India-Bangladesh relations: A robust history and optimistic future

Written By: Abhilash Mahajan WION Web Team
New Delhi, Delhi, India Published: Mar 24, 2021, 01:10 PM(IST)

India-Bangladesh Photograph:( Zee News Network )

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As Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi is set to visit Bangladesh, here is a look at the history of ties between both nations and what can be expected in this trip

The key role played by India in the birth of Bangladesh cannot be overlooked and since then, despite roadblocks, the two countries have maintained close relations.

On March 26, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will be visiting Bangladesh on a two-day trip to mark the centenary celebrations of  Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan. 

This will be Modi's first visit abroad since the coronavirus pandemic, and is an example of the importance New Delhi gives to its ties with Dhaka. Recently, India has also sent the largest consignment of coronavirus vaccine doses to Bangladesh as part of its 'vaccine diplomacy'. 

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As the Indian prime minister gets set for his visit, let's look at the history of ties in key areas and what can be expected in this trip. 

Trade

Bangladesh is currently India's biggest trade partner in the South Asian region. To strengthen and encourage Bangladesh's trade and commerce, India has given several concessions to Dhaka, including duty-free access to Bangladeshi products into the Indian markets. New Delhi is also working continually to reduce Non-Tariff Barriers (NTB). To encourage trade, India is developing the Integrated Check Post in 10 border crossing points to lower NTBs, according to Observer Research Foundation. New Delhi's attempts to boost trade with Bangladesh saw fruitful results, as in 2019 Bangladesh's exports to India witnessed an increase of 43 per cent from the previous year.

Also read | Bangladesh 'very lucky' to host PM Narendra Modi for major celebrations: Foreign Minister Momen

Connectivity

This is one area where a lot has been delivered on the ground. A bus service was launched in 1999 that connected Dhaka with the eastern Indian city of Kolkata. Soon, another such service was kicked off between Dhaka with Agartala, which extended the connectivity of India's northeast. An old railway line that remained non-operational for 43 years was restored in 2008 between Dhaka and Kolkata.

Th two nations launched the Maitri (Friendship) Express and several old rail networks have been restored. 

In December 2020, Modi met Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during which both leaders agreed to revive the trans-border railway link connecting India's Chilahati and Bangladesh's Haldibari. Many other railway routes are set to be established this year. 

A friend in need

India has extended its hand of friendship whenever Bangladesh faced crises. India offered lines of credit worth about $10 billion to Bangladesh as part of development assistance, which includes setting up orphanages, cultural centres, educational institutions. India has also simplified the visa process for Bangladeshi tourists and 1.5 million visas were issued in 2019. New Delhi has also come forward during natural disasters in Bangladesh, including cyclone Sidr in 2007 and the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. During the coronavirus crisis, India provided medical training to Bangladeshi professionals, test kits and medicines, beside the dispatch of vaccine consignments. 

Security 

The successful security cooperation between the nations resulted in tackling militancy in Bangladesh. India's efforts to contain the militant group Jamaat-ul-Mujahideen Bangladesh's activities is an example of engagement on this front. 

Settlement of boundaries

The resolution of land and maritime boundaries disputes is one of the major highlights of the bilateral ties. After a ruling by the United Nations, India agreed to give up around 19,467 km in the Bay of Bengal without challenging the decision, a move that gave great access to Bangladesh to the resource-rich sea. 

The Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) signed between both nations in 2015 facilitated the transfer of 111 enclaves. According to the historic agreement, Bangladesh received more than 17,000 acres from India and gave up over 7,000 acres to India. 

Expectations from Modi's visit

During this visit, India and Bangladesh are likely to sign three Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs). Bangladeshi Foreign Secretary Masud bin Momen has said the agreements were likely to be in the areas of disaster management and cooperation between institutions of the two nations. 

Discussions on the 'India-Bangladesh-Myanmar-Thailand and beyond' belt are also expected to come up along with road connectivity with India and Bangladesh that wound extend up to Nepal. 
 

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