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”.
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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
The current challenges for Hasina are to consolidate her domestic agenda and balance her country’s relations with India and China the neighboring giants.
While India enabled the creation of Bangladesh, it is a complex relationshipwith a number of areas of discord, including illegal immigration.
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.
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.
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
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.
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
As a friend of Hasina, Delhi is clearly happy at the election outcome.
PM Modi was the first foreign leader to call and congratulate her on the victory.
Ties between the two countries have never been better, leading Modi to describe it as the “golden era” in bilateral relations.
India has made trade concessions to Bangladesh, invested more money in the country, and is in the midst of several infrastructure and connectivity projects.
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.
With great power comes great responsibility.
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.
The last five years saw the Hasina government take an authoritarian turn, jailing opponents, stifling dissent, and generally responding to all criticism badly.
Repression can lead to a rejection of democratic politics.
The alternative, as is evident at many places in the world, could be much worse than what Bangladesh has experienced in the past.
To begin with, she has to heal a country rattled by political divisions and violence.
The Election Commission should conduct a fair investigation into allegations of rigging to restore faith in the poll process.
Hasina should reach out to the Opposition. Her otherwise impressive record has been marred by her government’s authoritarian character.
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.
Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations
From the UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: National Register of Citizens (NRC)
Mains level: How NRC process can impact India-Bangladesh ties
NRC date extended
The last date for filing claims and objections for Assam’s National Register of Citizens (NRC) has been extended by the Supreme Court to December 31, from December 15
This exercise of compiling the NRC in the first place has sparked a debate around its political, economic and humanitarian consequences, and its implications for India’s relationship with its neighbours, particularly Bangladesh
Are illegal immigrants only in India?
There are legal as well as illegal Indian immigrants in Bangladesh too
According to the latest available Bangladesh government estimates of 2009, more than 500,000 Indians were working in Bangladesh
Importance of Bangladeshi remittances
Bangladesh was reported to be among the highest source of remittances to India, behind the United Arab Emirates, the U.S., Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the U.K.
Many Indian citizens are securing coveted employment opportunities in Bangladesh through multinational companies, non-governmental organisations, and trading activities
To put things into perspective, most of them are employed in advantageous jobs in Bangladesh while Bangladeshis in India are largely employed in low-paying jobs
Bangladesh’s silent reluctance
While Prime Minister Narendra Modi has assured the Bangladesh government that those excluded from the NRC will not be deported, Dhaka has so far been silent on the issue, terming it as an ‘internal matter of India’
This is seen as a signal that Bangladesh, already stretched in terms of resources and manpower to host Rohingya refugees, would not be acceding to a request of taking back Bengali-speaking Muslims in case deportation is initiated
Neighbourhood first policy in shambles- China Effect
PM Modi came to power with proclamation of a ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy. Midway in the final year of his term, the reality speaks quite differently
Nepal, once a time-tested ally, has tilted towards China since the 2015 Nepal blockade barring the entry of fuel, medicine and other vital supplies and holding the state to a literal siege
Nepal now has been given access to four Chinese ports at Tianjin, Shenzhen, Lianyungang and Zhanjiang in addition to its dry (land) ports at Lanzhou, Lhasa and Xigatse, as well as roads to these facilities, ending India’s monopoly to its trading routes
The India-Bhutan relationship has also been strained ever since India temporarily withdrew subsidies on cooking gas and kerosene in 2013, constraining bilateral ties
The Doklam stand-off in the summer of 2017 reinforced Bhutan’s scepticism towards Chinese expansionist plans across the region
Simultaneously, Thimphu has been underlining the landlocked kingdom’s aspiration to affirm its sovereignty
It has, for instance, stepped out of India’s diplomatic influence, as evidenced by its withdrawal from the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) motor vehicles agreement
The India-China power play has also cast its shadow over Sri Lanka and the Maldives in the last few years
Against this backdrop of China making inroads into South Asia and India’s backyard, Bangladesh has so far been the most trusted ally of India
On the security front, it has cooperated in India’s crackdown on insurgents
Annual bilateral trade is set to cross the $9 billion mark, making it India’s biggest trading partner in South Asia
In addition, Bangladesh has facilitated connectivity with the Northeast by allowing the use of Chittagong and Mongla ports
However, the Teesta water-sharing issue remains unaddressed, non-tariff barriers on Bangladeshi exports persist and border killings are yet to become a thing of the past
The NRC issue threatens to disturb the equilibrium in India-Bangladesh ties
Plans for deportation of those not on the NRC list are not only politically imprudent but also risk inciting unrest across the region
Previous similar exercises have not been effective and only resulted in alienating individuals from their natural rights
Mains Paper 2: IR | India & its neighborhood- relations
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Port of call, Name of ports mentioned in newscard
Mains level: How Bangladesh can be used a gateway to northeast India
Enhancing connectivity between India-Bangladesh
India and Bangladesh signed several milestone agreements for enhancing inland and coastal waterways connectivity between the two countries for trade and cruise movements
