Bangladesh–India relations

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Bangladesh–India relations
Map indicating locations of India and Bangladesh



Bangladesh and India are South Asian neighbours. Relations have been friendly, although sometimes there are border disputes. The historic land boundary agreement was signed on 6 June 2015 which opened a new era in the relations and further stopped all irritants in ties.[1] They are common members of SAARC, BIMSTEC, IORA and the Commonwealth. The two countries share many cultural ties. In particular, Bangladesh and the east Indian state of West Bengal are Bengali-speaking. Bangladesh has a high commission in New Delhi with consulates in Mumbai and Kolkata. India has a high commission in Dhaka with a consulate in Chittagong. In 1971, the Bangladesh Liberation War broke out between East Pakistan and West Pakistan; India intervened in December 1971 on behalf of East Pakistan and helped secure East Pakistan's independence from Pakistan as the country of Bangladesh. In a 2014 survey, 70% of Bangladeshis expressed a favorable opinion and perception of India.[2] Since the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in 2015 and round back visit of Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India in 2017, the notable developments that have taken places include resolution of long-pending land and maritime boundaries asserting the issue of enclaves, conclusion of over ninety instruments comprising in the hi-tech areas, i.e., electronics, cyber-security, space, information technology, and civil nuclear energy and observed increase in bilateral trade from US$9 billion to US$10.46 billion in the Fiscal Year (FY) 2018-19, followed by US$7 billion to US$9 billion in FY 2017-18, an increase of 28.5 percent.[3]


India's links with Bangladesh are civilisational, cultural, social, and economic. There is much that unites the two countries – a shared history and common heritage, linguistic and cultural ties, passion for music, literature and the arts.[4] The two nations were strong allies during the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971. From the mid-1970s, however, relations worsened because Bangladesh developed closer ties with Islamic nations, participated in the Organization of the Islamic Conference, and increased emphasis on Islamic identity over the country's ethnolinguistic roots. The two countries developed different Cold War alliances in the 1980s, which further chilled bilateral relations.[5][6] With the onset of economic liberalization in South Asia, they forged greater bilateral engagement and trade. The historic Ganges Water Sharing Treaty was concluded in 1996. India and Bangladesh are close strategic partners in counter-terrorism. They are also the largest trading partners in South Asia.[7]

Areas of contention[edit]

A post of the Bangladesh–India border
  1. A major area of contention has been the construction and operation of the Farakka Barrage by India to increase water supply in the river Hoogly. Bangladesh insists that it does not receive a fair share of the Ganges waters during the drier seasons, and gets flooded during the monsoons when India releases excess waters. See also Sharing of Ganges Waters.
  2. There have also been disputes regarding the transfer of Teen Bigha Corridor to Bangladesh. Part of Bangladesh is surrounded by the Indian state of West Bengal. On 26 June 1992, India leased three bigha land to Bangladesh to connect this enclave with mainland Bangladesh. There was a dispute regarding the indefinite nature of the lease. The dispute was resolved by a mutual agreement between India and Bangladesh in 2011.[8]
  3. Terrorist activities carried out by outfits based in both countries, like Banga Sena and Harkat-ul-Jihad-al-Islami.[9] Recently India and Bangladesh had agreed jointly to fight terrorism.[10]
  4. Bangladesh has consistently denied India transit facility to the landlocked North Eastern Regions of India. Although India has a narrow land link to this North Eastern region, which is famously known as the Siliguri Corridor or "India's Chicken Neck".[11]
  5. Illegal Bangladeshi immigration into India.[12] The border is porous and migrants are able to cross illegally, though sometimes only in return for financial or other incentives to border security personnel.[12] Bangladeshi officials have denied the existence of Bangladeshis living in India and those illegal migrants found are described as having been trafficked.[12] This has considerable repercussions for those involved, as they are stigmatized for having been involved in prostitution, whether or not this has actually been the case. Cross border migrants are also at far higher risk of HIV/AIDS infection.[12]
  6. Continuous border killing of Bangladeshi people by Indian border guards, aiding illegal immigrants, helping in armed dacoity, fake money transfer and illegal drug trades by both Indian and Bangladeshi people are the major problems between Bangladesh and India.
  7. Both Bangladesh and India made claims over the same seawater at the Bay of Bengal before settlement of the issue.[13]
  8. There was a minor glitch in their relation when former Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh accidentally mentioned that 25% of Bangladeshis are anti-Indian, during an informal press meet.[14]

Border killings of Bangladeshi civilians[edit]

