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Bangladesh-India diplomatic cooperation

18 Apr 2017

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Bangladesh has been making rapid progress since the Awami League-led government headed by Sheikh Hasina assumed power in 2009.

The overall improvement in all major economic, social and human development indicators is surprising the world. Implementing the pledge of making the country a middle-income one by 2021, Bangladesh’s economy is now growing over 7% annually and it became a middle-income country in 2015, six years before the pledged deadline. The country is now en-route to become a developed country by 2041 as it is now the 31st largest economy in the world and predicted to become 28th largest by the end of 2030.

 

Till now Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in social inclusion, poverty alleviation, infrastructural development, more public access to the internet and digital services, ensuring quality education. The poverty rate in the country has come down to 22.4% from 38.4% in 2006 and extreme poverty came down to 12% from 24.2%.

 

Till now Bangladesh has made remarkable progress in social inclusion, poverty alleviation, infrastructural development, more public access to the internet and digital services, ensuring quality education. The poverty rate in the country has come down to 22.4% from 38.4% in 2006 and extreme poverty came down to 12% from 24.2%.
The country has become self-sufficient with food, providing quality education to its children and ensured quality health services in rural areas with community clinics and free distribution of medicine. To meet the growing demand for electricity Bangladesh has taken mega power projects like Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant and Rampal Coal- powered Power Plant. The government pledged to ease road connectivity between its central region and southern region by building the largest bridge over Padma river by 2018. This dream project, namely Padma Multipurpose Bridge, is the largest ever in the history of Bangladesh and is being entirely financed by the government. 40% work of the bridge has already been completed.

 

In this course of development and progress, Bangladesh has also become an important and responsible member of the international community. Under the Awami League-led government’s motto ‘Friendship With All, Malice For None’ and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s style of pro-active diplomacy, the country has maintained an active international profile. One of the thrusts of the current government’s foreign policy has been enhanced ties with neighbours and increased regional connectivity. In recent years Bangladesh has laid due emphasis on its relations with its closest neighbor India, the country with which it shares a 2,545-mile long international border, the fifth longest land border in the world.

 

Given the historic, cultural and economic ties between Bangladesh and India, the two countries have always been more than neighbours, sharing not only common borders and rivers, but also culture, language and heritage that was further bonded by shared experiences and sacrifices during the 1971 liberation war. Since the Sheikh Hasia-led government assumed power in 2009, Bangladesh-India relations have continuously been elevated to newer heights. In recent years, cooperation between the two countries reached new peaks in such sectors as settling historical disputes, landmark diplomacy, bilateral and regional connectivity, power and energy, combating crimes and terrorism, trade and commerce and management of water resources.

 

Diplomatic breakthroughs:

 

Land Boundary Agreement (LBA): Owing to persistent efforts of the Hasina-led government, one of the most perplex and long standing border issues in the world was brought to a successful resolution in 2015. Although the deal was originally signed between Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the   then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi in 1974, successive governments in both the countries could not tackle the political issues to successfully implement it. Sheikh Hasina placed the resolution of the LBA as a top priority in her bilateral diplomacy with India since coming to power in 2009.

 

Following the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in 2015, the path was paved for concluding the LBA process. As a result 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India have been exchanged and residents of these enclaves on both sides of the border can now enjoy the benefits of nationality of India and Bangladesh, as the case may be. They can now access civic services, education, health care and other facilities provided by the two governments to their respective nationals. It was a watershed moment on the morning of 1 August 2015 as 68 years of stateless existence for over 51,000 enclave residents ended with hopes of a new beginning.

 

Ganga Water Sharing Treaty: Bangladesh and India share 54 common rivers. A bilateral Joint River Commission (JRC) has been functioning since 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems. Ganga Water Sharing Treaty was signed between the two countries in 1996 during the first tenure of Sheikh Hasina as Prime Minister. The treaty established a 30-year water sharing arrangement and recognized Bangladesh’s legitimate rights as a lower-level riparian. This was a remarkably successful bilateral diplomatic move as the issue had remained pending since 1982 for almost 14 years.

