Relevance and use of the article in UPSC prelims and mains examination: This article features India’s relations with Bangladesh which have gone well, but countries sharing centuries of history need to be much closer. we cas see that The relations between India and Bangladesh have been on an upswing since Sheikh Hasina Wajed took office in 2009. But despite India’s well-known role in the creation of Bangladesh, the 45 years have not always been spent in neighbourly bonhomie. Disputes over territory, water-sharing rights, illegal immigration, cross-border insurgency and terrorism have dogged Indo-Bangladesh relations. Three years after the birth of Bangladesh as an independent nation, its then prime minister, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, signed a Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) with then Indian PM, Indira Gandhi, to exchange enclaves and simplify the international border between the two countries. That it took 41 years for a revised version of this agreement to be adopted is a telling comment on the way the relations have developed between the two countries, who share a 4,096-km international border and centuries of history and culture. Please read the article carefully to boost your IR horizons.
- The uncertainty surrounding the visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has given rise to much speculation and conjecture. One of the main reasons, it appears, is that India and Bangladesh have failed to arrive at an agreement over sharing of waters of the river Teesta.
- Even in 2011, during former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh, the two nations were set to sign a water sharing pact, but at that time West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee objected to the formula agreed upon. In the draft, the two sides had agreed on a 50-50 water sharing ratio during lean season. To Mamata Banerjee, this was against the interests of her state. Since the Teesta originates in Sikkim and flows through West Bengal before entering Bangladesh, the consent of the state government is essential. Even the Constitution places water under the state list. When negotiations couldn’t break the impasse, the issue remained pending.
- In spite of the steady growth in India-Bangladesh ties in the past few years, the non-resolution of Teesta waters has been a sore point. The trade and economic relationship is booming. India has given duty-free access to all products made in Bangladesh and provided $3 billion as economic aid to its neighbour for development of infrastructure.
- During Sheikh Hasina’s visit, the two countries were expected to sign a raft of agreements on a wide range of issues including infrastructure development, trade and investment and military cooperation. All these positives couldn’t move forward as the non-resolution of the Teesta issue continues to attract attention in the popular discourse and is a cause for much heartburn in Bangladesh.
- Water is an emotive issue in Bangladesh as the people’s lives revolves around rivers. The Teesta is a major source of sustenance for India and Bangladesh as agriculture has evolved in the catchment areas of the river in both the countries. To support agriculture, the two nations have constructed barrages: In India at Gozaldoba and in Bangladesh at Dalia.
Concerns for both countries:
- Bangladesh has been complaining that it doesn’t get enough water during lean season as the barrage upstream in Gozaldoba draws water unilaterally leaving very little for Bangladesh. Besides, riparian concerns (relating to the natural course of a river) have also made Bangladesh pitch for a viable agreement, since dams are being constructed upstream in Sikkim. They fear that this might alter the Teesta’s flow further.
- In the context of India-Bangladesh ties, the issue becomes even more sensitive. There are many historical reasons for this. To begin with, Bangladesh perceives India to be harbouring a Big Brother syndrome. Secondly, its experience with the Farakka barrage (which allegedly caused water shortage downstream, a charge India denies) further deepens Bangladesh’s apprehensions. Finally, its relationship with India has been fodder for much political chest-beating in that country.
Some other issues
- India and Bangladesh have, however, shown intent in developing good relations in the past seven years. The work on revising the LBA was begun in 2011 during the visit of then Indian PM, Manmohan Singh, to Bangladesh and the treaty was sealed in June this year, when the two countries swapped tiny islands ending a border dispute that had kept thousands of people in stateless limbo for nearly 70 years.
- The water disputes, though, remain unresolved. But to the credit of both countries, they are not as much of a sticking point as in the past. There have been encouraging developments on the economic front. Bilateral trade has risen to more than $7 billion from $2.5 billion in this period. Bangladesh features prominently in India’s Act East Policy and both countries are willing to look beyond the SAARC by being part of groupings such as BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India-Myanmar) and BIMSTEC (the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation) that extend South Asia’s connectivity with Southeast Asia and China.
- At an annual average of six per cent, Bangladesh has witnessed a steady economic growth over the past decade. Its middle-class values the country’s historic ties with India but is also enthusiastic about relations with other countries in the region. In October, Chinese President Xi Jinping visited Dhaka and extended loans worth $24 billion to Bangladesh, more than 10 times what India gives Bangladesh. India’s relations with Bangladesh have gone well, but much more needs to be done.
- The Opposition accuses Sheikh Hasina of being pro-India and often overlooking the interests of Bangladesh. The non-signing of the Teesta is considered her failure. In Bangladesh, every bilateral visit with India is measured on a strict barometer of gains and losses, and the signing of the Teesta pact has itself become a benchmark. Besides, Hasina has been facing criticism for the growing radicalisation in the country. With the elections likely to be held in 2019, the resolution of the Teesta issue is crucial for her to thwart further criticism.
- One hopes the two countries recognise each other’s limitations and work for a win-win solution.
The Teesta is a major source of sustenance for India and Bangladesh as agriculture has evolved in the catchment areas of the river in both the countries. Do you think the present regime in both countries can clear this logjam on the concerned issue. Discuss in brief
- Discuss about the post war relations between the two countries.
- The atrocities faced by the citizens in both countries due to governance failure.
- Discuss about the instability of regime in bangladesh.
- The teesta water issue.
- Present situation of the water issue.
- How this situation can be overcome.
- Initiatives that must be taken from indian side.
- People to people connection.
- Highlight some other issues.
- Suggetions. conclusion.