Dhaka/New Delhi, September 6 (IANS): Since the liberation war in 1971, Bangladesh and India have enjoyed a special relationship not only because of their geographical borders, but also largely because of their common cultural, linguistic and historical ties.
India, during the Bangladesh Nation’s War of Liberation, provided much of the necessary humanitarian and militaristic support that was so badly needed at the time. Since then, the two countries share a gigantic 4000 km long border, which makes Bangladesh India’s longest land-sharing neighbor in the South Asian region.
The current Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina, recently described bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh as a “model of good neighborly diplomacy”. This statement therefore came as an affirmation of the long-standing friendship that the two nations have had over the past five decades.
India, on the other hand, was among the first countries in the world to establish diplomatic relations with the newly independent nation in December 1971. Since then, Bangladesh has become India’s largest development and trading partner in South Asia. This has prompted the two neighboring countries to contribute to the economic and social prosperity of the other. Major progress has also been made on issues of water security and sharing which have largely been a minor thorn in the mutually cordial relations between the two nations.
Soon after Bangladesh gained independence, the two nations signed 13 agreements related to trade, telecommunications, culture and other fields in the early 1970s. like the endorsement of the Bangladeshi nation to forge friendlier relations with its land-sharing neighbor. The two countries also share about 54 common rivers between them; in 1972, a Bilateral Joint River Commission was established between the two to maintain mutual contact to maximize benefits for the shared river systems.
In a step towards such beneficial relations, Bangladesh and India signed a Development Cooperation Framework Agreement, under which the two sides agreed to reduce trade imbalances by reworking their trade and non-tariff barriers while agreeing to extend their cooperation to the sub-region. also at the regional level. A recent development in their relationship has also occurred as the countries strive to sign a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA), which emphasizes three specific dimensions; trade in goods, services and investments. The aim of such an agreement is to open up new avenues, including new markets and multimodal connectivity, while also focusing on closing the remaining trade gaps.
Testifying to such an enduring relationship based on mutually beneficial agreements, the two countries had also brought the Land Boundary Agreement into force in 2015 by exchanging the instruments of ratification. It came as a symbol of willpower in which both countries were keen to resolve issues that were seen as hampering the relationship.
However, these links also testified to a stronger political will to engage beyond their current positions; in the recent past, both India and Bangladesh have buttressed mutual trust beyond general cooperation in specific sectors. Over the past eight years, India has extended lines of credit worth $8 billion to its neighbor for development projects in sectors such as roads, shipping, ports and railways. iron. This makes Bangladesh the beneficiary of India’s largest concessional lines of credit to a single country in the world. India is also contributing to various projects in Bangladesh including the upgrading of Ashuganj river port and Akhaura land port road with a line of credit of over $400 million. An India-Bangladesh border road project that facilitates connectivity between some northeastern states of India and Bangladesh is also being developed with an additional line of credit worth of $80 million from the Indian nation.
However, it is not just the trade and economic aspects that make the relationship between the two densely populated countries a model for the world, but rather it is their lifelong friendship that attests to the statement by the Prime Minister of Bangladesh, who was in fact also reciprocal of the Indian side. Prime Minister Modi, on one of his first overseas visits after the Covid-19 outbreak, visited Bangladesh to attend its Golden Jubilee of Independence. Thus, the economic and security cooperation between the two is based on a long history and the ties that the nations have had in the past.
In times of crisis, India has also helped Bangladesh with medical and humanitarian aid. For example, in 2020, Indian Railways offered ten broad gauge diesel locomotives to Bangladesh due to urgent need. Similarly, India also supplied its neighbors with a significant amount of domestically produced Covid vaccines and had organized an evacuation of Bangladeshis stranded between the Russian-Ukrainian war.
Rather, what has emerged from such gestures is that many new avenues of mutual cooperation have opened up over the past decade. The population of Bangladesh subsequently became India’s largest medical tourist market; as India represents an affordable and cost-effective expense for procedures that may not be available in the country. This has led to extreme use of medical tourism visas from Bangladesh traveling to India. Not only in this aspect, but these new paths found for mutual benefits and interests are only possible if the nations have a lasting relationship based on trust and the will of the highest leaders.
The political entities in both India and Bangladesh have consistently attempted to advance their bilateral relations beyond the currently prevailing scope. There is, however, significant scope to deepen the relationship in a way that opens up other avenues and modes to ensure that the relationship remains beneficial to both countries. Aspects such as free trade, global health governance, global peace and stability are avenues that could present themselves as an opportunity for India and Bangladesh not only to take their cordial relations to the next level , but would also be an important message to the world. in terms of unity to advance its own perspective on the world stage.
Therefore, the statement by former Foreign Minister of India, Harsh Vardhan Shringla, echoing the Bangladeshi Prime Minister’s assertions that India-Bangladesh relations are a model of good neighborly diplomacy, is not a superficial statement made to present a certain idea of the bilateral relationship. Rather, it is a strong testament to the power of cooperation that can lead countries sharing land and water to have a mutually beneficial relationship while elevating their economic, social and political status in the global forum.