The two countries have signed an agreement to use Chattogram and Mongla Ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India
A Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) has also been signed for movement of passenger and cruise services
An addendum to ‘Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade’ (PIWTT) between India and Bangladesh has been signed for inclusion of Dhubriin India and Pangaonin Bangladesh as new Ports of Call
These agreements will facilitate easier movement of goods and passengers between the two countries, giving an impetus to trade and tourism
Agreements for the port of call
The two sides agreed to consider inclusion of Rupnarayanriver (National Waterway-86) from Geonkhali to Kolaghat in the protocol route and to declare Kolaghatin West Bengal as new Port of Call
Chilmari was agreed to as a port of call in Bangladesh
The new arrangement will facilitate the movement of fly ash, cement, construction materials etc from India to Bangladesh through IWT on Rupnarayanriver
Both sides agreed to declare Badarpur on river Barak (NW 16) as an Extended Port of Call of Karimganj in Assam and Ghorasal of Ashuganj in Bangladesh on a reciprocal basis
The North Eastern states would get connected to directly to the ports of Kolkata and Haldia in India and Mongla in Bangladesh through waterways which would facilitate movement EXIM cargo and would also reduce the logistic costs
In another important understanding reached at between the two countries, the Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) for movement of passengers and cruise vessels on Inland Protocol route and coastal shipping routes have been finalised
These river cruise services are likely to commence between Kolkata – Dhaka – Guwahati – Jorhat and back
Reducing distance of Assam
It was also agreed that a Joint Technical Committee will explore the technical feasibility of operationalisation of Dhulian-Rajshahi protocol route up to Aricha
The reconstruction and opening up of Jangipur navigational lock on river Bhagirathi subject to the provisions of the Treaty between India and Bangladesh on Sharing of Ganga Waters at Farakka,1996
This move has the potential to reduce the distance to Assam by more than 450 kms on the protocol routes
Both sides have also agreed for development of Jogighopa as a hub/trans-shipment terminal for movement of cargo to Assam, Arunachal Pradesh, Nagaland and Bhutan and notifying Munsiganj River terminal by Bangladesh Customs for routing third party Exim cargo through Kolkata Port
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: CORPAT
Mains level: India’s defense cooperation with Bangladesh
Annual CORPAT with Bangladesh
India and Bangladesh have agreed to institute a Coordinated Patrol (CORPAT) as an annual feature between the two Navies.
It is aimed to consolidate bilateral defense relations between India and Bangladesh and to explore new avenues for naval cooperation.
India-Bangladesh Naval Cooperation
The commencement of CORPAT is a major step towards the enhanced operational interaction between both Navies.
Naval cooperation between India and Bangladesh has been traditionally strong, encompassing a wide span which includes operational interactions through port calls, passage exercises along with capacity building, capability enhancement and training initiatives.
Widening cooperation through CORPAT
Over the last few years, the Indian Navy has expanded its assistance to countries in the region through material support, training, EEZ surveillance, provisioning of platforms, hydrographic assistance, joint exercises and offering slots in professional training courses.
The Navy regularly conducts CORPATs with Indonesia, Myanmar and Thailand. It also conducts EEZ surveillance of Maldives, Mauritius, and Seychelles on their request.
Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: Not Much
Mains level: Benefits for North-East India. Also, these projects is an example of good relationship between both the countries
The article talks about the projects of transportation system between India and Bankgladesh
Kolkata-Khulna Bandhan Express
Recently, flagged off by the Prime Ministers of both the countries
to follow in the tracks of the erstwhile Barisal Express, which was stopped during the 1965 war with Pakistan
The two countries, especially India’s Northeast, stand to gain enormously from closer road and rail links
Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata Bus link
Service on the 490 km Agartala-Dhaka route began in September 2003, and ran irregularly until January 2015, when it was stopped for security reasons
Service was restarted in May 2015 on an extended Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata route (910 km)
Kolkata-Dhaka Maitree Express
In 2008, rail links disrupted by hostility with erstwhile East Pakistan were reestablished, the 375 km route crossing the border at Gede on the Indian side and Darshana on the Bangladesh side
A 15-km line between Agartala and Akhaura being built by the Indian Railways is set for completion by the end of 2018
With this, a 37-hour journey that an Agartala-Dhaka-Kolkata train can cover in less than a third of this time
A line links Siliguri in North Bengal to Parbatipur in northern Bangladesh, by which India sent a 42-wagon consignment of high speed diesel manufactured by Numaligarh Refinery in Assam in March 2017
But there is no regular goods train movement on this route, and passenger services are unlikely soon
Because of trans-border crimes and infiltration in the North Bengal sector
Kolkata-Dibrugarh waterway through Dhaka and Guwahati, started in 1844 by the East India Company and shut after the 1965 war, was recently reopened
Heavy machinery and equipment for the Numaligarh refinery and Lower Subansiri hydroelectric project in Arunachal Pradesh have been transported by this route
In November 2015, seamless road cargo transport between Kolkata and Agartala through Bangladesh was tried out successfully under the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicles Agreement (MVA)
Regular services are yet to start
Northeast: the biggest beneficiary
The creation of East Pakistan — and subsequently, Bangladesh — significantly increased the distance between the Northeast and the Indian mainland
Until 1947, a train to Guwahati from Kolkata took hardly 12 hours
Today, despite increased speeds, the journey takes at least 18 hours by the fastest train, while a normal train — such as the Kamrup Express — takes almost 24 hours through Siliguri or New Jalpaiguri.
