Since Bangladesh's independence from Pakistan in 1971, India has played a crucial role in supporting our liberation and subsequent development. Over the years, the two countries have managed to develop a cooperative and friendly relationship, addressing various bilateral issues and promoting regional stability. India and Bangladesh share a complex and multifaceted geopolitical relationship that has evolved over the years. The two countries have historical, cultural, and economic ties, as well as contention in some areas.
Historical Background: India and Bangladesh have a shared history, as both countries were part of British India until 1947. The Language Movement in 1952 and the Liberation War in 1971 further strengthened the bond between the two nations. Bangladesh, formerly known as East Pakistan, gained independence from Pakistan in 1971 with India's support. The Indian government played a crucial role in providing military assistance and sheltering millions of Bangladeshi refugees during the Liberation War. This historical event laid the foundation for a close relationship between the two countries.
Bilateral Relations: India and Bangladesh have maintained generally positive bilateral relations. There have been high-level visits and engagements, increased trade and investment, and cooperation in various sectors such as energy, infrastructure, and connectivity. Both countries have signed several agreements on security, border management, water-sharing, and cultural exchanges.
Economic Cooperation: Economic ties between India and Bangladesh have flourished in recent years. Bangladesh is one of India's largest trading partners in South Asia. The two countries have implemented measures to enhance bilateral trade, such as the removal of non-tariff barriers, the establishment of trade facilitation measures, and the promotion of cross-border investments.
Security cooperation: India and Bangladesh have been cooperating closely on security issues, including counterterrorism efforts and intelligence sharing. The two countries have successfully conducted joint military exercises and coordinated border security to combat cross-border threats.
Connectivity and Infrastructure: India and Bangladesh have made significant progress in enhancing connectivity and infrastructure development. Projects like the Maitree Express (train service), the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, and the restoration of inland waterways have strengthened physical connectivity and people-to-people contacts between the two countries.
Boundary Disputes: India and Bangladesh have resolved their long-standing boundary disputes through negotiations and legal processes. The Land Boundary Agreement signed in 2015 facilitated the exchange of enclaves and the demarcation of the land border, bringing about a positive change in border management and security cooperation.
Water Sharing: The issue of sharing water resources, particularly the rivers that flow through both countries, has been a subject of contention. Water sharing, particularly related to the Teesta and Ganges rivers, remains a significant challenge in the India-Bangladesh relationship. However, both countries have engaged in dialogue and are working towards finding a mutually acceptable solution to ensure equitable sharing of water resources.
Future Outlook: The future of India-Bangladesh geopolitical relations looks promising, with opportunities for further cooperation and collaboration. The countries have demonstrated a commitment to resolving bilateral issues through dialogue and cooperation. They continue to enhance trade and economic ties, improve connectivity, and foster people-to-people exchanges. There is also the potential for greater regional integration through initiatives like the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC).
Some Potential Areas of Focus
Economic Integration: Both countries can explore avenues to deepen economic integration by expanding trade, investment, and cross-border connectivity. The development of special economic zones and the promotion of regional value chains can contribute to mutual economic growth.
Security Cooperation: Strengthening security cooperation to address transnational challenges such as terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking will be crucial. Enhanced intelligence sharing, joint exercises, and capacity building can bolster regional security. Regional stability is crucial for both country’s future developments and security.
Climate Change and Disaster Management: Given the vulnerability of both countries to climate change and natural disasters, collaboration in areas such as disaster management, adaptation, and mitigation can help build resilience and protect shared ecosystems.
People-to-People Contacts: Encouraging cultural exchanges, tourism, and educational collaborations can foster greater understanding and goodwill between the people of India and Bangladesh, strengthening the social fabric of the bilateral relationship. Mutual trust and understanding for these two neighbouring countries are crucial for regional stability.
It is important to note that geopolitical dynamics can be influenced by various factors and can evolve over time. However, challenges may arise, such as managing transboundary water resources, addressing border security concerns, and maintaining a balanced relationship, given the influence of external powers in the region.
Nevertheless, both India and Bangladesh have shown resilience and pragmatism in dealing with such challenges, and they are likely to continue working together to strengthen their geopolitical relationship in the future.
The writer is editor of the Australia-based Bangla portal muktamancha.com