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3.3 India Bangladesh Relations

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Important Issues
1_Illegal migration.
2_Land border agreement.
3_Water sharing agreements.
4_Trade and transit rights.
5_The China factor.
6_Military aspect of cooperation.
7_Views of Muchkund Dubey (Ex Diplomat), Veena Sikri (Ex Diplomat), S Chatterjee.

Historical Evolution

1971 – 1975 Mujib era
India helped Bangladesh gain independence in 1971. The nationalist movement in Bangladesh was led by Mujib-ur-Rehman.
He talked about socialism, secularism, proponent of good India-Bangladesh relations.
He emphasized on Bengali identity and therefore pitched for separate nation.

1976-1980
1_Coup, Gen. Zia-ur-Rehman (Husband of Khaleda Zia) came to power. Mujib-ur-Rehman was assassinated (1976).
2_Zia-ur-Rehman emphasized on Muslim identity.
3_This period witnessed slow revival of relations with Pakistan and with China.
4_Indira Gandhi’s relations with Gen. Ziaur were not so fruitful.
5_1976-77 India started construction with Farakka barrage without formal agreement.
6_Proposed idea of SAARC to bring smaller neighbours together to balance India.
Assassinated in 1981

1980 – Coup, Gen. Ershad came to power.
Took Idea of SAARC forward. 1991-1996 BNP comes to power, headed by Khaleda Zia (wife of Ziaur Rahman).
By now Bangladesh has returned to democratic politics.

1996-2001 AL (Awami League) came to power headed by Shaikh Hasina.
Water sharing agreement over Ganga is settled for 30 year period.
India Bangladesh relations improved.

2001-2006 BNP came to power (Khaleda Zia) along with Jamat.
ULFA was provided refuge in Bangladesh
JeI, LeT, HuIJi etc. terror groups were establishing base in Bangladesh.
India Bangladesh relations deteriorated.

2008 AL (Awami League – Shaikh Hasina) returned.
During UPA II era, both govts. agreed to land boundary agreement and Teesta water sharing agreement.
Teesta has been pending due to objections  WB CM Mamata Banerjee.
Bangladesh cooperated with India in dealing with security issues. Tackling terror groups and militancy.
2013 – Extradition treaty was signed and Bangladesh as deported number of wanted militants to India.
AL was also elected in 2014 and in 2018. So India Bangladesh relations are in good shape presently.

Current Disputes

Land Border Issue.
1_Boundary enclaves. Some enclaves were left unsettled by Radcliff commission.
2_India owned 111 enclaves in Bangladesh (15,000 hectare) side while Bangladesh owned 55 on Indian side (7,000 hectare).
3_Teen Bigha Corridor.
4_1960 Berubari Union case.
5_Recently the whole issue was settled in 2015 by 100th constitutional amendment. Conclaves on either side were exchanged. Citizens were given choice to retain their nationality or acquire new one.
6_Sometimes because of rivers changing course, border also changes and not much can be done with this.

Illegal migration issue
1_Many Bangladeshis migrated to Assam and Tripura during partition of Pakistan i.e. 1971 war.
2_1985 Assam Accord. Anyone who enters Assam after 24 March 1971 (beginning of war), will be sent back.
3_1998 S Dutta report – lower Assam district have lot of illegal migrants and they have voter card and rashan card also.
4_There is no quantitative data, but estimates say number is 6 million -15 million.

Reasons behind migration
1_Push factors – lack of employment in Bangladesh
2_Pull factors – better wages, employment opportunities, especially in construction and textile sector.
3_Since 1990s India has started fencing border but BSF has been accused of excessive use of force in past.

Veena Sikri
1_Aim should not be to stop migration because that is not possible, but to regularize it through better work visa regime.
2_Climate change will further aggravate problem in coming decades since Bangladesh is low lying state, thus patch up solutions will not be sustainable and long term solution is required.
3_Push and pull factors should be addressed.

// As a pol. science student, always take worldview.

Trade
1_India Bangladesh Bilateral trade is $9bn. $0.8bn imports to India and $8.2bn exports from India.
2_This is natural, since there is structural asymmetry and difference in size of economy.
3_2010 and 2011 bilateral visits, India has lifted tariffs on 46 and 47 products of import, even from negative list. These are items from textile sector, where Bangladesh have competence.
4_Non tariff barrier: integrated checkposts on India border needs to be upgraded. It adds cost and time delays, sometimes even by week.
5_600MW electricity India is selling to Bangladesh through Bengal.
6_Another 600MW is proposed through Tripura.