Deaths of Bangladeshi citizens in the Indo-Bangladesh border became one of the embarrassments between the two nation's bilateral relations in recent years. The so-called ‘shoot-to-kill’ policy by India's Border Security Forces (BSF)[15] that according to Human Rights Watch killed nearly 1,000 Bangladeshis between 2001 and 2011 has remained at the core of the talks between Bangladeshi and Indian officials visiting each other.[16][17]

Indian officials visiting Bangladesh including the Indian foreign ministers and BSF chiefs numerously vowed to stop BSF shootings, but Bangladeshi nationals, comprising both illicit border crossers and innocents, have continued to be shot dead by the Indian troops.[18]

While anger grew in Bangladesh because of the continued BSF shootings and subsequent deaths,[15][19][20] Indian officials argue that heightened security has followed the increasing flow of illegal migrations into India as well as continued misuse of the border by illicit traders. Indian officials, vowing to cut down the number of casualties at border, showed statistics that the number of Bangladeshi deaths was in a steady decline in recent years.[18]

The Bangladeshi deaths caused by BSF shootings at the border became subject to a so-called cyber war between the hackers of the two countries that took the websites of BSF, National Informatics Centre and Trinamool Congress as victims.[21] The government of Bangladesh was found to comment on the issue condemning the cyber attacks on Indian websites.

Border police often shoots to kill any illegal immigrants crossing the border. Human Rights Watch estimates say 1,000 people were killed in the area between 2001 and 2011 by Indian border security force BSF.[22]

Recent developments[edit]

The High Commissioner of Bangladesh to India (center) with Indian Navy officials.

In September 2011, the two countries signed a major accord on border demarcation to end the 4-decade old disputes over boundaries. This came to be known as the tin bigha corridor. India also granted 24-hour access to Bangladeshi citizens in the Tin Bigha Corridor. The agreement included exchange of adversely held enclaves, involving 51,000 people spread over 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India. The total land involved is reportedly 7000 acres.[23]

On 9 October 2011, Indian and Bangladeshi armies participated in Sampriti-II (Unity-II), a 14-day-long Joint military exercise at Sylhet to increase synergy between their forces.[24]

In 2012, Bangladesh allowed India's Oil and Natural Gas Corporation to ferry heavy machinery, turbines and cargo through Ashuganj for Palatana Power project in southern Tripura.[25]

From October 2013, India started exporting 500 megawatts of electricity a day to Bangladesh over a period of 35 years. A 125-kilometre Baharampur-Bheramara transmission line, 40 km of it in Bangladesh, connects the two substations. Bangladesh officials believe the export would greatly ease the national shortage once 500 MW flows into the national grid. The two country's Prime Ministers also unveiled the plaque of the 1,320-MW coal-fired Rampal power plant, a joint venture between the two countries.[26] The link is being seen as a major milestone in strengthening the bilateral relationship and comes at a time when India is desperate to make up for its inability to deliver on two key pacts with Bangladesh: one on Teesta waters and the land boundary pact.[27]

From November 2013, A Wagah Border-like ceremony is being organised at Petrapole (in West Bengal, India) - Benapole (Bangladesh) border checkpoint. The ceremony which includes parades, march-past and lowering of the national flag of both the countries is now a daily routine, at sundown, on the eastern border.[28] The relations between the countries are definitely moving in positive direction.

Indian External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj visited Bangladesh in her first official overseas trip in June, 2014. On 7 May 2015 the Indian Parliament, in the presence of Bangladeshi diplomats, unanimously passed the Land Boundary Agreement (LBA) as its 100th Constitutional amendment, thereby resolving all 68-year old border disputes since the end of the British Raj. The bill was pending ratification since the 1974 Mujib-Indira accords.

In June 2014, during her first official overseas visit, Foreign Minister of India, Sushma Swaraj concluded various agreements to boost ties. They include:

  • Easing of Visa regime to provide 5 year multiple entry visas to minors below 13 and elderly above 65.
  • Proposal of a special economic zone in Bangladesh.
  • Agreement to send back a fugitive accused of murder in India.
  • Provide an additional 100 MW power from Tripura.
  • Increase the frequency of Maitree Express and start buses between Dhaka and Guwahati and Shillong.
  • Bangladesh allowed India to ferry food and grains to the landlocked Northeast India's using its territory and infrastructure.[25]

During Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi's state visit to Bangladesh during June 2015 as many as 22 agreements were signed by two sides. During the visit India extended a US$2 billion line of credit to Bangladesh & pledged US$5 billion worth of investments. As per the agreements, India's Reliance Power agreed to invest US$3 billion to set up a 3,000 MW LNG-based power plant (which is the single largest foreign investment ever made in Bangladesh). Adani Power will also be setting up a 1600 MW coal-fired power plant at a cost of US$1.5 billion.[29] The two countries signed a total of 22 agreements including the ones on maritime safety co-operation and curbing human trafficking and fake Indian currency. Modi also announced a line of credit of $2 billion to Bangladesh.[30]

