Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India-Bangladesh Relations: Moving towards Greater Synergy

Academic journal article Indian Foreign Affairs Journal

India-Bangladesh Relations: Moving towards Greater Synergy

Article excerpt

The upward swing in the India Bangladesh relations has received a further boost with the historic ratification of the land boundary agreement by the Indian Parliament, followed by Prime Minister Narendra Modi's visit to Dhaka. After the National Democratic Alliance (NDA) government assumed power in May 2014, it has been piloting a "neighbourhood first" policy. Instead of just paying lip service to India's neighbourhood, Prime Minister Modi himself has taken keen interest to see that top priority is accorded to India's immediate neighbours to reinvigorate India's historical and socio-cultural ties and to restore the economic and trade linkages that existed before partition. The invitation to the heads of the governments of the SAARC countries for the swearing-in ceremony in May 2014 provided a glimpse into the NDA government's vision for the neighbourhood. In this context, the India- Bangladesh relations hold the promise of a new future. What one witnesses now is a culmination of a process that started in 2007 after the exit of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) government and it would be worthwhile to trace developments since then.

The Beginning of a New Era

The military backed caretaker regime that assumed power in January 2007, took steps to publicly recognise India's contribution to the liberation of Bangladesh and decided to felicitate Indian soldiers by inviting them to participate in the victory day celebration in Dhaka in 2007, which was the first of its kind. It needs to be mentioned here that India's role in the liberation war was politicised by vested interests. The two major political parties, the Awami League (AL) and the BNP attempted to appropriate history in a manner to glorify the role of only the founding father of their respective parties. Moreover, the subsequent military regimes that assumed power highlighted the role of the military and dismissed India's role as "strategically motivated". Therefore, this recognition by the military paved the way for a broader recognition, and coming from the military this was not questioned or frowned upon by the vested interests that had once collaborated with the military regimes. After AL assumed power in January 2009, it took further steps to recognise all those who contributed to the liberation of the country across the world. Both the countries now jointly celebrate Victory day in Dhaka and Kolkata.

During the Awami League's period, Prime Minister Hasina visited India in 2010 and a 51 point MoU was agreed upon, which provided a road map of future cooperation. Both the countries agreed to take steps at the earliest to demarcate the boundary, exchange the enclaves and settle the land that are in "adverse possession" of the other due to the rivers changing their course. While the strip maps were signed in July 2011, Prime Minister Manmohan Singh signed the protocol to the 1974 Land boundary Agreement during his visit in September 2011. An agreement on the Teesta could not be concluded; as a result, this issue shadowed the otherwise successful visit of the former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh.

India announced a credit line of $ 1 Billion during Prime Minister Singh's visit, out of which $ 200 Million were converted to grant, to build railways, communications, and infrastructure. Both the countries have already successfully connected their electricity grids and have built new transmission lines as the two countries enter into a new phase of relations by instituting energy trade. 500 MW power is supplied to Bangladesh out of which 250 MW is provided at a commercial rate. Similarly, Dhaka allowed India to transport Over Dimensional Cargoes for the Palatana project in Tripura through its territory, even though it could not conclude a transit agreement with India - due to political difficulties falling out of India's inability to sign the Teesta agreement.

The most significant aspect of the bilateral cooperation was when Dhaka handed over the insurgents from the Northeast of India who had taken shelter in Bangladesh and emerged as a major stakeholder of peace in the north eastern region. …

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