GP Short Notes # 661, 11 September 2022
Bangladesh: Sheikh Hasina’s State visit to India
On 5 September, the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, arrived in India. On her arrival, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina met with the President and Vice-President of India .
On 6 September, she met Prime Minister Narendra Modi, where a closed-door meeting followed. The subjects ranged from water-sharing agreements, road-transport connectivity, non-custom-transit route, energy and hydrocarbon partnership to defence lines of credit, ecological concerns, etc.
Seven MOUs were signed between the two on various issues including waters, space and technology, railways and human resource development.
What is the background?
First, continuous engagement between the two states since 2014. The bilateral engagement has intensified since the NDA government came to power in 2014 under Prime Minister Modi's larger foreign policy initiative of the ‘Neighbourhood First’ Policy. Prime Ministers, Foreign Ministers and Chiefs of Army Staff have paid multiple state visits, dealing with issues like the Land Boundary Agreement in 2014. Both have formed more than 50 bilateral mechanisms to look into the various mutual areas of interest, the most recent being the Joint Technical Committee for the Ganga Water Sharing Agreement 1996. Apart from bilateral engagements, both nations have actively participated in shared multilateral forums like the SAARC, BIMSTEC and IORA.
Second, the emphasis on infrastructural connectivity. Since 2015, India and Bangladesh have focussed on transportation infrastructure, focusing on land and waterways. India seeks to improve and develop the railway infrastructure of Bangladesh in order to connect India’s North East. India has been helping Bangladesh in setting up dual gauge tracks and also helping with personnel training in Bangladesh. Through the BBIN, Bangladesh seeks to use the Indian territory as a transit to supply energy and logistics to and from Bhutan and Nepal. Both have recognized the importance of waterways as a cheap and efficient mode of transportation; as a result, the 1972 Protocol on Transit and Trade through Inland Waterways was renewed, which led to the establishment of inland waterway corridors. The development of the blue economy gained momentum through the Agreement on Coastal Shipping (2015) which allows India to use three coastal ports in Bangladesh.
Third, the focus on riverine issues. Bangladesh and India share 54 transboundary rivers; water-sharing talks feature almost regularly in bilateral meetings. The Teesta river water-sharing agreement continues to be a contentious issue between the two states, and both states are willing to solve it.
What does it mean?
India-Bangladesh relations have been on a positive track and expanding. The relationship has been mutually beneficial for both countries. Initiatives like the NADI Conclave and interaction with the concerned parties at the official level can identify the common areas of interest between the two countries. Such an active involvement will address the regional concerns and interests that will further enhance India-Bangladesh relations at both national and regional levels.
For India, the role of Bangladesh is crucial for the realization of Modi's vision of an integrated, developed and prosperous Northeast. Investments in infrastructure in Bangladesh will thus help both Dhaka and New Delhi.