At midnight on 31 July 2015, around 50,000 people became citizens of India or Bangladesh after living in limbo for decades. Ending a prolonged dispute, the two nations swapped 162 enclaves on the border region, allowing the people living there to stay or opt out to the other country. While 14,214 citizens of Bangladesh residing in 51 enclaves on the Indian side became Indians, a large number of people in the 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh preferred to stay with Bangladesh and just 979 opted to move to India. The total number of new Indian citizens will be 15,193.[22]

In 2018, the leaders of both the countries inaugurated the 130 km long Bangladesh-India Friendship pipeline to supply 4 lakh metric tonne of diesel to Bangladesh. In September 2018, the Bangladesh cabinet approved the draft of a proposed agreement with India to allow it to use the Chittagong and Mongla sea ports for transporting goods to and from its land-locked northeastern states.[31][32]

Defence relations[edit]

During Sheikh Hasina's four-day visit to New Delhi in April 2017, Bangladesh and India signed two defence agreements, the first such agreements between India and any of its neighbours. Under the agreements, the militaries of the two countries will conduct joint exercises and training. India will help Bangladesh set up manufacturing and service centres for defence platforms that both countries possess with the aim of achieving self-sufficiency in defence manufacturing in Bangladesh, and will also provide the Bangladesh military with expert training, and technical and logistic support. India also extended its first ever defence-related line of credit to a neighbouring country, by providing Bangladesh with $500 million to purchase defence equipment.[33]

Energy cooperation[edit]

India has recently introduced the concept of the Regional Power Trading System which will help various regions of the country in reducing the power deficit by transferring surplus power from another region. Under the Electricity Act 2003, the Indian companies could pool power in an exchange. A consumer would be free to buy it from anyone. This concept of power pool within India can also be enlarged to cover the neighbouring countries like Bangladesh, Bhutan and Nepal after the establishment of a sub-regional power pool and necessary inter-connections among these countries are put in place. This can ultimately form a regional power pool thereby generating a huge opportunity for power trading in the region.[34]

India is also looking to export electricity from its north-eastern region with potential to generate some 58,971 MW to its eastern States through Bangladesh. Bangladesh hopes to have access to Nepal and Bhutan's power through India. Bangladesh has formally requested a ‘power corridor’ to access the Bhutanese and Nepalese markets. It has agreed to allow India to transfer hydroelectricity from Assam to Bihar through its territory. The proposed meeting would attempt to remove irritants in project-related areas.[35] In 2016 deal between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was criticized. Bangladeshi critics accused the deal for setting a high price for the import of electricity, especially from Tripura. Equipment for the plant was sent through Bangladesh which waived most the transit fees.[36] Adani Power said on 8 November 2017 its arm Adani Power (Jharkhand) has inked long-term pact with Bangladesh Power Development Board to supply electricity from its upcoming 1,600 MW plant at Godda in Jharkhand.

Nuclear Energy Pacts: India would set up nuclear reactors in Bangladesh and technical cooperation and sharing of information in the field of nuclear safety and radiation protection.

High level visits[edit]

President Ershad visited India in 1982.[37] Sheikh Hasina visited India in 2010 to sign number of deals.[38] Manmohan Singh visited Dhaka in 2011 to sign number of deals.[39] Narendra Modi visited Bangladesh which was historic as land boundary agreement was solved in 2015.[40]

Development cooperation[edit]

India is very active in development activity in Bangladesh.

India has recently given several loans to Bangladesh. It gave $750 million for developing Bangladesh infrastructure in 2011[41]

In 2014 India extended a $1 billion soft loan for infrastructure development.[42]

Lines of credit[edit]

$862 million was given to buy equipment and services from Indian entities such as BHEL, RITES, small and medium enterprises.[43]

Small development projects[edit]

India announced a grant of nearly $10 million to Bangladesh for the implementation of various small development projects and also assured it to address trade imbalance issues.[44]


India and Bangladesh signed a memorandum of understanding for cooperation in the fields of health and medical sciences that will include joint research in health and exchange of doctors and health professionals. The MoU is aimed at promoting cooperation between the two countries in the fields of health and medical sciences through exchange of scientific materials and information and joint collaboration in research in medical science.[45]


Every year 200 Bangladeshi students receive ICCR scholarships.[46] India has offered scholarships for meritorious Bangladeshi under and post graduate students and PhD researchers to undertake studies in traditional systems of medicines like Ayurveda, Unani and Homeopathy, according to Indian High Commission in Dhaka.[47] In 2017, 400 Indian medical students protested in Chittagong after they failed to register with the Bangladesh Medical and Dental Council.[48][49]

