manmohan Singh visited Dhaka in 2011.
  • In 2015, PM Modi’s visit to Dhaka generated more ebullient lines: deliberations were underway involving all the stakeholders to conclude the agreement as soon as possible.

Issues from the Indian side

  • It remains an unfinished project and one of the key stakeholders — West Bengal CM is yet to endorse the deal.
  • Her objection is connected to “global warming. Many of the glaciers on the Teesta basin have retreated.
  • The importance of the flow and the seasonal variation of this river is felt during the lean season (from October to April/May) as the average flow is about 500 million cubic metres (MCM) per month.
  • The CM opposed an arrangement in 2011, by which India would get 42.5% and Bangladesh 37.5% of the water during the lean season, and the plan was shelved.

Why does it matter?

  • India witnessed a surge in the insurgency in the northeast during the rule of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) from 2001 to 2005.
  • Bangladesh allegedly sheltered insurgents engaged in anti-India activities, and nearly all the Home Ministry-level talks ended without agreement, and India had to increase the security budget for the northeast.
  • In a couple of years of assuming office in 2008, the Awami League targeted insurgent camps and handed over the rebels to India.
  • As India’s security establishment heaved a sigh of relief, the relationship improved on multiple fronts.

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


Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Gandhi Peace Prize


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Gandhi Peace Prize

Mains level : NA

The Culture Ministry has announced that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the late Sultan of Oman, Qaboos bin Said Al Said, would be awarded the Gandhi Peace Prize for 2020 and 2019 respectively.

Note the features of the award such as prize, the composition of jury etc.

Gandhi Peace Prize

  • The International Gandhi Peace Prize, named after Mahatma Gandhi, is awarded annually by the Government of India.
  • As a tribute to the ideals espoused by Gandhi, the GoI launched the International Gandhi Peace Prize in 1995 on the occasion of the 125th birth anniversary of Mahatma Gandhi.
  • This is an annual award given to individuals and institutions for their contributions towards social, economic and political transformation through non-violence and other Gandhian methods.

Its features

  • The award carries ₹1 crore (US$140,000) in cash, convertible in any currency in the world, a plaque and a citation.
  • It is open to all persons regardless of nationality, race, creed or gender.
  • A jury consisting of the PM of India, the Leader of the Opposition in the Lok Sabha, the Chief Justice of India, Speaker of the Lok Sabha and one other eminent person decides the awardees each year.
  • Ordinarily, only proposals coming from competent persons invited to nominate are considered.
  • However, a proposal is not taken as invalid for consideration by the jury merely on the ground of not having emanated from competent persons.

Information about the awardees

(1) Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (1920-1975)

  • The Prize recognizes the immense and unparalleled contribution of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in inspiring the liberation of Bangladesh.
  • It acknowledges the contribution in bringing stability to a nation born out of strife, laying the foundation for the close and fraternal relations between India and Bangladesh and promoting peace and non-violence in the Indian subcontinent.

(2)Sultan Qaboos Bin Said (1940-2020)

  • Sultan Qaboos was a visionary leader whose twin policy of moderation and mediation in addressing international issues won him praise and respect across the globe.
  • He played an important role in supporting peace efforts in various regional disputes and conflicts. H.M. Sultan Qaboos was the architect of the special ties between India and Oman.
  • He had studied in India and always maintained a special relationship with India.
  • Under his leadership, India and Oman became strategic partners and our mutually beneficial, comprehensive partnership strengthened and scaled newer heights.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[pib] Maitri Setu between India and Bangladesh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Maitri Bridge

Mains level : Recent trends in India-Bangladesh ties

PM will inaugurate ‘Maitri Setu’ between India and Bangladesh tomorrow.

Maitri Setu

  • The bridge ‘Maitri Setu’ has been built over the Feni River which flows between the Indian boundary in Tripura State and Bangladesh.
  • The 1.9 Km long bridge joins Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh.
  • The construction was taken up by the National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Ltd.

Try this PYQ:

Q. Recently, which of the following States has explored the possibility of constructing an artificial inland port to be connected to the sea by a long navigational channel?

(a) Andhra Pradesh

(b) Chhattisgarh

(c) Karnataka

(d) Rajasthan

Significance of the bridge

  • With this inauguration, Tripura is set to become the ‘Gateway of North East’ with access to Chittagong Port of Bangladesh, which is just 80 kms from Sabroom.
  • The name ‘Maitri Setu’ symbolizes growing bilateral relations and friendly ties between India and Bangladesh.

About Feni River

  • Feni is a river in southeastern Bangladesh and Tripura.
  • It is a trans-boundary river with an ongoing dispute about water rights.
  • It originates in the South Tripura district and flows through Sabroom town and then enters Bangladesh.
  • The question of sharing the waters of the river between India and Pakistan was first discussed in 1958.

Other associated projects

Sabroom Check Post

  • PM will lay the foundation stone for setting up an Integrated Check Post at Sabroom.
  • It will help ease the movement of goods and passengers between the two countries provide new market opportunities for products of North-East states and assist the seamless movement of passengers to and from India and Bangladesh.
  • The project is being taken up by the Land Ports Authority of India.

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?

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[pib] Haldibari – Chilahati Rail Link


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the railway line

Mains level : Recent trends in India-Bangladesh ties

Ours and Bangladeshi PM has jointly inaugurated a railway link between Haldibari in India and Chilahati in Bangladesh.

Examine the opportunities and challenges in the adoption PPP model by the Indian Railways.

Haldibari – Chilahati Rail Link

  • This rail link being made functional is the 5th rail link between India and Bangladesh.
  • It was operational till 1965. This was part of the Broad Gauge main route from Kolkata to Siliguri during partition.
  • Trains travelling to Assam and North Bengal continued to travel through the then East Pakistan territory even after partition.
  • For example, a train from Sealdah to Siliguri used to enter East Pakistan territory from Darshana and exit using the Haldibari – Chilahati link.
  • However, the war of 1965 effectively cut off all the railway links between India and the then East Pakistan.
  • So on the Eastern Sector of India partition of the railways thus happened in 1965.  So the importance of the reopening of this rail link can be well imagined.

A British-era legacy

  • The railway network of India and Bangladesh are mostly inherited from British Era Indian Railways.
  • After partition in 1947, 7 rail links were operational between India and the then East Pakistan (up to 1965). Presently, there are 4 operational rail links between India and Bangladesh.
  • They are, Petrapole (India) – Benapole (Bangladesh),  Gede (India) – Darshana (Bangladesh), Singhabad (India)-Rohanpur (Bangladesh),  Radhikapur (India)–Birol (Bangladesh).

Benefits offered by the rail

  • The rail link will be beneficial for transit into Bangladesh from Assam and West Bengal.
  • It will enhance rail network access to the main ports, dry ports, and land borders to support the growth in regional trade and to encourage economic and social development of the region.
  • Common people and businessman of both countries will be able to reap the benefit of both goods and passenger traffic, once passenger trains are planned in this route.
  • With this new link coming into operation,  tourists from Bangladesh will be able to visit places like Darjeeling, Sikkim, Dooars apart from countries like Nepal, Bhutan etc easily.
  • Economic activities of these South Asian countries will also be benefitted from this new rail link.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Opportunities for India in Bangladesh’s economic success


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : BBIN, SAARC

Mains level : Paper 2- Economic progress of Bangladesh and its implications for the subcontinent

Bangladesh is expected to cross India in terms per capita income. This speaks volumes about the achievements of Bangladesh when contrasted with Pakistan. At the same time, it has several implications for the region. The elaborates on such implications.

What other countries can learn from Bangladesh

  • The International Monetary Fund’s latest World Economic Outlook published recently predicts that Bangladesh’s per capita GDP will overtake that of India this year.
  • The projected difference is rather small — $1,888 to $1,877 — and unlikely to last beyond this year.
  • International development institutions are convinced that the rest of the subcontinent and developing countries around the world can learn much from Dhaka’s experience — the so-called “Bangladesh model”.

5 Implications for the region

1) Rising global interest in the subcontinent

  • Rapid and sustained economic growth in Bangladesh has begun to alter the world’s perception of the subcontinent.
  • India and Pakistan dominated the region and other countries were considered small.
  • But Bangladesh was far from being small, demographically it’s  the eighth-largest nation in the world.
  • The economic rise of Bangladesh is changing some of that.

2) Changing economic weights of Bangladesh and Pakistan

  • This year, Bangladesh’s GDP is expected to reach about $320 billion.
  • The IMF did not have the 2020 numbers from Pakistan to report but in 2019, Pakistan’s economy was at $275 billion.
  • The IMF suggests that Pakistan’s economy will contract further this year.
  • Bangladesh has controlled its population growth and Pakistan has not.
  • Dhaka has a grip over its inflation and Islamabad does not.
  • There is no question that Pakistan’s negative geopolitical weight in the world will endure.
  • But Bangladesh’s growing economic muscle will help Dhaka steadily accumulate geopolitical salience in the years ahead.

3) Accelerate regional integration

  • Bangladesh’s economic growth can accelerate regional integration in the eastern subcontinent.
  • The region’s prospects for a collective economic advance are rather dim.
  • Due to Pakistan’s opposition to economic cooperation with India and its support for cross-border terror, the main regional forum for the subcontinent, the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (Saarc), is dormant.
  • Instead of merely praying for the revival of Saarc, Delhi could usefully focus on the BBIN.
  • BBIN is sub-regional forum among Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal, activated in the middle of last decade — has not advanced fast enough.
  • It is time for Delhi and Dhaka to take a fresh look at the forum and find ways to widen the scope and pace of BBIN activity.
  • Meanwhile, there is growing interest in Bhutan and Nepal for economic integration with Bangladesh.

4) Increasing importance of Bangladesh in geopolitics of Indo-Pacific

  • The economic success of Bangladesh is drawing attention from a range of countries in East Asia, including China, Japan, South Korea, and Singapore.
  • The US, which traditionally focused on India and Pakistan, has woken up to the possibilities in Bangladesh.
  • Bangladesh does not want to get into the fight between Beijing and Washington, but the great power wooing of Dhaka is bound to intensify in the new geopolitics of the Indo-Pacific.

5) Development of India’s eastern and north-eastern states could accelerate

  • Bangladesh’s economy is now one-and-a-half times as large as that of West Bengal; better integration between the two would provide a huge boost for eastern India.
  • Also, connectivity between India’s landlocked Northeast and Bangladesh would provide a boost to the development of north-eastern states.
  • Delhi and Dhaka are eager to promote greater cooperation, but there has been little political enthusiasm in Kolkata.
  • In Assam, the issue of migration continues to impose major political constraints.

Way forward

  • Parliamentary approval of the boundary settlement in 2015, despite the opposition, was a step in the right direction from India.
  • So was the acceptance of the 2014 international arbitration award on the maritime boundary dispute between India and Bangladesh.
  • But the positive dynamic surrounding the bilateral relationship acquired a negative tone in the second amidst the poisonous rhetoric in India around the Citizenship Amendment Act.
  • There is much room for course correction in Delhi and to shift the focus from legacy issues to future possibilities.


