Mains Daily Question
March 20, 2023
In order to strengthen the bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh, the current challenges need to be addressed. Discuss
Introduction: Brief history of India-Bangladesh relations
Body: Mention challenges in their relationship. Suggest some solutions, too.
Conclusion: Importance of resolving challenges for sustainable and robust bilateral relations
Answer: India and Bangladesh share a 4,096-kilometer border. India's links with Bangladesh are cultural, social, and economic in nature. India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh's independence in 1971, and since then, the two nations have made significant progress in their relationship. The 2015 signing of the Land Boundary Agreement was a significant turning point, in which two neighbours peacefully concluded a long-standing dispute.
Current challenges in bilateral relations:
- River water dispute- The Teesta river is a major source of irrigation for India and Bangladesh, and an agreement was concluded in 2011 to give India 42.5% of the water, Bangladesh 37.5%, and the remaining 20% free rein. However, this agreement has not been put into effect due to disagreement.
- Illegal trade: The porous borders are often exploited to smuggle food, animals, narcotics, and medications from India to Bangladesh.
- India and Bangladesh share 54 trans-border rivers of varied sizes, causing water disputes. Plans for the construction and operation of dams in India are a source of significant disagreement. The inability of the two nations to satisfy their estimated water needs during the dry season is the underlying cause of the tension between their neighbouring countries.
- Ilegal Migration has been the most troublesome issue between these two nations. Since 1971, when the war of independence that led to the formation of Bangladesh broke out, millions of Bangladeshi immigrants (the great majority of them illegal) have entered the neighbouring Indian states.
- Over the years, the insurgency has strained ties between India and Bangladesh due to security concerns. Since 1956, Northeast India has been the area most affected by the insurgencies. However, there has been greater collaboration in this regard since the Hasina government has come into power.
- In addition, China's security and economic footprints have risen in South Asia, posing a concern for both nations.
Steps for strengthening the ties:
- The objective of advancing links based on collaboration, coordination, and consolidation is to improve economic ties and relations.
- The Rohingya crisis has placed Bangladesh under a tremendous economic and security strain. Therefore, the matter must be settled bilaterally.
- The illegal migrant issue, along with sharing of river waters, will require deft handling of bilateral ties between the two countries as India had issued the draft National Register of Nationals in Assam in order to account for real citizens in Assam and prevent influx. This further led to increased strain.
- While Bangladesh is overwhelmingly dependent on military hardware from China, India has provided a $500 million LOC for the procurement of defence-related goods from India. The such collaboration further on a trilateral basis for example for the construction of nuclear power plants should be further carried forward.
The shared colonial legacy, history, and socio-cultural bonds demand that the political leadership of the two countries inject momentum into India-Bangladesh relations. In any case, the course has changed after the change in government in India, which advocates a solid ‘neighbourhood first’ outside approach. India needs to go past the geopolitical impulses and move towards more concrete provincial collaboration like what the Europeans and Southeast Asians are doing.