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EDITORIAL ANALYSIS–Furthering this neighbourhood friendship

The Editorial covers GS paper 2 [India and its neighbourhood- relations.]

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Introduction

  • Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will make her first official visit to India from October 3-6, post the general elections in Bangladesh (December 2018) and India (May 2019).
  • She will address the World Economic Forum’s India Economic Summit followed by the bilateral visit.

What is the history of India-Bangladesh relations?

  • India was one of the first countries to recognize Bangladesh and established diplomatic relations with Bangladesh immediately after its independence in December 1971.
  • The relationship between India and Bangladesh is anchored in history, culture, language, people-to-people ties and shared values of secularism, democracy, and countless other commonalities.
  • It is based on sovereignty, equality, trust, understanding and win-win partnership that go far beyond a strategic partnership.
  • In the last couple of years, the relationship has been further strengthened including through cooperation in new and high-technology areas.

What are the issues with Security and Border management?

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  • India and Bangladesh share 4096.7 km. of border, which is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours.
  • The India-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) came into force following the exchange of instruments of ratification in June 2015. 
  • A number of security related agreements (Mutual Legal Assistance in Criminal Matters; Transfer of Sentenced Prisoners, Combating International Terrorism, organized Crime and Illicit drug trafficking, MoUs on Prevention of Circulation of Fake Currency Notes and Prevention of Human Trafficking and Extradition Treaty) have been signed between both the countries and working groups have been constituted to curb illegal activities in the border areas.
  • The Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) signed in 2011 aims to synergize the efforts of both the Border Guarding Forces for checking cross border illegal activities and crimes as well as for maintenance of peace and tranquility along the India-Bangladesh border.
  • The settlement of the maritime boundary arbitration between India and Bangladesh, as per UNCLOS award of July 7, 2014, has paved the way for the economic development of this part of the Bay of Bengal.

What is the issue with sharing of river waters?

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  • India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. 
  • A bilateral Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) is working since June 1972 to maintain liaison between the two countries to maximize benefits from common river systems.
  • The Ganga Waters Treaty signed in 1996 for sharing of waters of river Ganga during lean season (January 1-May 31) is working satisfactorily.

What is the present status with bilateral trade and investment?

  • The first Trade Agreement between India and Bangladesh was signed in 1972.
  • In the last three years (the period between FY 2015-16 and FY 2017-18), India’s exports to Bangladesh grew 28.5% from USD 7 bn to USD 9 bn.
  • Bilateral trade stood at US$ 9.14 billion in 2017-18.
  • India’s exports to Bangladesh for the (Indian) financial year 2017-18 stood at US $ 8.46 billion and imports from Bangladesh during FY 2017-18 stood at US $ 0.68 billion.
  • India has provided duty free quota free access to Bangladesh on all tariff lines except tobacco and alcohol under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011.
  • Four Border Haats, two each in Tripura (Srinagar and Kamalasagar) and Meghalaya (Kalaichar and Balat), have been established for the benefit of bordering communities.

How has India economically assisted Bangladesh?

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  • India has extended 3 Lines of Credits to Bangladesh in the last 7 years amounting to US$ 8 billion. 
  • This makes Bangladesh the biggest development partner of India till date. 
  • In January 2010, India had announced a US$1 billion Line of Credit (LOC) for Bangladesh covering 14 projects in public transportation, roads, railways, bridges and inland waterways etc.
  • India had extended the second LOC of US$ 2 billion in June 2015. 
  • This LOC covers 15 projects in areas of Roads, Railways, Power, Shipping, SEZs, Health & Medical Care and Technical Education.
  • In April 2017, India extended a third LOC of US$ 4.5 billion to Bangladesh. 
  • The new LOC covered projects in areas of Port Construction, Railways, Roads, Airports, Power & Energy, Telecommunications, and Shipping etc. 

What are the areas of concerns?

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  • Teesta waters issue remains a big problem due to continuous protest by the Mamata Banerjee led West Bengal government.
  • The NRC has left out 1.9 million Assamese from the list with a group labelled as “illegal immigrants from Bangladesh” living in Assam post-1971. 
  • Bangladesh remains firm in its stance that no migrants travelled to Assam illegally during the 1971 war of independence and that the controversial NRC risks hurting relations.
  • Since the ban by India on cattle export, cattle trade has fallen from 23 lakh in 2013 to 75,000 till the end of May this year.

Conclusion

  • Since 2010, India has approved three lines of credit to Bangladesh of $7.362 billion to finance development projects. 
  • Due to bureaucratic red tape, just $442 million has been disbursed till December 2018. 
  • The Rohingya issue and India’s remarks in 2017 on the issue have been upsetting for Bangladesh which has been facing the challenge of providing shelter to more than a million Rohingya refugees fleeing persecution.

Source: The Hindu.