Both the countries need to jointly develop and pursue with Dhaka an ambitious framework for shared prosperity.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

China twist in Teesta Challenge


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Teesta River

Mains level : Recent trends in India-Bangladesh ties

Bangladesh is discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river. These discussions with China come at a time when India is particularly wary about China following the standoff in Ladakh.

Try this question from our AWE initiative:

Teesta River has become an important factor in India – Bangladesh relations. What are the hindrances in successful implementation of river water sharing agreement and what are its possible implications on India-Bangladesh relations? What could be the possible solutions?

Teesta Project

  • The project is aimed at managing the river basin efficiently, controlling floods, and tackling the water crisis in summers.
  • India and Bangladesh have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over water-sharing in the Teesta.

How has the Teesta dispute progressed?

  • The two countries were on the verge of signing a water-sharing pact in September 2011, when PM Manmohan Singh was going to visit Bangladesh.
  • But, West Bengal CM objected to it, and the deal was scuttled.
  • After the regime change in 2014, the government hoped that it could reach a “fair solution” on the Teesta through cooperation between central and state governments.
  • Five years later, the Teesta issue remains unresolved.

Trends in India’s relationship with Bangladesh

  • New Delhi has had a robust relationship with Dhaka, carefully cultivated since 2008, especially with the Sheikh Hasina government at the helm.
  • Security: India has benefited from its security ties with Bangladesh, whose crackdown against anti-India outfits has helped the Indian government maintain peace in the eastern and Northeast states.
  • Trade: Bangladesh has benefited from its economic and development partnership. Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia.
  • Bilateral trade has grown steadily over the last decade: India’s exports to Bangladesh in 2018-19 stood at $9.21 billion, and imports from Bangladesh at $1.04 billion.
  • Visas:India also grants 15 to 20 lakh visas every year to Bangladesh nationals for medical treatment, tourism, work, and just entertainment.

Recent irritants in ties

  • There have been recent irritants in the relationship.
  • These include the proposed countrywide National Register of Citizens (NRC) and the Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) passed in December last year.
  • Bangladesh had insisted that while the CAA and the proposed nationwide NRC were “internal matters” of India, the CAA move were “not necessary”.

Chinese affinity with Bangladesh

  • China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports.
  • In 2019, the trade between the two countries was $18 billion and the imports from China commanded the lion’s share. The trade is heavily in favour of China.
  • Recently, China declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh. The concession flowed from China’s duty-free, quota-free programme for the Least Developed Countries.
  • This move has been widely welcomed in Bangladesh, with the expectation that Bangladesh exports to China will increase.
  • China has promised around $30 billion worth of financial assistance to Bangladesh.
  • Additionally, Bangladesh’s strong defence ties with China make the situation complicated. China is the biggest arms supplier to Bangladesh and it has been a legacy issue — after its liberation.
  • Recently, Bangladesh purchased two Ming class submarines from China.

India’s engagement post CAA

  • Over the last five months, India and Bangladesh have cooperated on pandemic-related moves.
  • Hasina supported Modi’s call for a regional emergency fund for fighting Covid-19 and declared a contribution of $1.5 million in March 2020. India has also provided medical aid to Bangladesh.
  • The two countries have also cooperated in railways, with India giving 10 locomotives to Bangladesh.
  • The first trial run for trans-shipment of Indian cargo through Bangladesh to Northeast states under a pact on the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports took place in July.
  • Bangladesh gave its readiness to collaborate in the development of a Covid-19 vaccine, including its trial, and looks forward to early, affordable availability of the vaccine when ready.

Among other issues

  • The two sides agreed that Implementation of projects should be done in a timely manner and that greater attention is required to development projects in Bangladesh under the Indian Lines of Credit.
  • Bangladesh sought the return of the Tablighi Jamaat members impacted by the lockdown in India.
  • Bangladesh requested for the urgent reopening of visa issuance from the Indian High Commission in Dhaka, particularly since many Bangladeshi patients need to visit India.
  • India was also requested to reopen travel through Benapole-Petrapole land port which has been halted by the West Bengal government in the wake of the pandemic.

Way forward

  • While the Teesta project is important and urgent from India’s point of view, it will be difficult to address it before the West Bengal elections due next year.
  • What Delhi can do is to address other issues of concern, which too are challenging.
  • Now, the test will be if India can implement all its assurances in a time-bound manner.
  • Or else, the latent anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh, which has been revived after India’s CAA -NRC push can permanently damage the historic ties.

Back2Basics: Teesta Water Dispute

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[pib] New ports and routes added under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit between India and Bangladesh


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Protocol on Inland Water Transit

Mains level : India's north-east connectivity through Bangladesh

India and Bangladesh have opened a new chapter in regional connectivity by expanding the scope of inland water transport mechanism that would enable to boost trade in the region.

Note all the ports mentioned in the newscard and the image. Also, keep a tab on river systems of North east India.

What is the news?

  • The Standing Committee on the Protocol and the Shipping Secretary level Talks are the institutional arrangements to discuss and make the Protocol more effective.
  • During the latest discussions key decisions were taken on the extension of protocol routes, the inclusion of new routes and declaration of new Ports of Call to facilitate trade between the two countries.

New routes

The number of Indo Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) routes is being increased from 8 to 10 and new locations are also added to the existing routes: –

1) Inclusion of Sonamura- Daudkhandi stretch of Gumti river (93 Km) as IBP route:

  • It will improve the connectivity of Tripura and adjoining States with Indian and Bangladesh`s economic centres and will help the hinterland of both the countries.

2) Rajshahi-Dhulian-Rajshahi Routes and its extension up to Aricha (270 km)

  • It will help the augmentation of infrastructure in Bangladesh as it would reduce the transportation cost of stone chips/aggregate to northern part of Bangladesh through this route. It will also decongest the Land Custom Stations on both sides.

Ports of Call

  • Port of call means an intermediate stop for a ship on its scheduled journey for cargo operation or taking on supplies or fuel.
  • The following are existing Ports of Call in the two countries on Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route:
India Kolkata Haldia Pandu Karimganj Silghat Dhubri
Bangladesh Narayanganj Khulna Mongla Sirajganj Ashuganj Pangaon
  • Newly added: Two more extended Ports of Call have been added
  • Inclusion of Jogigopha in India and Bahadurabad in Bangladesh as new Port of Call will provide connectivity to Meghalaya, Assam and Bhutan.

About the Protocol on Inland Water Transit

  • Bangladesh and India have a long-standing and time-tested Protocol on Transit and Trade through inland waterways of both countries.
  • This Protocol, which was first signed in 1972 (immediately after independence of Bangladesh), is a reflection of shared history and friendship between the two countries.
  • It was last renewed in 2015 for five years with a provision for its automatic renewal for a further period of five years giving long term assurance to various stakeholders.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Bangladesh fares better


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Not much.

Mains level : Paper 2-Bangladesh-India relations issue-illegal migrants, relations after passage of CAA.


In the last decade, on a range of social development indicators, Bangladesh has fared better than India. So it is highly unlikely that Bangladeshis would want to leave their cherished homeland for India.

Comparison with Bangladesh on the development indicators

  • Growth rate: This year Bangladesh’s economic growth rate has surpassed India.
  • Social development indicators: In the last decade, on a range of social development indicators, from infant mortality to immunisation, Bangladesh has fared better.
  • India lagging behind the neighbours in quality of life: Undoubtedly, since economic liberalisation, Indians have grown much richer than Bangladeshis, but in terms of quality of life our neighbour largely outshines us.
    • India trails across several (not all) composite indices from the latest Global Hunger Index to the Gender Development Index.
    • Even on the 2019 World Happiness Index, Bangladeshis score better.
    • While, technically, on the Human Development Index, Bangladesh scores marginally less, this is largely because the index merges income and non-income parameters.

How India’s neighbour forged ahead in social development?

  • Dissolving the inequality and bridging the social and gender distances: In the case of Bangladesh, the most prominent factor has been-
    • Removing inequality: The country’s ability to dissolve inequalities through sustained investment in public services and-
    • Bridging the social distance: The bridging of social and gender distances.
  • Development in Healthcare: Till the Eighties, Indians lived longer than most South Asians.
    • But now, despite being poorer, an average Bangladeshi female child at birth can expect to live for four years more.
    • Fewer Bangladeshi children also die before their fifth birthday.
    • Community clinics: The formula for this success has been relatively simple. Since 2009, the government has constructed well-stocked “community clinics” in every third village.
    • Home delivery of medicines: For four decades, committed cadres of government health workers have delivered medicines and family planning to women in the comfort of their homes.
  • Achievement in Education: On the education front, even though India has a demographic dividend, Bangladesh has achieved a marginal advantage in youth literacy.
    • Further, across income quintiles, Bangladeshi girls have higher educational attainments than boys.
    • Free textbooks: The government provides free textbooks in the government, non-government (NGO) and madrassa-run schools promptly at the start of the academic year, without the chronic delays which plague India.
    • The greater proportion of expenditure on educations: Economist Jean Drèze has aptly described India as amongst the world champions in social underspending. In contrast, Bangladesh despite being a poorer neighbour since the Nineties has spent a greater proportion of government expenditure on education and healthcare.
    • The fruits of these sustained investments have reaped rich dividends.
  • Nutrition: On the nutrition front too, Bangladesh fares better.
    • Thirty-three per cent of Bangladeshi children are underweight compared to India’s 36 per cent as per the demographic health surveys.
    • Similarly, a greater proportion of Indian children are also stunted.
    • Further, the inequality between wealth quintiles is starker in India.
    • A few years ago, the Bangladeshi government, with the help of NGOs, hired a unique cadre of “Pushti Apas” (nutrition sisters) who went door-to-door in their social endeavours.
    • Unlike the Indian Poshan Abhiyan’s focus on vegetarian foods, they did not shy away from teaching mothers to feed growing infants a balanced diet with mashed fish, meat and eggs.
  • Sanitation: Even at the turn of the millennium, at least 80 per cent of Bangladeshi homes had toilets, even if rudimentary.
    • By 2016, 96 per cent of households and 80 per cent of schools in had proper sanitation.
    • Apart from the typical Islamic emphasis on hygiene, local governments not only provide cement rings for free to poor families but they also regularly spread messages through community group discussions, mosques, mass media and schools.
    • Local entrepreneurs have also ensured that with the innovation of plastic pans, the cheapest toilets cost less than Chinese mobile phones.
  • Women empowerment: Bangladeshi women are also increasingly assertive.
    • The 2006 World Bank Survey on Gender Norms found a growing trend of “educational hypogamy”.
    • In sharp contrast to India’s decline, Bangladeshi women also have higher labour force participation.