Transit rights
1_Akhaura – Agartala rail link was inaugurated in 2018 through Video Conference. It will cut distance from Kolkata to Agartala by 1000km.
2_Ashuganj port to Calcutta link.
3_Road and Highways link between Bengal, Tripura and Mizoram through Bangladesh.
4_Indian cost of transport will reduce.
5_Bangladesh will get transit rights and earn taxes and also infrastructure development.

1_Poor quality of infrastructure in Bangladesh and
2_Its reluctance to give access to India, given the asymmetry of the power of India and Bangladesh.
3_Also due to lack of progress on water issue.
4_2011 India granted $1bn LoC to Bangladesh and out of which $200mn was exclusively for infrastructure sector.
5_By 2017 during Shaikh Hasina’s visit to India, this LoC was used already and fresh $5bn LoC was given.

BBIN MVA – Bangladesh Bhutan India Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement.
It will allow movement of vehicles across borders carrying cargo and passengers, including 3rd country transport and personal vehicles with electronic permit and tracking.

Benefits
Dependence on narrow Siliguri corridor will reduce.
Positive economic interdependence will help to sustain peace in the region.
It reduced distance between Kolkata to Agartala from 1550 to 600km!

The agreement has been passed by Nepal and Bangladesh and India but stuck in Bhutan. Bhutan have differences with Nepal. And it has requested to limit number of vehicles. It has also cited environmental reasons.
India Bhutan already have such bilateral agreement.

Water Sharing Issues

There are 54 transboundary rivers.
1_Ganga river system.
2_Teesta river system.
3_Barak
4_Brahmaputra

1976-77 India constructed Farakka barrage.
1996 Ganga agreement.
Barak river – Tipaimukh dam is pending. Bangladesh is concerned.

Teesta
39% to India and roughly same for Bangladesh.
Rest 22% has been left undivided.
2011 – Manmohan Singh visited Bangladesh, there was proposition to make it 50-50, but TMC opposed. And now also because of same reason, it persists.

Solving river issues will pave way for further relations and cooperation in other areas.
SAARC electricity greed can be realized through hydro power plants.

Rivers need not always be cause of conflict but they can also be cause for cooperation

Manmohan Singh

Military issues and China factor.

1_Since 1975, both AL and BNP have favoured good relations with China.
2_With India, AL favours good relations while BNP doesn’t.
3_BNP, 2002 Bangladesh signed defence cooperation agreement with China.
4_2016 Xi Jinping’s visit – 1st by Chinese president in past 30 years. Ties were elevated to the level of ‘strategic partnership’.
5_China has been major defence partner of Bangladesh.
6_China offered $ 24bn LoC for number of infrastructure projects.
7_2017 China supplied 2 Ming class submarines to Bangladesh Navy.

India’s strategic relations
1_$5bn Loc India extended in 2016 out of which $500mn should be used to defence platforms from India.
2_Shaikh Hasina signed Defence Cooperation Framework Agreement in 2016.
3_Training of submarine fleet of Bangladesh.
4_Civil nuclear Cooperation, a trilateral agreement between India, Russia and Bangladesh. Rooppur Nuclear Plant, 1000MW project._
5_China Bangladesh trade is $ 10bn. China exports $9bn and imports $1bn from Bangladesh.
6_CoRPAT – Joint patrolling amongst navies of India and Bangladesh.

View of Scholars on India Bangladesh relations.

C Raja Mohan (Journalist, ORF, South Asian Studies)
1_1st challenge is strong state-weak state asymmetry. Question of size and significance of these states. Delhi needs to be more proactive and sustained efforts to engage Bangladesh.
2_Dhaka must demonstrate ‘enlightened self interest’. Having closer cooperation with India is beneficial to Bangladesh also and not just India
3_Border and transit rights need to be worked upon. India and Bangladesh have normally worked against logic of geography. Geography naturally compulsates them to cooperate on matter. Historically they’ve gone against grain of geography.
4_Bangladesh must play a leadership role – through things like BIMSTEC, Look East Policy of India. It can become Lynchpin for these policies.

Muchkund Dubey (Ex Diplomat)
India historically neglected its smaller South Asian neighbours. This is time, India has to increase its assistance to these states. India shall give $10bn dollars LOC to be spent in just 5 yrs. He argues that if China can put in $46bn in CPEC, India can certainly do something.

S Chatterjee
Uses Stephen Waltz framework about 3 levels ( Internation, Domestic, Individual) which affect relations of countries
1_In India Bangladesh relation, domestic factors have played important role. AL-BNP – inconsistent relations between India and Bangladesh.
2_And now on Indian side also regional political parties, esp TMC In WB has increasingly complicated matters.
3_But in long term these needs to be addressed either by accommodating them or subsuming them under larger national interest.

Vina Sikree – she largely speaks about migration issue as discussed earlier. (Ex Diplomat)

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