 

Maritime Boundary Delineation: By successfully arguing its case in the Hague-based Permanent Court of Arbitration in 2015, Bangladesh and India settled their long-standing maritime boundary dispute, and in the process, Bangladesh secured 19,476 sq km out of 25,602 sq km disputed area in the Bay of Bengal. Not only has the verdict settled the dispute, it also opened up possibilities for amicable bilateral cooperation in the Bay of Bengal between the two countries, from which both the countries stand to benefit. This is a very good example of a mature bilateral relation which looks at the long-term prospects of enhanced cooperation.

Sheikh Hasina’s 4-day visit to India from 7th April, 2017 has brought the two countries further closer now. Hasina’s latest visit has seen India extend another $ 4.5 billion concessional line of credit for priority sector projects in Bangladesh including the development of Pyra, Mongla and Chittagong ports. The two countries also signed five defence cooperation agreements, including a $ 500 million line of credit fo defence purchases from India. The visit has also seen the launch of new bus and rail links between the two countries on Kolkata-Khulna route. These would enhance people-to-people contact which forms the bedrock of two-way ties. The visit also saw the two sides highlight the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during Bangladesh liberation war.

 

Diplomatic and High Profile Visits: High profile visits by dignitaries of Bangladesh and India have always been noticeable under successive governments of Sheikh Hasina. After the Awami League led by her assumed power in 2009, a number of landmark visits have taken place. This started with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in 2010 followed by then Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in 2011. During this visit the two countries signed the landmark Framework Agreement on Cooperation for Development, which reiterated the base for Bangladesh-India relations in the light of a new era.
Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visited Bangladesh in 2013 on his first trip abroad since assuming the post which is a standing testimony to the significance of bilateral relationship. By the same token, Bangladeshi President Abdul Hamid paid an official visit to India in 2014. It is highly significant that on her first overseas assignment after assuming the office of Indian Minister for External Affairs, Sushma Swaraj visited Bangladesh in June 2014 that provided further momentum to the close and friendly relationship between the two countries.

 

A new dawn of strengthening bilateral relationship was ushered in with the Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in June 2015. Leaders of the two countries meet each other on the sidelines of multilateral forums, the meeting during the BRICS-BIMSTEC Leaders’ outreach summit in Goa in October 2016 being the latest such instance.

 

Sheikh Hasina’s 4-day visit to India from 7th April, 2017 has brought the two countries further closer now. Hasina’s latest visit has seen India extend another $ 4.5 billion concessional line of credit for priority sector projects in Bangladesh including the development of Pyra, Mongla and Chittagong ports. The two  countries also signed five defence cooperation agreements, including a $ 500 million line of credit fo defence purchases from India. The visit has also seen the launch of new bus and rail links between the two countries on Kolkata-Khulna route. These would enhance people-to-people contact which forms the bedrock of two-way ties.  The visit also saw the two sides highlight the sacrifices made by Indian soldiers during Bangladesh liberation war.

 

People to people contacts: People to people contacts between the two countries are now taking place at a rate faster than before. A record number of tourists from Bangladesh visited India in 2016. More than one million visas were issued by the Indian High Commission in Dhaka in 2016.  No one with a confirmed journey ticket to India needs a prior appointment date to submit visa application.

 

Cultural cooperation between the two countries has also been at their highest level in recent years. The Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) in Dhaka has been regularly organizing cultural activities since 2010. IGCC also holds regular training courses in Yoga, Indian classical music, Manipuri dance, painting and Hindi. Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) has instituted a Tagore Chair in Dhaka University since 2011. A 100-member youth delegation from Bangladesh visits India annually since 2012. During the Prime Minister Modi’s visit to Dhaka in 2015, a cultural exchange pact was signed for screening Bangladeshi programmes on Indian television.

 

Scholarships are granted by the ICCR to students from Bangladesh for pursuing general courses in arts, sciences, engineering and also specialized courses for culture, drama, music, fine arts, sports etc. Scholarships and training programmes under ITEC, TCS of Colombo Plan, ICCR, AYUSH, Commonwealth, SAARC and IOR-ARC scholarships/fellowship schemes are being offered to Bangladeshi nationals. Muktijoddha  Scholarship scheme has been extended by India to Higher Secondary level students (200 scholarship) and Graduate level students (478 scholarship). Bangladeshi diplomats are imparted training at Foreign Services Institute, New Delhi since 2011.
 




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