Note: there is another article titled ‘Miles to go before becoming open defecation free’. We will add this with tomorrow’s editorials.
03rd October 2019- The Hindu Editorials Notes – Mains Sure Shot
Question – Analyse the relationship between India and Bangladesh and highlight the present status.( 250 words)
Context – meeting between Mr. Modi andSheikh Hasina on the sidelines of the 74th UN General Assembly late last month.
A brief analysis:
- India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations immediately after its independence in December 1971.
- IndiaBangladesh relationship is anchored in history, culture, language and shared values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities between the two countries. For example, the Bengali music, cuisine, way of life, world view etc.
- Both countries share an all-encompassing win-win partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership.
- Further there are regular high level visits and exchanges at Ministerial level as well as at senior official level between the two countries. And in these visits several bilateral agreements are signed including the exchange of instrument of ratification for India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA).
- There are more than 60 bilateral institutional mechanisms between India and Bangladesh in the areas of security, trade & commerce, power & energy, transport & connectivity, science and technology, defence, rivers & maritime affairs etc.
- Regarding security and border management, India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 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. And on July 31, 2015 the enclaves of India and Bangladesh in each other’s countries were exchanged and strip maps were signed.
- Regarding defence cooperation, various Joint exercises of Army (Exercise Sampriti) and Navy (Exercise Milan) take place between the two countries. Both navies and coast guard exchange goodwill ships visits to each other. Scholarships are given to heirs of Muktijoddhas (Bangladesh War Veterans) for Higher Secondary & Undergraduate students every year by the Government of India.
- Sharing of river waters is an important part that determines the relationship. India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) is working since June 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems. Also the Ganga Waters Treaty signed in 1996 for sharing of waters of river Ganga during lean season (January 1-May 31) is working satisfactorily.
- In bilateral trade and investment Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has grown steadily over the last decade. In the last three years (the period between FY 2015-16 and FY 2017-18), bilateral trade grew around 31.5% from USD 7 bn to USD 9.3 bn.
- Four Border Haats, two each in Tripura (Srinagar and Kamalasagar) and Meghalaya (Kalaichar and Balat), have been established for the benefit of bordering communities. Additional Border Haats on the India-Bangladesh border are under implementation.
- Bangladesh is the biggest development partner of India today. India has extended 3 Lines of Credits to Bangladesh in the last 8 years amounting to US$ 8 billion.
- In addition to LOC funds, the Government of India has also been providing grant assistance to Bangladesh for various infrastructure and socio-economic projects including the Agartala- Akhaura rail link, dredging of inland waterways and India Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline.
- As far as Power and Energy Sector Cooperation is concerned, cooperation in power sector has become one of the hallmarks of India- Bangladesh relations. Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.
- Various Indian public sector units including Indian Oil Corporation, Numaligarh Refinery Limited are working with their Bangladeshi counterparts in the oil and gas sector of Bangladesh. ONGC Videsh Ltd has acquired two shallow water blocks in consortium with Oil India Limited and is currently exploring these blocks.
- The GOI is also extending financial assistance for construction of 130 Km IndiaBangladesh Friendship Pipeline for supply of diesel from Siliguri to Parbatipur in Bangladesh.
- Improvements in connectivity are an important prerequisite for trade, investments and people-to-people ties. India and Bangladesh have a Protocol on Inland Waterways Trade and Transit (PIWTT), to facilitate trade and transit between the countries, since 1972. PIWTT permits movement of goods over barges/vessels through the river systems of Bangladesh on eight specific routes between points in India and Bangladesh, and between points in India through Bangladesh.
- There are presently around 100 flights operating weekly between India and Bangladesh connecting various Indian cities including New Delhi, Kolkata, Mumbai and Chennai to Dhaka and Chittagong. From India, Jet Airways, Spice Jet, Indigo and Air India are operating flights between India and Bangladesh.
- A number of training and capacity building courses are being conducted for Bangladesh officials.
- In cultural exchange the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) in Dhaka regularly organizes cultural programmes and also conducts classes in various Indian cultural elements including Hindi, yoga, Hindustani music and Manipuri and Kathak dances etc. These courses are very popular with the Bangladeshi students.
- A 100 member youth delegation from Bangladesh has been visiting India annually since 2012 to promote understanding among the youth about each other’s countries.
- The High Commission of India has been publishing a highly popular Bengali literary monthly magazine ‘Bharat Bichitra’ since 1972.
- In field of consular service, the Indian High Commission in Dhaka and the Assistant High Commissions in Bangladesh together issue the highest number of Indian visas compared to any other Indian Mission. The numbers are increasing manifold with figures exceeding 14 lakhs in 2018. And to meet the rising demand for Indian visa in Bangladesh, an integrated state-of-the art Indian Visa Application Centre(IVAC), was inaugurated on 15 July 2018 in Dhaka.
- There is also a large Indian community in Bangladesh. About 10,000 strong Indian community is estimated to be living in Bangladesh. Most of the Indians are engaged in Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector or as top professionals in MNCs. Around 3000 Indian students are also pursuing medical courses in different Universities/colleges in Bangladesh. A 24X7 helpline (01937400591) is functional to assist the Indian community in Bangladesh.
- The present relations between India and Bangladesh are more cordial than ever.
- The Bangladesh government has very well dealt with the issue of security threats and acts of insurgency against India and today, the India-Bangladesh border is one of India’s most secured. The signing of the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015 was a milestone, where the two neighbours amicably resolved a long-outstanding issue.
- Bilateral trade was a little over $9 billion in FY 2017-18 and Bangladeshi exports increased by 42.91%, reaching $1.25 billion in FY 2018-2019. The removal of non-tariff barriers will further help Bangladeshi exports such as harmonising the standards for goods accepted by India.
- In 2018, in addition to the 660 MW of power imported by Bangladesh, Indian export of electricity increased by another 500 MW.
- In addition, a 1,600 MW power station with a dedicated transmission system is being developed to boost power trade.
- Also as a mark of safety and trust, land routes have gained popularity over air travel, and are preferred by 85.6% of Bangladeshis visiting India. Train services on the Dhaka-Kolkata and Kolkata-Khulna are doing well, while a third, on the Agartala-Akhaura route, is under construction.
- Five additional bus services were introduced in 2018; this March, the first ever Dhaka-Kolkata cruise ship was launched. Bangladeshi tourists accounted for 21.6% of the total percentage of tourists visiting India in 2018.
- Today, Bangladesh contributes 50% of India’s health tourism revenue.
But despite these some challenges still remain like:
- Teesta Water Sharing Agreement: the WB government is not accepting to endorse water-sharing terms agreed upon by Prime Minister Modi in 2015 has resulted in the current impasse. A lack of water has affected 100,000 hectares of land, with contamination affecting the soil; the increased cost of pesticides and irrigation has made farming less profitable on both sides.
- The National Register of Citizens (NRC): it has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list with a group labelled as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” living in Assam post-1971. But Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence.
- The Rohingya issue: India’s stand on the Rohingya issue is upsetting for Bangladesh which has been facing the challenge of providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution.
- Further China is mediating on this issue concerning India-Myanmar and Bangladesh, when, given its geographical proximity, it is India which is ideally positioned to play a positive role in regional leadership.
- In a neighbourhood where distrust and cynicism, both countries must use their ties of history and culture and resolve the issues faster without any third party interference.