India Bangladesh Relations
India’s links with Bangladesh are civilizational, cultural, social and economic – a shared history and common heritage, linguistic and cultural ties, passion for music, literature and the arts.
Importance of Bangladesh for India
- Bangladesh’s location is a strategic wedge between mainland India and NE seven states. Each of these states is land-locked and has shorter route to the sea through Bangladesh. Transit agreement with Bangladesh will spur the socio-economic development of North-East India.
- Bangladesh is a natural pillar of ActEast policy. It can act as a ‘bridge’ to economic and political linkages with South East Asia and beyond.
- To contain insurgency in North-East – Ensuring that no anti-India terror or insurgent activities can be carried out from its soil.
- A ‘neutral’ Bangladesh also ensures containment of an assertive China in this region.
Major Irritants with Bangladesh
- Illegal migration since the 1971 war of independence of Bangladesh
- Border Management: The Indo-Bangladesh border is notorious for smuggling, apart from trafficking in arms, drugs and people
- Bangladesh uses China card to supplement its bargaining capacity against India.
- Water-sharing: India- Bangladesh share 54 trans-boundary rivers – Major irritant is sharing water of river Teesta.
Water Sharing Disputes
Ganga River Dispute
- In 1996, the sharing of the Ganga waters was successfully agreed upon between the two nations.
- However, the major area of dispute has been India’s construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage to increase water supply to the river Hooghly.
- Bangladesh complains that it does not get a fair share of the water in the dry season and some of its areas get flooded when India releases excess waters during the monsoons.
Barak River Contension
- Bangladesh has been demanding to stop the construction of the Tipaimukh Hydro-Electric Power Project on the Barak River on the eastern edge of Bangladesh.
- Bangladesh says that the massive dam will disrupt the seasonal rhythm of the river and have an adverse effect on downstream agriculture, fisheries and ecology of the region.
Teesta River Dispute
- Teesta river is a major source of irrigation to the paddy growing greater Rangpur region of Bangladesh.
- Bangladesh has sought an equitable distribution of Teesta waters, on the lines of Ganga Water Treaty of 1996.
- In 2011 India and Bangladesh finalized an arrangement, by which India would get 42.5% and Bangladesh 37.5% while remaining 20% would flow unhindered in order to maintain a minimum water flow of the river.
- This agreement was not signed due to opposition from chief minister of West Bengal.
Teesta River Agreement Importance
- The deal will help New Delhi get more political leverage, which, it thinks, is necessary to check the rising influence of an extra regional power – China – in the Bay of Bengal region.
- India’s perceived refusal to give Bangladesh its share of the river waters has fuelled a lot of anti-India sentiments in Bangladesh. India is being accused of being a regional bully.
- For Sheikh Hasina, the deal will support her chances to retain power in the 2018 general elections in Bangladesh – Pro India
On the Teesta River, Indian PM reiterated government’s strong resolve to conclude the water sharing treaty. However, the central government is not willing to go ahead with the agreement without taking West Bengal CM on board.
Recent Development in Relations
- Land Boundary Agreement – Exchange of certain enclave territories with Bangladesh and conferment of citizenship rights to residents of enclaves’ 100th Amendment Act paves the way for the operationalization of the 1974 India-Bangladesh Land Boundary agreement. Under the Agreement (LBA), 111 border enclaves will be transferred to Bangladesh in exchange for 51 that will become part of India.
- Power agreement and internet service – India will supply 100 megawatt (MW) of electricity in return for 10 Gigabits per second Internet bandwidth to North East.
- Sundarban Moitry – A joint exercise between Border Security Force (BSF) and Border Guard Bangladesh (BGB).
- Border Haats on India-Bangladesh Border
- ICT enabled Integrated Check Post to enable greater economic integration and significantly improve the connectivity between India and Bangladesh