  • In comparison, India is grappling with the worst unemployment levels in 45 years and sinking economic growth rates. Government ministers should pull up their own socks, instead. Berating our neighbours with the false bogey of illegal immigrants, in light of the Citizenship Amendment Act, is nothing but an unjustifiable distraction. Instead, it would be far wiser for the Indian government to humbly learn the recipe of South Asian success to improve the lives of citizens from the impressive “Shonar Bangla”.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[pib] Exercise SAMPRITI-IX


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Exercise SAMPRITI

Mains level : India-Bangladesh Strategic Relations

As part of the ongoing Indo-Bangladesh defence cooperation, a joint military training exercise SAMPRITI-IX is being conducted in Meghalaya.


  • It is an important bilateral defence cooperation endeavour between India and Bangladesh and will be the ninth edition of the exercise which is hosted alternately by both countries.
  • During the joint military exercise SAMPRITI-IX, a Command Post Exercise (CPX) and a Field Training Exercise (FTX) will be conducted.
  • For both the CPX and FTX, a scenario where both nations are working together in a Counter-Terrorism environment will be simulated under the UN Charter.
  • The FTX curriculum is progressively planned where the participants will initially get familiar with each other’s organizational structure and tactical drills.
  • The training will culminate with a final validation exercise in which troops of both armies will jointly practice a Counter Terrorist Operation in a controlled and simulated environment.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

India-Bangladesh Joint River Commission (JRC)


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : About the JRC

Mains level : Outstanding water sharing issues with Bangladesh

Bangladesh has not sent a delegation for the Joint River Commission (JRC) meeting with India that was scheduled to be held.  This deferral is seen as a dissent to the ongoing CAA debate.

About the JRC

  • An Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) is functioning since 1972.
  • It was established with a view to maintaining liaison in order to ensure the most effective joint effort in maximizing the benefits from common river systems.
  • The JRC is headed by Water Resources Ministers of both the countries.
  • Discussions have been continuing with Bangladesh for sharing of waters of Teesta & Feni rivers besides other six common rivers namely; Manu, Muhri, Khowai, Gumti, Jaldhaka and Torsa.


  • India and Bangladesh share 54 rivers. Such technical level meetings are to be held regularly.
  • But this deviance has cast a shadow over the agreement to share the waters of the Feni river that was taken up during the visit of PM Sheikh Hasina.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[pib] Ports of Call


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Ports of Call, BIMSTEC

Mains level : PIWT and T

The Minister of State for Shipping has informed that under the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWT&T) between India and Bangladesh.

What are Ports of Call?

  • Port of call means an intermediate stop for a ship on its scheduled journey for cargo operation or taking on supplies or fuel.
  • The following are existing Ports of Call in the two countries on Indo-Bangladesh Protocol (IBP) route:
India Kolkata Haldia Pandu Karimganj Silghat Dhubri
Bangladesh Narayanganj




Mongla Sirajganj Ashuganj



About the ports

  • Port of Mongla is declared as Port of Call under PIWT&T and Chattogram port is not part of PIWT&T.
  • Mongla and Chattogram are declared as Ports of Call under the “Coastal Shipping Agreement” between India and Bangladesh.


BIMSTEC Coastal Shipping Agreement

  • It aims to facilitate coastal shipping (instead of deep-sea shipping) in the region boosting trade between the member countries.
  • It applies to coastal shipping- shipping within 20 nautical miles of the coastline. Coastal shipping requires smaller vessels compared to deep sea shipping.
  • The agreement could help make movement of cargo between member countries faster, less costly, and more environments friendly.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[pib] Feni River


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Feni River

Mains level : Outstanding water sharing issues with Bangladesh

  • The Union Cabinet has given its approval for the MoU between India and Bangladesh on withdrawal of 1.82 cusec of water from Feni River by India for drinking water supply scheme for Sabroom town Tripura.

Feni River

  • Feni River is a river in southeastern Bangladesh.
  • It is a trans-boundary river with an ongoing dispute about water rights.
  • The Feni River originates in South Tripura district and flows through Sabroom town and then enters Bangladesh.
  • Muhuri River, also called Little Feni, from Noakhali District joins it near its mouth.
  • The river is navigable by small boats as far as Ramgarh, about 80 kilometres (50 mi) upstream.

Why such agreement?

  • The question of sharing of the waters of the river between India and Pakistan was first discussed in 1958.
  • As on date, there is no water-sharing agreement on Feni River between India and Bangladesh.
  • The present supply of drinking water to Sabroom town is inadequate. The ground water in this region has high iron content.
  • Implementation of this scheme would benefit over 7000 population of Sabroom town.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[oped of the day] Delhi needs to do more to protect and deepen ties with Dhaka


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level : Nothing much

Mains level : India - Bangladesh

Op-ed of the day is the most important editorial of the day. This will cover a key issue that came in the news and for which students must pay attention. This will also take care of certain key issues students have to cover in respective GS papers.


Sheikh Hasina made a four-day official visit to India. 

Joint statement

  • The joint statement contained mutual appreciation for steps taken in various fields and outlines of what is intended in the use of ports and connectivity, water sharing, power, gas, education, culture, defence. 
  • For Bangladesh, the reference to the plight of the “forcibly displaced” persons of Rakhine in Myanmar is a positive development. 
  • The joint statement lacked the vision of the one issued after Hasina’s visit in 2010. The effort then was to raise the relationship after a dark period of suspicion and hostility. 
  • Today, the relationship has matured greatly and it is possible to undertake projects that underline continuity and interdependence. 

From the meet

  • Bangladesh PM articulated points critical for the future welfare of South Asia.
  • To move beyond the majority-minority mindset… Pluralism has been the strength. To celebrate South Asia’s diversities in religion, ethnicity and language.
  • To manage geopolitical realities through friendship and collaboration. To balance regional political realities for the interest of people.

Bangladesh – internal picture

  • In the months preceding general elections in Bangladesh in 2018, members of the BNP visited India to persuade public opinion on two counts. 
    • The party had abjured its anti-Indian posture and, if re-elected, would pursue a path of cooperation with India. 
    • Public opinion in Bangladesh is turning rapidly against the Awami League for its misgovernance.
  • After two terms in power, there would be a degree of public apathy towards the Awami League government. 
  • There’s also a steady increase in the GDP, improvement in all parameters of economic activity as also law and order. 
  • The committed pushback against jihadi activities supported from foreign shores. 

Trouble in India-Bangladesh relations

  • The National Register of Citizens has been a worry for Bangladesh. Given the impoverished and uneducated status of those affected, it is questionable how the levels of appeal can be accessed. 
  • The NRC, to be extended to all of India may eventually fall-out on Bangladesh and Indo-Bangladesh relations.
  • What Bangladesh delivered
    • The Ganga Waters Agreement had removed an intractable problem permanently vitiating the relationship. 
    • The Land and Maritime Boundary Agreements were of mutual benefit.
    • Bangladesh has comprehensively addressed Indian concerns with regard to support to militant elements in the North-east
  • India 
    • It continues to be unable to deliver on Teesta
    • The Ganga Barrage project in Bangladesh carries economic advantages as well as political overtones but has not been addressed with suitable despatch by India to enable Bangladesh to obtain external funding. 
    • Delay in implementation of the BBIN is inexplicable.
    • Lastly, the hate-mongering and incidents of lynching of Muslims in India can affect public perceptions. 

Way ahead

  • India should not be perceived as committed to the Awami League. 
  • India’s perceived quasi-support to the BNP prior to the 2001 elections and its consequences should not be forgotten.
  • India’s internal aberrations should not derail the one substantive relationship we have developed in the neighbourhood.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Exercise Mainamati Maitree

Mains level:  Not Much


  • Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) has concluded a three-day ‘Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019’ as a part of ‘Confidence Building Measures’ between the two border guards.

Mainamati Maitree Exercise 2019

  • The exercise was named after a hill range situated 8 km west of Comilla Township in Bangladesh, which is home to an ancient Buddhist archaeological site in the region.
  • The main objective of this exercise was to plan and conduct anti-smuggling and anti-criminal activity related operations with ultimate aim of achieving better joint operational efficiency and border management in the area.
  • A series of joint exercises and exchanges are being held in the Tripura-Bangla frontier illegal incursions by Rohingya people.

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[op-ed snap] The Centre moves East


Mains Paper 2: IR| India and its neighborhood- relations

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: SAARC, BIMSTEC, BCIM.

Mains level: The newscard discusses impact of B’desh election result on the sub-continent, in a brief manner.


  • Sheikh Hasina’s party, which leads the Grand Alliance, has romped back to power for an unprecedented fourth term in office.
  • The general election has given the Grand Alliance, or, more specifically, the Awami League, a huge majority in the Jatiyo Sangshad, the country’s Parliament, to a point where no effective Opposition is in sight.


What is India’s interest in the Bangladesh elections? Given India was an active player in the birth of this 47-year-old nation, Delhi has always looked out for Dhaka.

For India, Bangladesh is important for numerous reasons.

  1. Connectivity
  • Perhaps on top of the list is connectivity between India’s mainland and the crucial northeast, which is part of India’s “Look East” Policy.
  • The only connection between India’s mainland and the northeast was the Chicken’s Neck – a narrow strip of land that has always been a huge security concern. Snap the chicken’s neck and a huge part of the country is cut off.
  • India and Bangladesh have signed several pacts, so India can actually send goods and passengers over land across Bangladesh, connecting Bengal to Tripura.
  • Chittagong port, too, is now open to Indian vessels and will ease supply of goods, meaning India is much more connected to the northeast than before.
  1. Security
  • The other part of ensuring the security of the northeast is by ensuring that Bangladesh does not become a shelter for its insurgents.
  • It had played a sterling role, flushing out northeastern terrorists from Bangladesh and even handing over the once-dreaded ULFA terrorist Anup Chetia to India.
  • The other big security concern for India is that Bangladesh should not turn into the frontline of Islamic terror in the southeast — something that looked possible in the early 2000s when the Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh, or the JMB, ruled the roost and its leaders like Bangla Bhai terrorised not just Bangladesh but India too. Bangladesh turned into a launchpad for Islamic terror activities in India.
  • It was Sheikh Hasina who proactively cracked down on groups like the JMB that had a free-run in the previous regime of Begum Khaleda Zia of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
  • India’s relationship with Bangladesh is also linked to its relationship with China. India does not want Bangladesh to become a pearl in China’s “String of Pearls” strategy to hem in India by using its neighbours.
  • Given Bangladesh’s GDP and economic growth, the Indian industry is taking a serious interest in investing in the country. Sheikh Hasina has helmed an economic upswing in the country which the industry hopes will continue.

Significance of this election

  • First, for the first time in a decade, all the political parties took part in the election (the Bangladesh Nationalist Party, or the BNP, boycotted the 2014 election). In other words, this time voting was based on an inclusive election.
  • Second, this was the first time a general election was held under a political governmentsince the fall of the Hussain Muhammad Ershad military regime in 1990.
  • The earlier stipulation of elections being supervised by a caretaker administration.
  • It stuck to the justified position that a government elected for five years cannot morally and logicallyhand over power to an unelected administration for three months before a new elected government comes into office.