Before Partition, people travelled from Guwahati to Kolkata via Lalmonirhat, in the Bangladesh district close to where the Brahmaputra crosses the border
Trains between Assam and Kolkata through East Pakistan stopped in 1947; trains between West Bengal and East Pakistan stopped after the 1965 war
Mains Paper 2: IR | India and its neighborhood- relations.
From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:
Prelims level: What is LoC?
Mains level: Good relations with Bangladesh and other neighborhood has became more important due to rising Chinese influence in the region.
Line of credit (LoC) agreement
India is signing an LoC agreement involving USD 4.5 billion to be spent for its infrastructure and social sector development
Agreements for the Promotion and Protection of Investments’ would also be signed
Particulars of the agreement
Bangladesh would have to purchase 65 to 75 per cent of the services, goods or works from the Indian market with the money to be provided under the third LoC
(following the precedence of the previous two nearly identical agreements)
Government agencies already undertook 17 development projects to be implemented with the upcoming USD 4.5 billion loan
The two countries signed the first LoC in August 2010 while the second one was inked in March, 2016
Line Of Credit – LOC
A line of credit, abbreviated as LOC, is an arrangement between a financial institution, usually a bank, and a customer that establishes a maximum loan balance that the lender permits the borrower to access or maintain
The borrower can access funds from the line of credit at any time, as long as he does not exceed the maximum amount set in the agreement and as long as he meets any other requirements set by the financial institution, such as making timely minimum payments
Event: Upcoming visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India
Context: WB CM Mamata Banerjee’s political fight against PM Narendra Modi’s demonetisation drive
The visit was unlikely to witness any progress on the Teesta water-sharing issue because of these political differences
The focus of the visit was likely to be on greater defence and maritime cooperation, and not on river-water sharing
At the Budapest Water Summit 2016, PM Hasina said Bangladesh remained vulnerable as 92% of its surface water originated from outside its borders
According to her, water challenges today are not the scarcity of water in absolute term; rather its equitable distribution
Effective management of trans-boundary river water would serve a lasting and viable solution
Teesta deal has become more of a symbol than having a strong substance in it.
The Teesta deal was set to be signed during the then Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September, 2011 but was postponed
The Teesta river is said to be the lifeline of Sikkim, flowing for almost the entire length of the state.
The river then forms the border between Sikkim and West Bengal before joining the Brahmaputra as a tributary in Bangladesh.
What is Budapest Water Summit 2016?
The Summit is organised by the Government of Hungary in cooperation with the World Water Council.
The World Water Council is an international and independent organization which fight for better water management across the world.
It’s just a think tank!
This news demonstrates the impact that the federal nature of our polity can have on our international relations. Although external affairs is under the Centre, the views of a state CM are impacting our relations with another country. This article is important for polity and international affairs.
Event: The first ever bilateral visit by an Indian Defence Minister to Bangladesh
The visit was a way to revitalise India’s defence partnership with its immediate neighbours, especially Bangladesh and Myanmar, which share long land boundaries
At present the defence relationship is limited, except some training and military-to-military cooperation
This is also an attempt by India to offset growing engagement by China and Pakistan with Bangladesh on the defence front
India is open to selling them platforms and is keen to extend cooperation in the naval area
India is also keen on concluding a white shipping agreement to exchange information on commercial traffic
The armies of India and Bangladesh have last week concluded the sixth edition of joint military exercise “Sampriti-2016”
It focussed on counter-terrorism operations
What is white shipping and how does it help in India’s maritime security?
White shipping information refers to exchange of relevant advance information on the identity and movement of commercial non-military merchant vessels
Being aware of the identity of these vessels is imperative to preventing any potential threat from the sea from impinging on the coastal and offshore security of the country.
The 26/11 Mumbai terrorist attack is a case in point.
Indian Navy has thus been working towards achieving complete Maritime Domain Awareness (MDA) along with all other concerned agencies like the coast guard, customs, ports, fisheries, etc.
India has signed white shipping agreements with several countries including United States and Singapore and is seeking similar agreement with more countries as part of its ongoing effort at developing an effective regional MDA.
There are some important terms here, such as white shipping and Sampriti. These can come in prelims. India has signed many white shipping agreements this year. These will provide valuable information so that India can better monitor the Indian Ocean. This news also demonstrates the closer relations between India and Bangladesh and how we are reacting to China’s inroads.
The 8 NE states, including Sikkim, are largely dependent on Punjab, Haryana for food grains and essential commodities.
The rice is being ferried via Bangladesh to avoid the long and mountainous surface road up to Tripura via Assam and Meghalaya.
Following diplomatic parleys, the Bangladesh government in the first phase agreed to transport 10K tonnes of foodgrains for Tripura across its territory without charging any duty under a special transit facility.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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?
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
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.
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.
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 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.
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. Transit
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.
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 bedecided 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.
Land Boundary Agreement
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
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 Bayof 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.
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
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.