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India-Bangladesh relations UPSC NOTE

 India-Bangladesh relations

  • Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina returned to power in Bangladesh for a historic fourth straight term.

  • Earlier this month after her party, the Awami League, secured two-thirds of the seats in the January 7 national elections. 

  • Prime Minister Narendra Modi was among the first world leaders to congratulate Ms. Hasina, illustrating the close bilateral relationship between the two countries.

  • The foundation of India’s relationship with Bangladesh was laid in the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War

  • India provided critical military and material support to assist Bangladesh in its fight for independence from Pakistan. 

  • Despite this, relations soured within a few years as military regimes took control

  • There was a rise in anti-India sentiment in the mid-1970s over issues ranging from boundary disputes and insurgency to the sharing of water. 

  • The instability continued for a few decades until Sheikh Hasina came to power in 1996 and scripted a new chapter in bilateral ties with a treaty on the sharing of Ganga waters

  • Since then, India and Bangladesh have built cooperation in trade, energy, infrastructure, connectivity and defence.

Impact of Sheikh Hasina’s victory have on the country’s bilateral relationship with India?

  • Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has grown steadily over the last decade

  • Bangladesh has emerged as India’s largest trade partner in South Asia, with bilateral trade reaching $18 billion in 2021-2022 from $10.8 billion in 2020-21.

  • Though there was a dip in 2022-23 due to the pandemic and the Russia-Ukraine war

  • India is also the second biggest trade partner of Bangladesh, with exports amounting to $2 billion in Indian markets.

  • In 2022, both nations concluded a joint feasibility study on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). 

  • The agreement, typically designed to reduce or eliminate customs duties on traded goods and simplify trade norms, is anticipated to open up broader social and economic opportunities

  • The CEPA gains additional significance as Bangladesh is set to lose its Least Developed Country (LDC) status after 2026, thereby losing its duty-free and quota-free market access in India. 

  • Dhaka will be eager to finalise a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with New Delhi, and also pursue the China-backed Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP). This dual approach raises concerns for India.

  • As a “major development partner” of Bangladesh, India is funding several infrastructure and connectivity projects

  • Since 2010, India has extended Lines of Credits worth over $7 billion

  • PM Modi and Sheikh Hasina made history last year when they inaugurated the Akhaura-Agartala rail link that connects Bangladesh and the northeast through Tripura

  • The link has given India access to Chattogram and Mongla ports in Bangladesh for the movement of cargo. 

  • It is likely to boost small-scale industries and develop Assam and Tripura.

  • In the energy sector, Bangladesh imports nearly 2,000 megawatts of electricity from India

  • The BIMSTEC Master Plan for Transport Connectivity focuses on connecting major transport projects in India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Thailand, thereby establishing a shipping network. 

  • India’s attention will primarily be directed towards the Matarbari Port, located about 100 km from Tripura, which Bangladesh is building. 

  • The port will establish a crucial industrial corridor linking Dhaka and the northeast part of India.

What is the status of economic cooperation between the two South Asian countries?

  • The looming Teesta dispute will take centre-stage in the agenda of the Hasina-led government

  • The issue revolves around the sharing of Teesta’s waters, with Bangladesh seeking an equitable distribution. 

  • Another contentious matter is the Rohingya issue. 

  • The Hasina government aims for the peaceful repatriation of Rohingyas to Myanmar, but its talks with the military junta have been unsuccessful so far

  • Bangladesh seeks India’s cooperation to influence Myanmar, but the Modi government, which has ties with the junta, asserts that it will deport Rohingyas from its mainland

  • Cross-border terrorism and infiltration are additional threats to internal security. 

  • The rise of majoritarian forces adds another layer to the complex landscape

  • While violence against Muslims has increased in India in the past few years, PM Hasina has stood at the forefront to condemn the attacks and express displeasure over comments by Indian leaders on “illegal” immigrants.

How is China making its presence felt? 

  • The U.S. has been vocal in its criticism of the Awami League government, exerting pressure on Sheikh Hasina over “democratic backsliding”. 

  • In 2021, the Biden administration slapped sanctions on a Bangladeshi anti-crime and anti-terrorism task force, citing human rights violations, and escalated tensions by announcing a policy to restrict visas for Bangladeshis it believed to be

responsible for undermining the election process in the country. 

  • Adding to India’s concerns is the deepening relationship between Bangladesh and China, marked by the substantial Chinese investments in infrastructure in recent years. 

  • China built 12 highways, 21 bridges and 27 power and energy projects in Bangladesh, as per the Chinese Ambassador to Bangladesh

  • However, Ms. Hasina has maintained that her government is “very much careful” about its partnership with China.

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