Bangladesh transformation under the critical leadership of Sheikh Hasina

  • Bangladesh has emerged as one of the world’s fastest-growing economies. Its per capita income has doubled over the last decade. It is all set to leave the category of “least developed countries”.
  • Hasina’s ambition is to accelerate the annual economic growth rate from the current 7 per cent to nearly 10 per cent by the time Bangladesh celebrates its 50th birthday in 2021.

What does this economic transformation of Bangladesh mean for the Subcontinent as a whole?

  1. Economic model
  • It has begun to change the economic hierarchy in the region, by displacing Pakistan in the second spot.
  • The per capita income and aggregate GDP of Bangladesh are $1800 and $275 bn respectively, is now larger than that of Pakistan’s at about $1600 and $310 bn.
  • Thus, there is urging in Islamabad to adopt the “Bangladesh model” — where the focus is on economic development rather than political adventurism and promoting religious moderation instead of extremism.
  1. Shift in centre of gravity
  • It alters the balance within South Asia by tilting the region’s economic centre of gravity towards the east.
  • The economic advancement of Bangladesh helps lift up the whole of the eastern Subcontinent, including India’s Northeast as well as Bhutan and Nepal.
  • It had chosen the path of regional cooperation, i.e. helped found the SAARC in the mid-1980s, re-vitalisation of the BIMSTEC forum.
  • Bangladesh is also critical for the success of Beijing’s plans to integrate its Yunnan province with Myanmar, Bangladesh and eastern India.
  1. Peaceful resolution of territorial issues
  • Bangladesh have peacefully resolved its maritime territorial issues with India and Burma through arbitration.
  • That opens up significant room for maritime economic and security cooperation within the Bay of Bengal. That in turn will deepen the integration between eastern Subcontinent and Southeast Asia.

Maintaining Balance in the Foreign Policy

  1. In the field of foreign affairs, the government has based its approach to the outside world on pragmatism, thus successfully preserving a balance in Bangladesh’s relations with India, China and Russia.
  2. The government has also found appreciation from the international communityin its treatment of the Rohingya refugees nearly 1 million refugees have found shelter in Bangladesh following their expulsion from Myanmar.
  3. It has gone out of its way to ensure the safety of the refugees even as it tries, rather fitfully, to strike a deal with Myanmar on the return of the Rohingya.
  4. For China, the most desirable long-term outcome would be to manage its relations with Dhaka in such a manner that Indian anxieties are assuaged and a regional win-win framework linking China-Bangladesh-India is a possibility.

Way forward

  1. The current challenges for Hasina are to consolidate her domestic agenda and balance her country’s relations with India and China the neighboring giants.
  2. While India enabled the creation of Bangladesh, it is a complex relationshipwith a number of areas of discord, including illegal immigration.
  3. In the next five years, it will be the government’s responsibilityto go beyond an emphasis on economic progress to ensure rule of law and democracy, in the form of a properly functional Parliament, a free judiciary, and an efficient executive.
  4. The rise of Bangladesh and the expanding regional cooperation centred around it allows us to imagine a positive future for the Eastern subcontinent and its integration with the dynamic East Asian region.

With inputs from: NDTV

Foreign Policy Watch: India-Bangladesh

[op-ed snap]: Burden of Victory


Mains Paper 2: IR | Bilateral, regional & global groupings & agreements involving India &/or affecting India’s interests

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Nothing much

Mains level: India-Bangladesh bilateral relations.


  • Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina has won a fourth term in the just concluded elections, which makes her the longest serving head of government that the nearly 50-year-old country has known.

Details of the elections

  1. Awami League took 288 of the 300 elected seats in the 350-member JatiyaSangsad, the Bangladeshi Parliament, and as a result will get to nominate its candidates to most of the remaining seats, all of which are reserved for women.
  2. With just seven seats of its own, the Opposition Jatiya Oikiya Front has been wiped out.

Why Sheikh Hasina Won?

  • Economic progress:Despite all the troubles in Bangladesh, one reason why voters have reposed their trust in her for the third consecutive term — one term was in the ’90s — is because of the country’s economic progress which has provided jobs and in turn contributed to what are South Asia’s best social indicators.
  • Weak opposition: The main opposition leader Khalida Zia is in jail

Importance of the Victory for India

  1. As a friend of Hasina, Delhi is clearly happy at the election outcome.
  2. PM Modi was the first foreign leader to call and congratulate her on the victory.
  3. Ties between the two countries have never been better, leading Modi to describe it as the “golden era” in bilateral relations.
  4. India has made trade concessions to Bangladesh, invested more money in the country, and is in the midst of several infrastructure and connectivity projects.
  5. The Hasina government has shut down camps of terrorist groups operating in India’s Northeast from safe havens in Bangladesh. The only outstanding issue between the two is the Teesta river waters sharing agreement. India has rightly stayed out of the internal tumult over the last five years or more.

Way forward

  1. With great power comes great responsibility.
  2. It is now up to Prime Minister Hasina to ensure that her government uses its sweeping mandate not to stamp out, but to strengthen, a multi-party democracy, individual freedoms, and the rule of law in Bangladesh.
  3. The last five years saw the Hasina government take an authoritarian turn, jailing opponents, stifling dissent, and generally responding to all criticism badly.
  4. Repression can lead to a rejection of democratic politics.
  5. The alternative, as is evident at many places in the world, could be much worse than what Bangladesh has experienced in the past.
  6. To begin with, she has to heal a country rattled by political divisions and violence.
  7. The Election Commission should conduct a fair investigation into allegations of rigging to restore faith in the poll process.
  8. Hasina should reach out to the Opposition. Her otherwise impressive record has been marred by her government’s authoritarian character.
  9. The victory is a chance for Ms. Hasina to mend her ways, to be more inclusive and run a government that respects the rule of law, the basic rights of citizens and institutional freedom.


India’s links with Bangladesh are civilisational, cultural, social and economic. There is much that unites the two countries – a shared history and common heritage, linguistic and cultural ties, passion for music, literature and the arts. The two nations were strong allies during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. However, they developed different Cold War alliances in the late 1970s and 80s. With the onset of economic liberalization in South Asia, they forged greater bilateral engagement and trade. The historic Ganges Water Sharing Treaty was concluded in 1996. India and Bangladesh are close strategic partners in counter-terrorism. They are also the largest trading partners in South Asia.Two-way trade is estimated to be over US $7 billion.


A chronology of key events:

1947 – British colonial rule over India ends. A largely Muslim state comprising East and West Pakistan is established, either side of India. The two provinces are separated from each other by more than 1,500 km of Indian territory.

Indian Tank during the war


1949 – The Awami League is established to campaign for East Pakistan’s autonomy from West Pakistan.

1970 – The Awami League, under Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, wins an overwhelming election victory in East Pakistan. The government in West Pakistan refuses to recognise the results, leading to rioting. Cyclone hits East Pakistan – up to 500,000 people are killed.



Bangladeshi premier Sheikh Mujibur Rahman pictured in 1972

1971 – Sheikh Mujib arrested and taken to West Pakistan. In exile, Awami League leaders proclaim the independence of the province of East Pakistan on 26th March. The new country is called Bangladesh. Just under 10 million Bangladeshis flee to India as troops from West Pakistan are defeated with Indian assistance.

1972 – Sheikh Mujib returns, becomes prime minister. He begins a programme of nationalising key industries in an attempt to improve living standards, but with little success.

1974 – Severe floods devastate much of the grain crop, leading to an estimated 28,000 deaths. A national state of emergency is declared as political unrest grows.

Bangladeshi leader Ziaur Rahman pictured in 1980

1975 – Sheikh Mujib becomes president of Bangladesh. The political situation worsens. He is assassinated in a military coup in August. Martial law is imposed.

1976 – The military ban trade unions.

1977 – General Ziaur Rahman assumes the presidency. Islam is adopted in the constitution.

1979 – Martial law is lifted following elections, which Zia’s Bangladesh National Party (BNP) wins.

1981 – Zia is assassinated during abortive military coup. He is succeeded by Abdus Sattar.

Ershad era

1982 – General Ershad assumes power in army coup. He suspends the constitution and political parties.

1983 – Limited political activity is permitted. Ershad becomes president.

Bangladeshi leader Hussain Muhammad Ershad

1986 – Parliamentary and presidential elections. Ershad elected to a five-year term. He lifts martial law and reinstates the constitution.

1987 – State of emergency declared after opposition demonstrations and strikes.

1988 – Islam becomes state religion. Floods cover up to three-quarters of the country. Tens of millions are made homeless.

1990 – Ershad steps down following mass protests.

1991 – Ershad convicted and jailed for corruption and illegal possession of weapons. Begum Khaleda Zia, widow of President Zia Rahman, becomes prime minister. Constitution is changed to render the position of president ceremonial. The prime minister now has primary executive power. Cyclonic tidal wave kills up to 138,000.

Awami League returns

1996 – Two sets of elections eventually see the Awami League win power, with Sheikh Hasina Wajed, the daughter of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, becoming prime minister.

1997 – Ershad is released from prison. The opposition BNP begins campaign of strikes against the government.

1998 – Two-thirds of the country devastated by the worst floods ever. Fifteen former army officers sentenced to death for involvement in assassination of President Mujib in 1975.

Garment factory in Ashulia, Bangladesh

2000 September – Sheikh Hasina criticises military regimes in a UN speech, prompting Pakistani leader General Musharraf to cancel talks with her. Relations strained further by row over leaked Pakistani report on 1971 war of independence.

2000 December – Bangladesh expels Pakistani diplomat for comments on the 1971 war. The diplomat had put the number of dead at 26,000, whereas Bangladesh says nearly three million were killed.

2001 April – Seven killed in bomb blast at a Bengali New Year concert in Dhaka. Sixteen Indian and three Bangladeshi soldiers killed in their worst border clashes.

General view of Dhaka, with slum area seen on left

2001 April – High Court confirms death sentences on 12 ex-army officers for killing Mujib. Only four are in custody.

2001 July – Hasina steps down, hands power to caretaker authority, becoming the first prime minister in the country’s history to complete a five-year term.

Coalition government

2001 September – At least eight people are killed and hundreds injured as two bombs explode at an election rally in south-western Bangladesh.

2001 October – Hasina loses at polls to Khaleda Zia’s Nationalist Party and its three coalition partners.

Ramadan prayers outside National Mosque of Bangladesh

2002 July – Pakistani President Musharraf visits; expresses regret over excesses carried out by Pakistan during 1971 war of independence.

2004 Opposition calls 21 general strikes over the course of the year as part of a campaign to oust the government.

2004 May – Parliament amends constitution to reserve 45 seats for female MPs.

2004 August – Grenade attack on opposition Awami League rally in Dhaka kills 22 people. Awami League leader Sheikh Hasina survives the attack.

