India and Bangladesh - A Cautious Friendship - Daily Current Affair Article

CONTEXT :

Majoritarian violence against Bangladesh’s Hindu minority community during Durga Puja in Bangladesh caused at least six people dead and dozens injured. This was triggered due to fake news circulation through social media.

REASONS FOR RECENT ATTACKS

  • According to the Government, fake news reports shared over social media, indicates a conspiracy to instigate the violence. The mob violence appears to have begun in Comilla, in Chittagong district, where an image allegedly showing disrespect to the Koran was circulated, and resulted in several major mob attacks on Hindu temples and homes belonging to the minority community.

INDIAN AND GLOBAL RESPONSE TO SUCH INCIDENTS

INDIAN GOVERNMENT RESPONSE:

  • Condemned the incident but praised the Bangladesh government for quick action.
  • The Indian High Commission in Dhaka, which was in touch with law and order officials at the Centre, also stepped in to meet with members of the Bangladeshi Hindu community, including representatives from the ISKCON group that was attacked

GLOBAL RESPONSE:

  • The UN and US condemned this incident.
  • Calling the attacks on minority Hindus in Bangladesh as violative of the values enshrined in its Constitution, the UN called out to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina government to ensure an impartial inquiry into the incidents.

TRADITIONAL LIES BETWEEN BOTH THE COUNTRIES

  • 2021 is being commemorated as 50th anniversary of the 1971 India-Pakistan war that led to the liberation of Bangladesh, which even led to a 122-member contingent of the Bangladesh Armed Forces participating in the this year's Republic Day parade.
  • India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and establish diplomatic relations immediately after its independence in December 1971.

AREAS OF COOPERATION BETWEEN INDIA AND BANGLADESH

Corona Pandemic

  • The year 2020, despite onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, witnessed intense high level engagements at political and official levels reflects the bond of friendship between the two countries.
  • As part of bilateral assistance, the Government of India has extended three tranches of medical assistance including 30,000 surgical masks, 15,000 head covers, 50,000 surgical latex gloves, 100,000 Hydroxychloroquine medicine tablets and RT-PCR test kits capable of running 30,000 tests in March- April 2020 to Bangladesh to assist in its efforts to fight against the COVID pandemic.

Defense cooperation

  • High level exchanges in the year 2020 include the second edition of India-Bangladesh CORPAT ‘Bangosagar’ exercise on 03-05 October 2020, Regional Commanders meeting of Coast Guards on 19 October 2020, and the third Annual Defense Dialogue on 02 November 2020.
  • Joint exercises like Exercise Sampriti and Exercise Milan

Connectivity

  • The newly restored railway link between Chilahati (Bangladesh) and Haldibari (India)
  • Feni Bridge (Maitree Setu) connecting LCS Subroom (Tripura) and LCS Ramgarh (Bangladesh) has been launched for better connectivity.
  • Signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT).
  • Agreed to an early operationalization of the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative Motor Vehicles Agreement through the expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.
  • The use of the Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for movement of goods to and from India, particularly from Northeastern India

Economic Trade

  • Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia and India is the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh. Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has grown steadily over the last decade
  • 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 in various sectors:

  • Cooperation in the power sector has become one of the hallmarks of India- Bangladesh relations. Bangladesh is currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.
  • Bangladesh is the biggest development partner of India today. India has extended various Lines of Credits (LOC) and grant assistance to Bangladesh in the last 8 years for development of infrastructure in various sectors including roads, railways, shipping and ports
  • High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) constitute an active pillar of India’s development assistance. The Government of India has funded 68 HICDPs including construction of student hostels, academic buildings, skill development and training institutes, cultural centers, and orphanages etc in Bangladesh and another 16 HICDPs are being implemented.
  • The recent summit on a virtual platform on 17 December 2020 brought both countries together to sign seven bilateral instruments in various sectors including hydrocarbons, agriculture, trade, development projects, and conservation of heritage.
  • India resolved and stood with Bangladesh in the Rohingya Crisis

Cooperation on Multilateral forums:

  • Bangladesh supported 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.
  • Strong presence and agreement on regional organisations 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 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

ISSUES WITH BOTH

  • One of the major issues that arises amongst the two is the Teesta river water sharing issue.
  • The sharing of the Teesta waters has been a long standing demand of Bangladesh since the livelihood of millions is attached to the river’s water.
  • Moreover, constant building of dams along the Teesta in Sikkim has resulted in lean seasonal flow draining into Bangladesh. Since Bangladesh is a lower riparian country, it is naturally sensitive about transboundary river issues, and the sharing of the Teesta waters currently holds the key to improved India-Bangladesh relations.
  • From allotment of catchment areas of Teesta to India in 1947 to Joint River Commission in 1972 to ad-hoc arrangement for settlement of this issue and even the 2011 failed agreement; various attempts have been made to solve the issue but in vain.
  • India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours. This often creates tension between the two since the Land Boundary Agreement was signed.
  • India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) has been working since June 1972, but issues regarding water sharing arise from time to time
  • Other issues to look upon and resolve are continental shelf issues in the Bay of Bengal, border incidents and mainly infiltration, media issue etc.
  • National Register of Citizen (NRC) also brought up a sour point between the two neighbours and even the active participation of Bangladesh over the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) is a sour point for India

WAY FORWARD WITH SUGGESTIONS

India and Bangladesh share bonds of history, language, culture, and multitude of other commonalities. The excellent bilateral ties reflect an all-encompassing partnership based on sovereignty, equality, trust, and understanding that goes far beyond a strategic partnership.

  • India needs to address issues and doubts of Bangladesh and shouldn't shied away from the same
  • Teesta river issue needs to be resolved soon for the turning the direction of wind in our favour, amidst the growing paws of China.

As a regional leader, India has a greater role in the South-Asian geopolitics. However, it must ensure that its domestic drivers do not upset carefully built foreign relations.

Sources

  • The Hindu
  • The Indian Express
  • The Diplomat
  • The Economic Times
General Studies Paper 2
  • International Relation