India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations immediately after its independence in December 1971. The relations between the two countries have usually been friendly, although sometimes there are minor land and water disputes.
Both are common members of SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA and the Commonwealth. The two countries share many cultural ties. In particular, Bangladesh and the East Indian state of West Bengal are Bengali-speaking.
India’s links with Bangladesh are civilizational, 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 countries developed different Cold War alliances in the 1980s, which further chilled bilateral relations. 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, pacified the bilateral relations. India and Bangladesh are close strategic partners in counter-terrorism. They are also the largest trading partners in South Asia.
Defence Cooperation and Border Management
- Various Joint exercisesof Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Milan) take place between the two countries.
- India and Bangladesh share 7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours. The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement(LBA) came into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification in June 2015.
- On the economic front, Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia.
- Between 2009-10 and 2015-16, the trade deficit grew in India’s favour at a staggering 164.4%.
- Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) from India to Bangladesh is $3.11 billion, including Reliance’s $642-million 745 MW gas-fired project and Adani’s $400 million in Mirsarai Economic Zone.
- Bangladesh has appreciated the Duty-Free and Quota Free access given to Bangladeshi exports to India under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011.
Cooperation over Rivers
- India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission(JRC) has been working since June 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems.
- The Ganga Waters Treaty signed in 1996 for sharing of waters of river Ganga during lean season (January 1-May 31) is working satisfactorily. Regular meetings of the Joint Committee on Sharing of Ganga Waters are held to take stock of the implementation of the provisions of the treaty.
Cooperation in Connectivity
- Both countries jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh).
- India-Bangladesh is a good example of connectivity through all modes of transport. The movement of goods by road is operationalized through 36 functional Land Customs Stations (LCSs) and 2 Integrated Check Posts (ICPs) along the border.
- The Protocol on Inland Water Trade and Transit (PIWTT) has been operational since 1972. It permits movement of goods over barges/vessels from India through the river systems of Bangladesh on eight specific routes.
- The Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal – Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBINMVA) is expected to significantly boost connectivity by road.
- There are regular bus services between Kolkata-Dhaka, Shillong-Dhaka and Agartala-Kolkata via Dhaka. A new bus service (Dhaka-Khulna-Kolkata) was launched during PM Sheikh Hasina’svisit in April 2017.
Cooperation in Power Sector:
- This has become one of the hallmarks of India- Bangladesh relations. Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MWof power from India.
- Energy sector cooperation between India and Bangladesh has also seen considerable progress in the last decade. Many Indian public sector units such as Indian Oil Corporation, Numaligarh Refinery Limited, Petronet LNG Ltd are working with their Bangladeshi counterparts in the oil and gas sector of Bangladesh.
- India has agreed to fund the construction of India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline from Siliguri to Parbatipur for supply of Diesel to Bangladesh from Numaligarh Refinery Limited.
Partnership on Multilateral forums
- India thanked Bangladesh for supporting India in its election to the United Nations Security Council.
- Both countries agreed to continue working together towards achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council, combating climate change, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protection of the rights of migrants.
- Highlighted that regional organizations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation(SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) have an important role to play.
- Bangladesh thanked India for convening the SAARC leaders Video Conference in March 2020 and for creation of the SAARC Emergency Response Fund to counter effects of the global pandemic in the South Asian region.
- Bangladesh will assume chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association(IORA) in 2021 and requested the support of India for working towards greater maritime safety and security.
- In September 2011, the two countries signed a major accord on border demarcation to end the 4-decade old disputes over boundaries. This came to be known as the Tin Bigha corridor. India also granted 24-hour access to Bangladeshi citizens in the Tin Bigha Corridor. The agreement included exchange of adversely held enclaves, involving 51,000 people spread over 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India. The total land involved is reportedly 7000 acres.
- Recently, India and Bangladesh signed seven agreements and also inaugurated three projects to deepen their partnership.
- Further Bangladesh has allowed the use of Bangladesh’s Feni river for drinking water supply in Tripura, and the use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India, particularly from Northeastern India.
- The border remains sensitive. In spite of Section 11 (11) of the India-Bangladesh Coordinated Border Management Plan — which says, “Neither side will resort to the use of lethal weapons except in self-defence against terrorists or smugglers” — at least 25 Bangladeshi civilians were killed by the Border Security Force (BSF) in the first six months of this year.
- Migration has also been a crucial reason of dispute between the two countries. Bangladesh has already raised concerns over roll out of the National Register of Citizens (NRC) in Assam, an exercise carried out to identify genuine Indian citizens living in Assam and weed out illegal Bangladeshis.
- The China factor also adds another dimension to the ties. Bangladesh is China’s second-largest arms export destination. Chinese firms have been outbidding their Indian counterparts in infrastructure projects. In the security sector, Bangladesh is also a major recipient of Chinese military inventory, including submarines. Hence, Bangladesh is deftly navigating relations with its two biggest neighbors in a neighborhood in flux.
Despite differences, India and Bangladesh do cooperate on many issues. Economic relations have been improved in last few decades. Bangladesh is a part of India’s Look East policy that wants to link up with Southeast Asia via Myanmar. On disaster management and environmental issues, the two states have cooperated regularly.
Efforts are on to broaden the areas of cooperation further by identifying common threats and being more sensitive to each other’s need. The two countries need to focus on priority areas, such the refugees crisis, investments, security connectivity development, cross border energy cooperation, blue economy, and cultural economy.
Data Source: The Hindustan times, the Hindu