2006 February – Opposition Awami League ends year-long parliamentary boycott.

Political crisis

Bangladesh opposition protesters, 2006

2006 October – Violent protests over government’s choice of a caretaker administration to take over when Premier Zia completes her term at the end of the month. President Ahmed steps in and assumes caretaker role for period leading to elections due in January 2007.

2006 November – A 14-party opposition alliance led by the Awami League campaigns for controversial election officials to be removed. Chief election commissioner MA Aziz steps aside.

2006 December – Election date set at 22 January. Awami alliance says it will boycott the polls. Awami leader Sheikh Hasina accuses President Ahmed of favouring her rival. Blockade aimed at derailing parliamentary elections paralyses much of the country.

2007 January – A state of emergency is declared amid violence in the election run-up. President Ahmed postpones the poll. Fakhruddin Ahmed heads a caretaker administration.

2007 March – Six Islamist militants convicted of countrywide bomb attacks in 2005 are hanged. They include the leaders of Jagrata Muslim Janata Bangladesh and Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen.

2007 April – Sheikh Hasina is charged with murder. Begum Khaleda Zia is under virtual house arrest. Several other politicians are held in an anti-corruption drive.

2007 August – Government imposes a curfew on Dhaka and five other cities amid violent clashes between police and students demanding an end to emergency rule.

2008 June – Sheikh Hasina is temporarily freed to get medical treatment in the US.

2008 August – Local elections take place, seen as a big step towards restoring democracy. Candidates backed by the Awami League perform strongly.

2008 November – The authorities say general elections will be held on 18 December. Sheikh Hasina returns to lead her party in the poll.

Awami League win

2008 December – General elections: Awami League captures more than 250 of 300 seats in parliament. Sheikh Hasina is sworn in as prime minister in January.

2009 February – Around 74 people, mainly army officers, are killed in a mutiny in Dhaka by border guards unhappy with pay and conditions. Police arrest some 700 guards. A further 1,000 guards are detained in May.

2009 October – The government bans the local branch of the global Islamist organisation Hizb-ut Tahrir, saying it poses a threat to peace.

2010 January – Five former army officers are executed for the 1975 murder of founding PM Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

2012 May-June – Key figures from the main Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, including leader Motiur Rahman Nizami, are charged with war crimes by a government tribunal investigating alleged collaboration with Pakistan during the 1971 independence struggle.

2012 October – Muslim rioters attack Buddhist villages and shrines in south-east Bangladesh after an image said to show a burnt Koran was posted on Facebook. The government denounces the attacks as “premeditated and deliberate acts of communal violence against a minority”.

2013 January – War crimes tribunal sentences prominent Muslim cleric Abul Kalam Azad to death for crimes against humanity during the 1971 independence war. He was tried in absentia, as he had fled abroad.

2013 April – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina vetoes Islamist bill to outlaw criticism of Islam.

2013 May – European retailers promise to sign an accord to improve safety conditions in factories after a garment factory building collapsed in April, killing more than 1,100 people. Worker protests close hundreds of factories and extract a government pledge to raise the minimum wage and make it easier to form unions.

Jamaat-e-Islami trials

2013 July – At least two people are killed as police clash with thousands of protesters after the conviction of Ghulam Azam, leader of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence. Ghulam Azam dies in October 2014.

2013 December – Supreme Court upholds death sentence on Islamist leader Abdul Kader Mullah of the Jamaat-e-Islami party, who was convicted in February of crimes against humanity during the 1971 war of independence.

2014 January – Opposition BNP boycotts parliamentary elections, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returns for third term in office.

2014 October – Jamaat-e-Islami Leader Motiur Rahman Nizami and another leading figure, Mir Quasem Ali, found guilty of war crimes during independence war in 1971.

2015 February – Court sentences another senior Jamaat-e-Islami figure, Abdus Subhan, to death for war crimes committed during independence war in 1971.

2015 May – Bangladesh bans Islamist militant group Ansarullah Bangla Team, which claims responsibility for killing and assaulting several pro-secular public figures.

2015 November – Threats to Christians and Shia Muslims challenge government view that two years of attacks on pro-secular public figures are the work of a violent faction of the opposition Jaamat-e-Islami party, after the Islamic State armed group claims responsibility for attack on Shia mosque. Jamaat-e-Islami senior figures Ali Ahsan Mohammad Mujahid and Salahuddin Quader Chowdhury executed on war crimes charges dating back to 1971.

2016 July – The Islamic State group claims an attack on a cafe in Dhaka’s diplomatic quarter in which 20 hostages, including 18 foreigners, are killed but the government rejects the claim saying the militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen was responsible.

2016 September – Business tycoon and senior leader of Bangladesh’s largest Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, Mir Quasem Ali, is executed for war crimes committed during the 1971 war of independence.

Why Bangladesh is important to India’s north east?

    • Bangala

Ports – The nearest port for the Northeast is Kolkata. Kolkata is 1500 km from Aizawl and Agartala. Not just the distance, the route passes through multiple states and through a lot of mountains. Imagine dragging a heavy machinery through this long, narrow road. This makes trade and manufacturing very hard in the Northeast. Every product that is either produced in Northeast or needed in northeast has to be carried through that one road through Siliguri. On the other hand, Chittagong port is only 200km from Tripura and passes through the mostly flat land. A major Bangladeshi railway junction Akhaura is just 10 km from Agartala.

Migration – Major cities in India’s northeast are quite close to the rural hinterland of Bangladesh. For many rural Banglas, it is easy to find jobs in these cities than in Dhaka or Chittagong. Thus, there is a massive migration that is rapidly impacting the demographics of the Northeast. Many tribes feel marginalized in their own territory. India needs Bangladeshi government’s help to arrest the endless flow of migrants.

Separatism – Tripura alone shares 850km of border with Bangladesh. Other states like Mizoram share long borders too [a total of 4000+ km of shared borders between Northeast India and Bangladesh]. Given the long and unpatrolled borders, the separatists and troublemakers in this region easily escape to Bangladesh. It is hard to fight the separatism as long as the separatists have such an easy escape hatch. India needs Bangladesh’s help in patrolling the borders and also bring the fugitives to justice.

Food movement – Eastern side of Bangladesh is quite fertile and produces a lot of rice. This can be easily be moved to Tripura, Mizoram and Manipur rather than dragging the food from West Bengal through the Siliguri corridor or air lifting them.

Risk of Chicken neck – Currently the Siliguri corridor remains the only link between the Northeast and the rest of India. Any problem there – terrorist attacks, natural disasters, etc. – would completely cut off India from the 7 states of North east. Bangaldesh help would reduce that risk substantially

Major irritants with Bangladesh

Boundary Dispute

India’s land border with Bangladesh as per the Ministry of Defence is 4351 km. running through five states, viz., West Bengal (2217kms), Assam (262 kms), Meghalaya (443kms), Tripura (856 kms) and Mizoram (318 kms), including nearly 781 kms of riverine border. The border traverses through 25 districts.

The border is used as a route for smuggling livestock, food items, medicines and drugs from India to Bangladesh. Moreover, illegal immigrants from Bangladesh cross the border to India in search of improving their lives. Because of a large number of illegal immigrants crossing from Bangladesh into India, a controversial shoot-on-sight policy has been enforced by the Indian border patrols.

This policy was initiated with reports of violence between the illegal migrants and Indian soldiers. The border has also witnessed occasional skirmishes between the Indian Border Security Force and the Border Guards Bangladesh, most notably in 2001.

The killing of Bangladeshi nationals by Border Security Force (BSF) has become a major irritant between the two countries in the recent past. It has evoked strong public sentiments in Bangladesh. According to a report of Bangladesh Human Rights Watch organization Odhikar, BSF has, from January 1, 2001 to March 31, 2012, killed 907 Bangladeshis. Bangladesh wants no time lost in stopping these killings.

Further the Agreement on the demarcation of Land Boundary between Bangladesh and India and related matters had been signed in May 1974 between the two great statesmen, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and Smt. Indira Gandhi. This comprehensive agreement was intended to resolve all lingering and vexing problems that history had bequeathed on the two nations.  But it has not full filled by both Governments.

During the State visit of the Prime Minister to Bangladesh in September 2011, a “Protocol to the Agreement between the Government of India and the Government of Bangladesh Concerning the Demarcation of the Land Boundary Between India and Bangladesh and Related Matters (LBA)” was signed. It settles the long outstanding land boundary issues related to un-demarcated segment of 6.1 Kms; territories in adverse possession; and exchange of enclaves. The Cabinet has, on 13 February 2013, approved the draft of a Constitution (Amendment) Bill for implementing the India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) 1974 and the Protocol to LBA signed in 2011.

The Protocol envisages that 111 Indian Enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladesh Enclaves in India, as per the jointly verified cadastral enclave maps, shall be exchanged. As per Article 3 of the LBA 1974, when the Enclaves are transferred, people living in these areas shall be given the right of staying on where they are as nationals of the State to which the areas are transferred.

Maritime border 

While  Bangladesh,  having  concave coastlines,  delimits  its  sea  border southward  from  the  edge  of  its  land boundary,  India  stretches  its  claim southeast  wards,  covering  around thousands  of  miles  in  the  Bay  of  Bengal.

Due  to  competing  claims  of  the  two countries,  delimitation  of  the  sea boundary  and  determining  Bangladesh’s exclusive  economic  zones  have  remained unresolved.  Moreover, in terms  of determining the continental shelf, the presence of the Andamans and Nicobar Islands puts India, in a  favourable position.

Territorial Waters

The issue of demarcating territorial waters led to serious differences between the two countries. Questions  of ownership over a new born island known as South Talpatty in Bangladesh and New Moore/ Purbasha in  India  spotted  by  a satellite picture in 1975 in  the estuary of Haribhanga  River  on  the  border  of  the two  countries  has  been  a  source  of contention since its discovery.

In order to settle the above dispute  Bangladesh proposed sending a joint Indo‐Bangladesh team to determine the flow of channels of the  river  on  the  basis  of  existing International  Law  of  the  Sea.  But  the Indian  counterpart  sent  forces  to establish  claims  by  stationing  naval troops on  the island in 1981. After initial resentment  by  Bangladesh,  India  agreed to resolve the issue through negotiations.

Illegal Migration

Illegal migration is one of the bones of the contention of these two countries, Since the 1971 war of independence that created the state of Bangladesh, millions of Bangladeshi immigrants (the vast majority of them illegal) have poured into neighboring India.

While the Indian government has tried to deport some of these immigrants, the sheer number of them, as well as the porous border between the two countries, has made such an enterprise impossible. It is difficult to assess how many illegal immigrants are currently residing in India. Consider that in 1971, during the civil war in neighboring East Pakistan (the former name of Bangladesh), at least 10-million Bangladeshis poured into West Bengal in India
Illegal migration appears in the eastern and north-eastern parts of the country from neighbouring Bangladesh, threat to India’s internal security, from Bangladesh is impacted on communal, political, social and economic tensions and conflicts in several areas of the northeast of India.

