Prime Minister Narendra Modi and PM Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh will inaugurate the first friendship pipeline on Saturday i.e. tomorrow, while further strengthening their historical relations through virtual medium. This is the first cross-border energy pipeline between the two countries. Its cost has come to around Rs 377 crore. India has given grant assistance of Rs 285 crore to the pipeline constructed in Bangladesh’s part. This pipeline has the capacity to transport 10 lakh metric tonnes of High Speed Diesel (HSD) per annum. The length of this pipeline is 130 km and most of it about 125 km is in Bangladesh. Only five kilometers is in the part of India. India has stated that with the commissioning of this pipeline, it is an economical, reliable, environment-friendly way to transport HSD from India to Bangladesh. Both countries will move ahead in the field of energy. Till now Bangladesh used to import diesel from India through trains. Bangladesh had entered into an agreement in the year 2017 for the import of diesel. The existing pipeline is from Siliguri in West Bengal to Parvatipur Meghna Petroleum Depot in Dinajpur.
Bangladesh’s important place in India’s Neighborhood First Policy
India and Bangladesh have historical relations. India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as a separate and independent state. Diplomatic relations were established with the country soon after its independence as a friendly South Asian neighbor in December 1971. Bangladesh shares borders with India on three sides and the Bay of Bengal on one side. There is a border line of 4096.7 kilometers between the two countries, which are bordered by Assam, Tripura, Mizoram, Meghalaya and West Bengal. This is the longest border of India with any of its neighboring countries. Not only this, there is connectivity between the two countries through a total of 54 rivers. Bangladesh has an important place in India’s Neighborhood First Policy. India’s relations with Bangladesh are civilizational, cultural, social and economic. There is much that connects the two countries.
It includes shared history and common heritage, linguistic and cultural ties, music, literature and art. Apart from this, Rabindranath Tagore composed the national anthems of both India and Bangladesh. However, there still remain major issues between India and Bangladesh such as the river water dispute (Teesta river water sharing), assistance to illegal immigrants and drug trade, which should be resolved. Both countries are also moving forward in the field of trade, defense and security, power generation, skill development.
PM Sheikh Hasina had come in September 2022
In September last year, Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina came on a tour of India. At that time he had said that both the countries need to resolve the issues of their bilateral relations. Then a total of seven agreements were signed between the two countries. Which includes railways, science and technology, cooperation in space, media and water sharing. He had said that India is the closest and closest neighboring country. Let us tell you that the main issue is the sharing of river water between the two. However, in this direction, for the first time after the last 28 years, talks have been made between the two countries on the water sharing of the Kushiyara river. The Kushiyara River is the headwaters in the lower part of Assam and to Sylhet in Bangladesh. For the first time in 1996, an agreement was reached between the two countries on the sharing of the waters of the Ganges river.
Trade relations between the two countries
Bangladesh is the sixth largest trade partner of India. India has given Bangladesh a tariff-free quota on all products except tobacco and alcohol under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011. Bilateral trade between the two countries has also increased. Which was US $ 10.8 billion in the year 2020-21, it has increased to US $ 18.2 billion in 2021-22. Both the countries have approved 6 border haats out of which 4 are in Meghalaya and 2 in Tripura. The Agartala-Akhaura rail-link between the two countries will be the first rail route between Northeast India and Bangladesh. Friendship Express has started between the two countries. Not only this, the number of tourists from Bangladesh is also very high among the foreign tourists coming to India. In the year 2020, Bangladesh was at the top among citizens coming to India from abroad. Most of those coming to India from Bangladesh come for medical treatment.
What are the major issues between the two countries at present
Teesta river water dispute is a major issue between the two countries. Actually, the Teesta river flows through India and flows into the Bay of Bengal through Bangladesh. About half a dozen districts in West Bengal depend on the Teesta river. It is a major source of irrigation for paddy in the Rangpur region of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has always been complaining that it does not get the required share of Teesta river water. Since the issue of river water is a state subject in India. There is no consensus between the Government of Bengal and the Central Government regarding this. For this reason, no treaty has been signed between the two countries regarding Teesta water sharing.
NRC has increased the concern of Bangladesh
The second most important issue between the two countries is illegal immigration. The movement of illegal migrants from Bangladesh to India, which includes both refugees and economic migrants, continues unabated. The number of such migrants from Bangladesh is very high and it has emerged as a serious socio-economic and political problem for the people of the Indian states bordering the North-East. Due to this there has been a serious impact on the resources and national security in India. This became more serious when Rohingya refugees from Myanmar started infiltrating into India through Bangladesh. To deal with this, the Government of India has brought the National Register of Citizens (NRC), which will prevent Bangladeshi immigrants from entering India illegally. This policy has increased the concern of Bangladesh.
Drug Trafficking: There have been several incidents of drug trafficking and smuggling from across the border. Children and women in particular are trafficked and there is also the issue of poaching of various animal and bird species.
Terrorism: The issue of terrorism is also important between the two countries. Many organizations like Jamaat-ul Mujahideen Bangladesh (JMB) have been trying to spread their tentacles in India. JMB is recognized as a terrorist group by Bangladesh, India, Malaysia and the United Kingdom.
Growing Chinese influence in Bangladesh: Currently, Bangladesh is an active participant in China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) but India refused to be a part of BRI. In addition, Bangladesh imports Chinese military equipment, including submarines, in the defense sector, which is a major concern for India’s national security.
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Last modified: March 17, 2023