Trade and investment[edit]

The trade is set to go at $10 billion by 2018 through ports.[50] Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh stood at US$6.6 billion in 2013-14 with India's exports at US$6.1 billion and imports from Bangladesh at US$462 million, representing more than double the value of US$2.7 billion five years ago.[51]

Bangladesh Cabinet has approved a revised trade deal with India under which the two nations would be able to use each other's land and water routes for sending goods to a third country, removing a long-standing barrier in regional trade. Under the deal India would also be able to send goods to Myanmar through Bangladesh. It incorporated a provision that the deal would be renewed automatically after five years if neither of the countries did not have any objection.[52]

See also[edit]

Further reading[edit]

  • Blood, Archer K. (2005). The cruel birth of Bangladesh: Memoirs of an American diplomat. Dhaka: University Press.
  • Benkin, Richard L. (2014). A quiet case of ethnic cleansing: The murder of Bangladesh's Hindus. New Delhi: Akshaya Prakashan.
  • Dastidar, S. G. (2008). Empire's last casualty: Indian subcontinent's vanishing Hindu and other minorities. Kolkata: Firma KLM.
  • Kamra, A. J. (2000). The prolonged partition and its pogroms: Testimonies on violence against Hindus in East Bengal 1946-64.
  • Taslima Nasrin (2014). Lajja. Gurgaon, Haryana, India : Penguin Books India Pvt. Ltd, 2014.
  • Rosser, Yvette Claire. (2004) Indoctrinating Minds: Politics of Education in Bangladesh, New Delhi: Rupa & Co. ISBN 8129104318.
  • Mukherji, S. (2000). Subjects, citizens, and refugees: Tragedy in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, 1947-1998. New Delhi: Indian Centre for the Study of Forced Migration.
  • Sarkar, Bidyut (1993). Bangladesh 1992 : This is our home : Sample Document of the Plight of our Hindu, Buddhist, Christian and Tribal Minorities in our Islamized Homeland : Pogroms 1987-1992. Bangladesh Minority Hindu, Buddhist, Christian, (and Tribal) Unity Council of North America.


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  2. ^ Pew Research Center. "Chapter 4: How Asians View Each Other". Pew Research Center. Retrieved 22 July 2015.
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  5. ^ David Lewis (2011). Bangladesh: Politics, Economy and Civil Society. Cambridge University Press. pp. 31–32. ISBN 978-1-139-50257-3. By 1974, Pakistan had recognised Bangladesh, and Mujib ... began participating in the Organization of the Islamic Conference. This, in turn, brought an end to the early positive phase of Bangladesh's relationship with India ... Saudi Arabia to recognise Bangladesh ... Zia's new emphasis on building a stronger Islamic identity in place of the earlier emphasis on an ethnolinguistic foundation. This shift also contributed to the creation of a more anti-Indian domestic political climate ... Ershad's government continued to build on the positive relation that Zia started building with the United States ... Relations with China also continued to remain close, but unlike Zia, Ershad did not make any effort to maintain friendly relations with the Soviet Union.
  6. ^ M. Saleem Kidwai (2010). US Policy Towards the Muslim World: Focus on Post 9/11 Period. University Press of America. pp. 240–. ISBN 978-0-7618-5158-5.
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  38. ^ "India-Bangladesh Joint Statement, January 2010".
  39. ^ "Sorry for the inconvenience".
  40. ^ "Prime Minister Narendra Modi's two-day Bangladesh visit". The Hindu. PTI.
  41. ^ Serajul Islam Quadir (4 September 2011). "India approves $750 mln infrastructure loan for Bangladesh". Reuters.
  42. ^ "India's $1b loan offer". The Daily Star.
  43. ^ "$2 billion line of credit to Bangladesh to create 50,000 Indian jobs". The Times of India.
  44. ^ "India grants financial aid to Bangladesh for implementation of development projects".
  45. ^ "India, Bangladesh sign MoU on cooperation in health, medical science". The Economic Times.
  46. ^ "Indian scholarships open for 2015-2016".
  47. ^ "India offers scholarships for Bangladeshi students for higher studies". The Independent. Dhaka.
  48. ^ "Despite Sushma Swaraj's assurance, Indian students in Bangladesh continue protests". 14 January 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
  49. ^ "Bangladesh: Indian students protest as medical board fails to register them". 12 January 2017. Retrieved 17 April 2017.
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  51. ^ "India-Bangladesh trade may almost double to $10 billion by 2018: CII". The Economic Times.
  52. ^ "Bangladesh Cabinet approves revised trade agreement with India". The Economic Times.

External links[edit]