The most affected states are West Bengal, Assam, Megalaya, Nagaland, Bihar, and Tripura, although migrants “have spread too far off states like Tamil Nadu, Maharashtra, Gujarat, Rajasthan and Delhi.”  Although the exact figure is not known, it is estimated that there are about 15-20 million Bangladeshis staying illegally in India.

The National Investigation Agency has found links with Pakistan in rackets engaged in printing and smuggling fake currency into India. NIA sources said fake currency was now being smuggled into the border with Bangladesh has gaps at some points and immigrants cross into India on foot through the breaks in the fence.

Some also swim across rivers on the border to reach India. The National Investigation Agency has found links with Pakistan in rackets India through its porous border with Bangladesh. Malda district in West Bengal is a key transit point for counterfeiters.

Once they reach India, immigrants obtain fake documents through local agents.  Political leaders in parts of West Bengal were also involved in endorsing fake documents such as ration cards for illegal immigrants.

This unfettered illegal migration impacts on national security and socio-economic stability. Intelligence inputs indicate that the Inter Service Intelligence Agency (ISI) of Pakistan is utilizing these migrants as conduits to ferry in terrorists and arms into India. Counterfeit Indian currency with its origins in Bangladesh has flooded border areas, crippling in these parts.

Vote bank politics in Assam is the one of obstacle to control illegal migration from Bangladesh, led to communal violence between indigenous Bodos and Muslims (migrants from Bangladesh) in 2012.

The illegal Bangladeshi immigrants have not only changed the demography and disturbed the ecology of the north-east but have also encouraged them to exercise their political rights in India as citizens. It has been one of the key reasons for the rise of insurgent groups in the north-east as some of the insurgent groups like Assam Gana Sangram Parishad started, and got support of the masses, because of the issue of illegal immigration from Bangladesh. At the same time the immigration laws (Illegal Migrants [Determined by Tribunal] (IMDT) Act 1983) followed in Assam has aided illegal immigrants’ settling in the north-east easy.

 Security concerns

Insurgency has been playing the role in straining relations of India with Bangladesh. Northeast India has been facing insurgency since 1956 due to feelings of ethnic separatism among its inhabitants.

ISI is operating from Bangladesh, supporting the insurgents in the North east India. National Liberation of Tripura (NLFT), Liberation Front of Assam(ULFA) and National Democratic Front of  Bodoland (NDFM) are major insurgent groups in Northeast India. There are some rumours that ULFA has several lucrative income generating Projects in Bangladesh to sustain its insurgency activities in India.

Drug Trafficking

Bangladesh is increasingly being used as a transit point by drug dealers and the drug mafia,  which  dispatches  heroin  and opium  from  Burma,  and  other  countries of  the  golden  triangle,  to  different destinations.

As  a  result,  Bangladesh’s Department  of  Narcotics  Control  has  come  under  the  scanner  several  times  and  invited  criticism. Bangladesh  has  become the  prime  transit  route  for  trafficking heroin  to  Europe  from  Southeast Asia, according  to  a  report  from  the International  Narcotics  Control  Board  (INCB)  2007  annual  report.

INCB  notes  that  the  most  common methods and routes for smuggling heroin into  Bangladesh  are  by  courier  from Pakistan,  commercial  vehicles  and  trains from India, and via sea through the Bay of Bengal  or  overland  by  truck  or  public transport from Burma.

Trade and Investment

Bangladesh is an important trading partner for India. The two-way trade in FY 2011-2012 was US$5.242 billion with India’s exports to Bangladesh accounting for US$4.743 billion and imports US$0.498 million.

The trade deficit with India is frequently highlighted by Bangladesh as a major contentious issue. Trade deficit for Bangladesh is more than $4 billion.  For long, Bangladesh has been urging India to reduce this gap by lifting the tariff barriers as they were a major impediment to the growth of Bangladesh’s exports to India. Responding to Bangladesh’s concern, in November 2011, India granted duty free access to all products, except 10 tobacco and liquor items from Bangladesh which amounts 30% of Bangladesh export.

As much as 98 per cent of Bangladesh products now enjoy zero duty benefits in the Indian market. Bangladesh’s exports to India are expected to cross $1 billion in 2012.

However, Bangladesh is now urging India to remove all non-tariff barriers (NBTs) as it views NTBs as the major obstacles to its export growth. Some of these barriers are: laboratory test for every consignment of food products, cosmetics, and leather and textile products; delay in getting test results; imposition of state tax; packaging requirement, anti-dumping and countervailing duties; inadequate infrastructure facilities such as warehousing, trans-shipment yard, parking yard and; connecting roads at land customs stations of India.

To encourage exports from Bangladesh, India must move proactively to provide facilities of customs and testing at the border check posts.
Besides, removal of non-tariff barriers should be accompanied by tariff reforms since the opportunity cost of non-tariff barriers is very high.

A Consumer Unity & Trust Society (CUTS) International report says: “In 2010, value of unexplored market was more than 48 per cent of total value of India- Bangladesh trade and potential saving, which is a proxy for cost of non-tariff barriers, is more than seven per cent of total value of Indo-Bangla trade”.

India is also encouraging investments in Bangladesh. In this regard, a Bilateral Investment Promotion and Protection Agreement have been signed between the two countries. The agreement is expected to increase Indian investment in Bangladesh.

India has been urging Bangladesh to provide rail and road transit to connect with its north-eastern states. Technically speaking, the issue of transit was resolved in 1972 when both sides agreed on a mutually beneficial arrangement for the use of their waterways, railways and roadways for commerce between two countries and for passage of goods to places in one country through the territory of the other. Inland water transit has been functional, but the rail and road transit is still waiting to be operational.

Bangladesh’s initial reluctance to granting India rail and road transit was on the grounds that transit facility once given was difficult to take back and such a facility may encourage terrorism and insurgency.
Other concerns included damage to the roads and bridges in Bangladesh by the increased traffic flow from the Indian side.
The reason for delay was that Bangladesh’s infrastructure was not yet prepared to take the load of the increased traffic that will follow with the granting of transit to India. Addressing Bangladesh’s concern, India provided a credit line of $1billion to Bangladesh for development of infrastructure projects. But the credit line could not be used to its potential because of the strict conditions India imposed, to the effect that 85 per cent of the raw materials for the road projects has to be procured from India, on the ground that it produces all the materials necessary.

Bangladesh has countered by claiming it too has the necessary raw materials. It could earn $44 million per annum for first five years if it grants transit to India. From the sixth year, earnings would be around $500 million, which could rise to $1 billion.  Transit would not only boost connectivity between the two countries, but also offer opportunities for regional connectivity and help Bangladesh develop Chittagong port into a regional hub.

The  Chittagong  port  can  become  a modern  busy  port  like  Singapore  and  China  serving  the  SAARC  countries.  Huge  foreign  investment  may  be attracted by Bangladesh and  finally, a throbbing  service  sector like banks, insurance, hotels, rest houses, petrol pumps etc. may develop around the Transcontinental roads and railways.

There  is  an  estimate  of  direct economic  gain  from  transit  fees.  It ranges from  500  crore  taka  to  4,666 crore taka.  The  mutual  transit will  also give Bangladesh  a  much  shorter  route  to China and an initiative to link Chinese province  of  Yunan with  Seven Sisters of  India,  Myanmar,  Thailand  and Bangladesh.

Water –sharing:

We share 54 trans-boundary rivers, big and small.

Some of the major water sharing disputes

Ganga river dispute

In 1996, the sharing of the Ganga waters was successfully agreed upon between the two nations. However, the major area of dispute has been India’s construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage to increase water supply to the river Hooghly.

Bangladesh complains that it does not get a fair share of the water in the dry season and some of its areas get flooded when India releases excess waters during the monsoons.

Teesta River dispute

Teesta originates in Sikkim, flows through West Bengal in India before entering Bangladesh. It merges with the Brahmaputra River (or Jamuna when it enters Bangladesh). The river is important for both Bangladesh and India for its agricultural use.

Teesta river agreement timeline

In 1983, India and Bangladesh had agreed into an ad hoc sharing of the water during the dry season (October to April) with an allocation of 36 per cent for Bangladesh and 39 per cent for India, leaving 25 per cent to be decided later. But this deal has remained pending for more than 2 decades.

As per an agreement of 2011 the two sides had agreed to share the river’s water 50:50, the same as the 1996 Ganges water-sharing pact between the neighbors. This agreement was not signed due to opposition from chief minister of West Bengal.

Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric power Project

Bangladesh has been demanding to stop the construction of the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River on the eastern edge of Bangladesh.

Bangladesh says that the massive dam will disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the river and have an Adverse effect on downstream agriculture, fisheries and ecology of the region. Indian government has assured Bangladesh that it will not take any unilateral decision on the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project which may adversely affect Bangladesh.

Chinese Engagement with Bangladesh

Bangladesh and China has decade-long diplomatic ties. 2015 marked the 40th year of their relationship. China is the largest trading partner of Bangladesh in current times with the two-way trade accounting for about US$12 billion in 2014. China is contributing largely to ongoing infrastructural development in Bangladesh.

The growing security and military relations between the two countries in recent days is taking place much to the chagrin of New Delhi. Beijing’s current initiative for setting up financial institutions including the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is likely to create new opportunities for Bangladesh in accessing funds for infrastructure development.

Bangladesh’s renewed interest in ocean economy in the Bay of Bengal in the context of UN approved delineation of maritime boundary over the Bay, it needs to engage with technologically and financially sound partners like China, Japan, the United States and South Korea, among others.

Engagement with China may prove to be most important economic relation for Bangladesh considering China’s growing and developed economy and international clout. However, Dhaka needs to balance its relations between New Delhi and Beijing for its own interest.

In fine, India in its current focus on neighbourhood prosperity is going to foster an enduring bilateral relationship with Bangladesh, as perceived from the ongoing engagements between New Delhi and Dhaka. Both countries are on the right track for building rapport in spheres of bilateral importance; however, the deep-seated disputes like that of water-sharing needs to be addressed for good for a better tomorrow.

Recent Developments

Land Boundary Agreement

Brief history:

After the partition of India in 1947, Rangpur was joined to East Pakistan, and Cooch Behar district was merged in 1949 with India. The desire to “de-enclave” most of the enclaves was manifested in a 1958 agreement between Jawaharlal Nehru and Feroz Khan Noon, the respective Prime Ministers, for an exchange between India and Pakistan without considering loss or gain of territory.

But the matter then worked into a Supreme Court case in India, and the Supreme Court ruled that a constitutional amendment was required to transfer the land. So the ninth amendment was introduced to facilitate the implementation of the agreement.

