India has shared cordial relations with Bangladesh ever since its liberation in 1971. Also, the last decade or so has indeed been the best period in the relations between the two countries in the last 50 years. Bangladesh is now central to India’s “Neighbourhood First Policy”, it remains an oasis of political and economic stability, though stress factors generated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the war in Ukraine have caused inflation linked to high energy prices.
However, despite of strong ties between the two nations, some issues still remain:
- 1.Teesta Water sharing agreement: For West Bengal, Teesta is important to sustain its impoverished farming districts which comprise 12.77% of its population. For Bangladesh, the Teesta’s flood plains cover about 14% of the total cropped area of the country and provide direct livelihood opportunities to approximately 7.3% of the population.
- 2.Border management and illegal migration: Despite high-level talks between the two countries, the issue remains unresolved.
- 3.Implementation of NRC: Bangladesh has raised concerns over the National Register of Citizens (NRC) as its implementation is expected to increase illegal migration from India to Bangladesh.
- 4.Trade Deficit: Despite the increase in Indian exports to Bangladesh, the desired target for products exported from Bangladesh has not yet been achieved. Some textile manufacturers in India are complaining about competition from the duty-free import of garments from Bangladesh.
- 5.Chinese inroads into the neighborhood have been a cause of worry for India. China has been actively pursuing bilateral ties with Bangladesh. Bangladesh had successfully approached China for a mega project to enhance Teesta river water flow. Bangladesh also requires China’s support in resolving the Rohingya refugee crisis. Bangladesh is the second biggest arms market for China after Pakistan.
- 6.Tackling the rise of radicalism: It is important from security point of view especially of north-east India and to maintain the mutual trust between both nations.
The conclusion of the seventh round of the India-Bangladesh Joint Consultative Commission led to the expansion in Indo-Bangladesh partnership by including Artificial Intelligence, Fintech, cybersecurity, startups, and connectivity. Bangladesh is India’s sixth largest trade partner with bilateral trade of about $10.8 billion in 2020-21. This is expected to rise after the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA). Even with the friendliest of neighbours, there are always areas of disagreement. It is a sign of the mature leadership in both countries that these differences have not been allowed to upset the broad positive trend in the relationship.