Sheikh Hasina secured 3rd consecutive term with a landslide victory in the elections. The alliance dominated by Hasina’s Awami League, seen as close to regional power India, won 287 of the 298 seats for which results have been declared for the 300-strong parliament.
The main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), which boycotted the last poll in 2014, won just six seats.Hasina’s win consolidated her decade-long rule over Bangladesh, where she is credited with improving the economy and promoting development but has also been accused of rampant human rights abuses, a crackdown on the media and suppressing dissent.Bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India have witnessed unprecedented heights over the last few years because of the Shekh Hasina government. Hence appointment of her will be beneficial for India. Hereby discussing the India and Bangladesh relations in context with new government.
- The Indian subcontinent was undergoing massive transition in 1971 with the fragmentation of Pakistan, as East Pakistan was disintegrated from the West Pakistan. India consistently supported the broiling struggles in East Pakistan led by Awami League leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that led to the formation of Bangladesh. India was vocal of Bangladesh’s independence and played an imfluential role in the establishment of the country.
- India is an important neighbor for Bangladesh due to strong Geographic, cultural, historic, and commercial ties. Bangladesh has brought itself to a momentous growth period after decades of overhauling and economic reforms. Due to Bangladesh’s strategical position in the region the aggressive expansionist China and unpredictable USA shrouds the region are looking to seize the opportunity and expand their strength in the region.
- India has emerged as a ‘friend for all seasons’ for Bangladesh as India growing regional and international influence cannot be ignored. India-Bangladesh share a love-hate relationship but that does not deter both the countries from cooperating on several issues.
- In 1975, Bangladesh slowly began to move away from the type of nationalism that marked its liberation struggle to becoming an Islamist state that served as a binding force in Bangladeshi nationalism.Shift of emphasis on Islam, intertwined with Bangladesh’s concern with Indian military’s buildup and bilateral disputes over shared water resources, riparian borders, and illegal immigration of Bangladeshis into West Bengal, soon became a bone of contention in the relations.
- Both the countries engagement has intensified in the fields of connectivity, intelligence inputs and security in the last decade.
- Akhaura-Agartala Rail Link Project-Akhaura-Agartala rail project will provide a major boost to development and economy of eastern Bangladesh and North-Eastern India. 1650 km distance between Dhaka and Kolkata has been reduced to only 550 km with the laying of Akhaura-Agartala rail track. The Indian government has borne expenses for laying of the entire 15 km track,10 km of which fell in Bangladesh territory
- Bangladesh denied support to Indian insurgent groups.
- Bangladesh has provided cyber connectivity between international gateway to Cox Bazaar to Agartala to foster inter connectivity.
- India, with the construction at Roopur nuclear plant has also become a partner in Nuclear power programme of Bangladesh.
- India granted Bangladesh generous grants and lines of credit.
- Visa norms have been liberalized.
Areas which Requires Attention:-
- India has been concerned about three issues since the Bangladesh’s independence: the internal stability, strategic relation with China, and the country’s alleged involvement with tribal insurgents of India. India has been an ardent advocate of democracy and denied any intention of destabilizing the democracy in Bangladesh, instead, Bangladesh’s strategical location is important for India’s North-East defenses.
- India shares a 4351 km long land border with Bangladesh running through five states, viz., West Bengal (2217kms), Assam (262 kms), Meghalaya (443kms), Tripura (856 kms) and Mizoram (318 kms).The porous borders are often used as a route for smuggling food items, livestock, drugs and medicines from India to Bangladesh. Thousands of illegal immigrants from Bangladesh have crossed the border to India over the years in search of employment and improving their lives.
- India and Bangladesh share 54 trans-border rivers, varying in sizes. 1996 was an important year for both the countries as they reached an agreement successfully on sharing of the Ganga waters. However, the major dispute that has become a bone of contention has been India’s plans to construct and operate the Farakka Barrage. Construction of Farakka Barrage is aimed at increasing the lean period flow of the Bhagirathi-Hooghly branch of River Ganga so as to increase the water depth at the Kolkata port which has been threatened by siltation.
- However, as the irrigation withdrawals increased in Bangladesh, the sharing of the lean season flow at Farakka became a dispute.Inadequate water during the lean season is unable to meet the assessed demands in the two countries that became the root cause of conflict between bordering countries.
- Illegal migration has been the most problematic issue between these two countries. Since 1971, when war of independence broke out that led to the creation of Bangladesh, millions of Bangladeshi immigrants crossed into the neighbouring states in India. Even though, the Indian government tried to deport some of these illegal immigrants, but the large number of immigrants, as well as the porous border between the two countries, has made the efforts of Indian government impossible.
- At least 10-million Bangladeshis poured into West Bengal during 1971 war. The most affected regions are the Eastern and North-Eastern parts. Illegal immigrants pose a direct threat to the country’s internal security, while also impacting the social fabrication.
Security Concerns :-
- Over the years, insurgency has strained the relations between India and Bangladesh. Since 1956, Northeast India has been the worst hit region facing insurgency due to growing ethnic separatism among the inhabitants.
- ISI has been accused of operating from Bangladesh, infiltrating and supporting the insurgents in the Northeast India. United Liberation Front of Assam (ULFA), National Liberation Front of Tripura (NLFT) and National Democratic Front of Bodoland (NDFB) are major insurgent groups that have created an atmosphere of terror in Northeast India.
Economic Ties :-
- Economics has served as a significant platform in strengthening the bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh. Economic relations between the two countries have been multifaceted, embracing trade transactions, credit arrangements, joint ventures, transit facilities and transport development. Even during adverse political situations, the economic relations have continued and expanded without any hindrances.
- 1982 was an important year for Bangladesh as it embarked upon the path of liberalization.India has reaped in major benefits because of the trade relations between both the countries.Bangladesh serves as one of the most important markets for India’s exports.
- For the past few decades, Bangladesh has been the India’s largest export market in the SAARC region. In 1995, India left China behind to reach first position as exporters to Bangladesh. India enjoyed a decade at the same position until 2005-06, after which China retained its position at number one. China has remained in that position until now.
- India’s total exports to Bangladesh touched 5.84 billion $ in the fiscal year 2011-12, since then there has been a subdued increase in the trade between two countries. In 2016-17, the exports grew by 13%, it reached 6.8 billion $ as rise in exports of high-value machinery and equipments for the implementation of various projects.
Road To Future:-
- India has ensured special facilities being extended to Muktijoddhas, senior citizen, women applicants etc, launched Dhaka-Khulna-Kolkata bus and Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Express services in 2017 and end-to-end customs and immigration services for Dhaka-Kolkata Maitri Express. Prime Minister Modi has termed the present period of relationship between the two countries as ‘Sonali Adhyay’ (Golden Chapter).
- India needs to narrow the gap of trade deficit
- Reassurance on water sharing
- Better securities ties.