The amendment could not be passed because of an objection to transfer of southern Berubari enclave. Because of India’s deteriorated relations with Pakistan, the issue remained unsolved. With that agreement not ratified, negotiations restarted after East Pakistan became independent as Bangladesh in 1971 following the Bangladesh Liberation War

Attempts have been made to arrive at a comprehensive settlement of the land boundary between India and Bangladesh (the erstwhile East Pakistan) since 1947. The Nehru-Noon Agreement of 1958 and the Agreement Concerning the Demarcation of the Land Boundary between India and Bangladesh and Related Matters of 1974 (referred to as 1974 LBA) sought to find a solution to the complex nature of the border demarcation involved.

However, three outstanding issues pertaining to an un-demarcated land boundary of approximately 6.1 km, exchange of enclaves and adverse possessions remained unsettled.

The list of enclaves was prepared in 1997 by both nations. Two Joint Boundary Working Groups was formed to work out the details of enclaves in 2001. The joint census was carried out it May 2007.

The Protocol (referred to as the 2011 Protocol) to the 1974 LBA, signed on 6th September 2011 during the visit of the Prime Minister to Bangladesh, paves the way for a settlement of the outstanding land boundary issues between the two countries. The both nations announced an intention to swap 162 enclaves, giving residents a choice of nationality.

Indian Parliament in May 2015 passed the constitutional amendment bill regarding the land boundary agreement with Bangladesh. The Lower House, showing rare unanimity, passed the Constitution (119th Amendment) Bill to allow the operationalisation of the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary agreement.

Major features of agreement: 

A settled boundary is an essential prerequisite for effective cross-border cooperation. It reduces friction, helps neighbours consolidate mutually beneficial exchanges and promotes confidence in building better relations.

The 2011 Protocol ensures that the India-Bangladesh boundary is permanently settled with no more differences in interpretation, regardless of the government in power.

  • The 2011 Protocol results in a fixed demarcated boundary in all the un-demarcated segments, exchange of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh with 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India and a resolution of all adversely possessed areas.
  • In the exchange of enclaves, India transfers 111 enclaves with a total area of 17,160.63 acres to Bangladesh, while Bangladesh would transfer 51 enclaves with an area of 7,110.02 acres to India.
  • While on paper, the exchange of enclaves between India and Bangladesh may seem like a loss of Indian land to Bangladesh, the actual scenario is quite different as the enclaves are located deep inside the territory of both countries and there has been no physical access to them from either country.
  • Each country will now begin to administer enclaves on its territory and enclave citizens will be able to choose where they want to live and which nationality they would prefer.
  • In reality, the exchange of enclaves denotes only a notional exchange of land as the Protocol converts a de facto reality into a de jure situation.

The inhabitants in the enclaves could not enjoy full legal rights as citizens of either India or Bangladesh and infrastructure facilities such as electricity, schools and health services were deficient.
Further, due to lack of access to these areas by the law and order enforcing agencies and weak property rights, certain enclaves became hot beds of criminal activities.

Major advantages of land boundary agreement: 

 These are as follows:

The exchange of enclaves will mitigate major humanitarian problems as the residents in the enclaves and others on their behalf had often complained of the absence of basic amenities and facilities the settlement of Adverse Possessions will lead to tranquility and peace along the border it represents a permanent solution to a decades old issue the newly demarcated boundaries are a fixed boundary, thereby adding to certainty regarding the future
a settled boundary reduces friction, helps neighbours consolidate mutually beneficial exchanges and promotes confidence in building better relations.

It paves the way for closer engagement and mutually beneficial relations between India and Bangladesh and the region; this also helps on issues of strategic concern, including security cooperation and denial of sanctuary to elements inimical to India. While land will be exchanged, the Protocol does not envisage the displacement of populations; the Protocol ensures that the India-Bangladesh boundary is permanently settled and there should be no more differences in interpretation, regardless of the government in power.

This deal would also revive the moribund South Asia Growth Quadrangle (SAGQ), comprising India’s north east, Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan.

Indo-Bangladesh Maritime Boundary Dispute

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In a landmark judgment, the Hague-based Permanent Court of Attribution (PCA) has awarded Bangladesh an area of 19,467 sq km, four-fifth of the total area of 25,602 sq km disputed maritime boundary in the Bay of Bengal with India on July 7.

The UN Tribunal’s award has clearly delineated the course of maritime boundary line between India and Bangladesh in the territorial sea, Exclusive Economic Zone (EEZ) and continental shelf within and beyond 200 nautical miles (nm). Now, Bangladesh’s maritime boundary has been extended by 118,813 sq comprising 12 nm of territorial sea and an EEZ extending up to 200 nm into the high seas.

In addition, the ruling acknowledged Bangladesh’s sovereign rights of undersea resources in the continental shelf extending as far as 345 nm in the high seas, taking Chittagong coast as the base line. The verdict has been broadly accepted by both the countries as a positive development for further consolidation of friendly relations especially given the geo-strategic/political significance of greater Indian Ocean region and South Asian sub-region.

Security and Economic implications for India

  • Some are of the scholars’ opinion that the ruling could provide force for the new Indian government to ratify the Land Boundary Agreement and reach an understanding on sharing the waters of the Teesta river with Bangladesh.
  • The verdict would contribute towards establishing strategic partnerships among the nations sharing borders in the Bay.
  • The award is expected to have positive impact on emerging multilateral forum like BIMSTEC. It may be noted that India has already settled its maritime borders with Sri Lanka, Myanmar and Thailand. Similarly, Bangladesh’s maritime issues with Myanmar are resolved.
  • The PCA award assumes strategic significance against the backdrop of China’s close ties with Bangladesh and its growing interests and activities in the Bay region for which India is worried. Now the settlement of maritime disputes between India and Bangladesh may have a restraining influence on the expansionist designs of China.
  • Both the countries have accepted the award as it will open the door for exploration of oil and gas in the Bay—the site of huge energy reserves.
  • The verdict has recognised India’s sovereignty over New Moore island and received nearly 6000 sq km of the contested zone where the island had once existed.
  • India’s discovery of natural gas in 2006 took place in a creek which is situated about 50 km south of the mouth of the Hariabhanga river within the contested zone. The lingering maritime dispute stood in the way of exploration of hydrocarbons in the Bay region. Such as in December, 2013, Australian firm Santos withdrew from two sea-blocks citing security and maritime dispute with Bangladesh.
  • Now India’s policy makers could chalk out a long-term strategy for the economic development of the Bay region. To realise its goals, New Delhi may forge bilateral or multilateral partnerships under the framework of sub-regional grouping like BIMSTEC

Implication for Bangladesh

The award has huge economic significance for a small state like Bangladesh. It has cleared the obstacles for Dhaka to open up its waters for foreign firms to explore and exploit hydrocarbons in the Bay. So long, Bangladesh’s maritime dispute with India is believed to have deterred many international petroleum companies to invest in the sea-blocks previously offered by it.

The United Nations Convention of Law of the Sea (UNCLOS) gives a nation 12 nm of territorial control and ensures sovereign rights to explore, exploit and manage natural resources with 200 nm of EEZ.

The economic prospects of the Bay region have increased enormously after Myanmar and India discovered huge natural gas deposits beneath the sea. It is reported that Myanmar discovered 7 trillion cubic feet of hydrocarbon deposits in the region. This was followed by India’s discovery of another 100 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. This prompted Bangladesh—a nation with limited resource base and high demand of energy,to search for offshore energy resources.

In 2008, Bangladesh government divided its claimed territorial sea and EEZ into 28 sea-blocks and leased them to multinational companies to meet its growing energy needs.But Bangladesh was eventually compelled to suspend exploration as both India and Myanmar objected to it.Successive discoveries of massive natural gas have made the delimitation of maritime boundary all the more significant.

  • Economically, Bangladesh is a major gainer. Now, Dhaka is in a position to invite foreign companies to explore oil and gas resources in its maritime zones.
  • It would definitely help Bangladesh to compensate gas shortages in its gas turbine-run industries and plants and contribute to the country’s economic development.
  • India’s ONGC stands a good chance to win lucrative contracts in Bangladeshi offshore gas and oil fields.
  • The verdict is also good news for millions of fishermen in both the countries. The amicable settlement has opened up vast sea areas which were not available to them in the last four decades.
  • Moreover, both the countries could enhance cooperation in the conservation of the rich bio-diversity of the Sunder bans.
  • By clearly delineating the maritime boundary between the two nations, the verdict could help boosting coastal and maritime security in the region. Before the award, both India and Bangladesh could not undertake cooperative measures due to the vexed problem. The verdict has now cleared the hurdles of strengthening security in the maritime front.
  • Furthermore, precise demarcation of maritime boundary would assist in preventing the cases of transgression by fishermen of both countries. The PCA award is really a “win-win” situation for both the countries, as described by the Bangladesh foreign minister, if they follow it up with concrete action.

3. Growing radicalism in Bangladesh


In last 2 years many secularist have been heckled to death in Bangladesh.In 2010, the government of Bangladesh, headed by the secularist Awami League established a war crime tribunal to investigate war crimes perpetrated during Bangladesh’s bloody 1971 Liberation war from Pakistan. In February 2013, Abdul Qadeer Molla, a leader of the Bangladeshi Jamaat-e-Islami party (a small Islamist party within the opposition coalition) was sentenced to life imprisonment by the tribunal.

The sentence was condemned by Bangladesh’s secularist bloggers and writers, who helped organize the Shahbagh Protest in response, calling for the death penalty for Molla. The protestors quickly expanded their demands to include outlawing the Jamaat-e-Islami party itself for its role in the 1971 war.

Shortly after the first Shahbag protests, counter-demonstrations, which quickly degenerated into violence, were organized by Islamist groups. Islamist leaders denounced the war crimes tribunal as political and called for an end to the prosecution of Jamaat-e-Islami leaders, instead they demanded the death penalty for secularist bloggers, denouncing them as “atheists” and accusing them of Blasphemy.

According to many Experts the hostility directed toward Bloggers by Islamists is due primarily to the bloggers’ growing political influence in Bangladesh, which represents a major obstacle to the Islamist goal of a religious state.

Though there were occasional attacks on secularists prior to the 2013 Shahbag protests, the frequency of attacks has increased since.

In 2014, a group calling itself “Defenders of Islam” published a “hit list” of 84 Bangladeshis, mostly secularists, of whom nine have already reportedly been killed and others attacked Responsibility for many of the attacks has been claimed by Ansarullah Bangla Team a group which according to police has links with both the youth wing of Jamaat-e-Islami and with Al Qaida. The group has since been banned by the government. Other attacks appear to have been perpetrated by more obscure groups.

How much is politics responsible for this situation?

The killing campaign in Bangladesh is fuelled by the bitter war between Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s Awami League, and her opponents on the Right — former Prime Minister Khaleda Zia’s BNP, and its sometime ally, the Jamaat.

Headed into the 2014 elections, the BNP had paralysed the country with weeks of protests, demanding that power be handed over to a neutral caretaker government. The Awami League government, though, held fast, leading the opposition to boycott the elections.

In 2013, meanwhile, the now-iconic Shahbag protests broke out, with young people demanding the death penalty for Jamaat-e-Islami leaders held guilty of 1971 war crimes. In essence, these twin crises pushed the organised right wing out of the political arena, creating a political vacuum. Though the Bangladeshi police and security services have proved effective at containing terrorism, crushing the once-feared Harkat-ul-Jihad-e-Islami, the fear now is that the political vacuum could be capitalised on by jihadists.

The best way of preventing that would be to revive competitive political life in Bangladesh, but the political system remains log jammed, with no end in sight to the Awami League-BNP stand-off.

Significance of these Killing for Bangladesh

  • Bangladesh has always prided itself for its religious tolerance and secularism. In fact, the country is a shining example of Islam and democracy coexisting. However, all that is changing quickly with the rise of religious fundamentalism in the country.
  • The Islamist fundamentalists, apart from targeting minorities, have targeted all those who have commented on religion and who are fighting for their right to the freedom of expression. These Killings are threat to democracy as freedom of expression is one of the very basic tenet of Democracy.
  • The killings Prove that the Islamlist are not just against the minority community but anyone even a Muslim who do not subscribe to their salafist ideology thus most of their victims are liberal Muslims.
  • These killings are leading to  growing sense of fear and insecurity; people in Bangladesh are living under the threat of Terrorism  Moreover, the lukewarm response of the government has only emboldened the radical elements belonging to the Hardline Islamist groups such as ABT and JMB.
  • The persistent failure of the Bangladesh Government and the international community to better protect threatened thinkers has created a climate of fear and direct threat to free thought in the country.
  • The spate of ideological murders is an assault on Bangladesh’s secular principles and ideas.

Way Forward

Bangladesh is facing an existential crisis today and unless the government takes steps to launch an all-out attack on the members of AMT and JMB, the situation may spiral out of control. It is also surprising that, except for opprobrium in international newspapers on the growing intolerance in the country, many countries like the United States, the United Kingdom, and even neighboring India have remained silent over the issue.

It is time that they exert pressure on the Bangladeshi government to act against the perpetrators of these crimes. The government should also realize by not acting against these perpetrators, the groups will be further emboldened to carry out more such attacks against the secular forces. T

he day is not far when these groups are likely to be exploited by terrorist organizations like al Qaeda and the Islamic State, for not only gaining a toehold in the region, but also an opportunity to radicalize the youth of the country. Before it’s too late, the government must launch an all out attack on these fundamental groups, lest the country fall into an abyss of violence, which would completely destroy the secular character of Bangladesh.

4. BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement


India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh signed a landmark Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA) for the Regulation of Passenger, Personnel and Cargo Vehicular Traffic among the four South Asian neighbours in Thimpu, Bhutan. BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal) agreement is a complementary instrument to the existing transport agreements or arrangements at the bilateral levels that the contracting parties will continue to honor.

What will be the benefits of BBIN?

  • It Will promote safe, economical efficient and environmentally sound road transport in the sub-region
  • Will further help each country in creating an institutional mechanism for regional integration.
  • BBIN countries will be benefited by mutual cross border movement of passenger and goods for overall economic development of the region.
  • Will further promote our cooperation in trade and commerce apart from further cementing our age old cultural ties
  • Enhance regional connectivity.
  • Expand people-to-people contact, trade, and economic exchanges between our countries.
  • Transforming transport corridors into economic corridors could potentially increase intraregional trade within South Asia by almost 60% and with the rest of the world by over 30%
  • A new sub-group in world – BBIN! Regional strength.

What are the challenges ahead?

Building and upgrading roads, railways and waterways infrastructure energy Grids, communications and air links to ensure smooth cross border flow of goods, services, capital, technology and people.

Internal Security concerns

  • Illegal migration
  • Smuggling, etc.
  • Timely implementation of further steps to be taken.
  • Trade facilitation at Land border
  • Multi-modal transport facility
  • Customs system can be shared – this will save time by avoiding duplication

Bhutan has some reservations related to tourism as they want to strictly maintain culture and everything else of the Himalayas as per their own norms including Gross Happiness Index

What more can BBIN do?

Bhutan and Nepal can generate more power and sell to India and Bangladesh

It is not anymore a socialist hangup of exploitation by one country of other. It is mutual growth through co-operation.

Is India planning something similar with other countries?

A major breakthrough has been achieved between India-Myanmar and Thailand. Three nations have agreed to develop a similar framework motor vehicle agreement on the lines of draft SAARC Motor vehicle agreement.

Secretary level discussions were successfully concluded in Bengaluru this month andconsensus has been reached on the text of Agreement. 

On conclusion of this Agreement, our sub-region will get access to the larger ASEAN marketthrough seamless passenger and cargo movement.

Areas of cooperation between India and Bangladesh under Sheika Hasina Government

  • India’s relations with Bangladesh have certainly witnessed a significant upswing over the past decade, some persistent challenges notwithstanding. Bilateral trade has risen to $7 million. Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been cracking down on hardline elements, and has provided India with logistical assistance, for instance in setting up the Paltana plant in Tripura. Sheikh Hasina, after being elected in December 2009 as Prime Minister, used her huge majority in Parliament to launch two initiatives.
  • One was eradication of terrorism from the country, and the other was the trial of the 1971 war criminals for crime against humanity. One Jamaat senior leader has been executed, their mentor Golam Azam has been sentenced to life and cases against others are proceeding. This trial, which was long demanded by the freedom fighters, has set back both the Jamaat and BNP.
  • On the terrorism front Sheikh Hasina has scored unprecedented success. Indian insurgents like the ULFA, NSCN (I/M) and others have been rooted out of this country, and Islamic terrorists and extremists have been hit hard. Apart from Bangladesh India has been the greatest beneficiary of the Sheikh Hasina government’s action against terrorism.
  • From October 2013, India started exporting 500 megawatts of electricity a day to Bangladesh over a period of 35 years
  •  Last year the Indian Parliament, unanimously passed the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) as its 100th Constitutional amendment, thereby resolving all 68-year old border disputes since the end of the British Raj. The bill was pending ratification since the 1974 Mujib-Indira accords.
  • Resolution of maritime dispute through UNCLOS PCA in favour of Bangladesh and India not re-appealing it.
  • Easing of Visa regime to provide 5 year multiple entry visas to minors below 13 and elderly above 65.
  • Bangladesh allowed India to ferry food and grains to the landlocked North east using its territory and infrastructure.
  •  During the PM modi visit India extended a US$2 billion line of credit to Bangladesh & pledged US$5 billion worth of investments. As per the agreements, India’s Reliance Power agreed to invest US$3 billion to set up a 3,000 MW LNG-based power plant (which is the single largest foreign investment ever made in Bangladesh) & Adani Power will be setting up a 1600 MW coal-fired power plant at a cost of US$1.5 billion.
  • Power agreement and internet service: Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh commissioned international gateway of internet service in Agartala and supply of 100MW power to Bangladesh from Tripura.

Under it India will supply 100 megawatt (MW) of electricity in return for 10 Gigabits per second Internet bandwidth.

100MW power will be supplied from Suryamaninagar grid to the grid in Commilla of southeast Bangladesh.

India is already supplying 500 MW of power to Bangladesh through the Bahrampur-Bheramara interconnection.

North eastern region will get benefit of 10GBPS internet bandwidth from Bangladesh’s submarine cable station at Cox Bazar

  • 15-km railway connectivity link between Agartala and Akhaura in Brahmanbaria district of Bangladesh is to be completed in 2017. Akhaura has a rail link to Chittagong too. Once the Agartala-Akhaura railway link is ready, goods brought to Chittagong port can be carried by rail directly to Agartala.
  • Both countries are also implementing BBIN motor vehical agreement which allows vehicles to enter each other’s territory and does away with trans-shipment of goods from one country’s truck to another at the border, a time consuming and costly process.
  • “Agreement on Coastal Shipping”: India and Bangladesh signed the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP), to operationalize the “Agreement on Coastal Shipping” signed between the two countries in June, 2015.

Salient points about the SOP are

  •  The Standard Operating Procedure will pave the way to promote coastal shipping between India and Bangladesh and would enhance bilateral trade between the two countries by bringing down the cost of transportation of EXIM cargo.
  • The SOP contains provisions which stipulate that India and Bangladesh shall render same treatment to the other country’s vessels as it would have done to its national vessels used in international sea transportation.
  • The two sides have also agreed upon the use of vessels of River Sea Vessel (RSV) category for Indo-Bangladesh coastal shipping.
  • Joint patrolling in Sudarbans and combined military exercise Operation SAMPRITI.
  • The two ways trade is $7 billion. The trade is set to go at $10 billion by 2018 through ports.
  • India is second in import destination for Bangladesh. Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh stood at USD 6.6 billion in 2013-14 with India’s exports at USD 6.1 billion and imports from Bangladesh at USD 462 million, representing more than double the value of USD 2.7 billion five years ago

The following steps should be taken to improve relation between India and Bangladesh.

a) Agreement on water sharing should be given priority. Early resolution of the Teesta issue is necessary.
b) Security cooperation between the two countries has been good. But there is need for institutionalizing this cooperation so that it does not remain restricted to the tenure of a particular government in either country. In this regard, a beginning could be made by signing the bilateral extradition treaty.
c) Connectivity should be given top most priority. Both the countries should work together to operationalise it.
d) There is need for addressing the issue of illegal migration. In this regard innovative measures should be taken to resolve the problem, being extra careful to ensure that illegal migrants do not acquire voting rights and Indian nationality.
e) People-to-people contact needs to be encouraged; hence liberal visa system should be put in place.
f) Trade relationship has improved significantly between the two countries. India has provided zero duty access of Bangladeshi products thereby addressing the tariff related issue to a great extent. The two countries should now consider an agreement on non-tariff barriers.
g) Indian investment should be encouraged in Bangladesh through visits of trade delegations, trade fairs, and bilateral assurances on protection of the interests of potential investors.
h) Progress can be made by cooperating on common challenges like disaster management, food and energy security.
i) Greater involvement of people and wider public debate on foreign policy issues will discourage conspiracy theories and distrust.
j) A greater level of people-to-people contact should be encouraged.
k) Implement the no-firing policy fully. Ensure accountability to ensure that the image of India as an enemy ceases to exist.
l) Fencing needs to be completed speedily and monitored effectively.This would create misgivings but also ensure that Bangladesh knows that India means business. The state governments and the Indian border forces seem receptive to such an idea
m) India and Bangladesh need to strengthen their military ties. They are being revived after a long gap but much more can be done in terms of increasing visits, contacts at various level as well as by selling military hardware. Apart from initiating joint exercises, India should consider the China model of gifting hardware in the initial instance, and offer technical expertise that Bangladeshi military is in need of. They have to be weaned away from Pakistan and China. There can be no overnight successes but sustained efforts are essential.

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