India Bangladesh Relations

India Bangladesh Relations

This article deals with ‘India Bangladesh Relations.’ This is part of our series on ‘International Relations’ which is important pillar of GS-2 syllabus . For more articles , you can click here

Some History

  • Bangladesh became  Independent in 1971 with  military & political assistance of India
  • Independence won under leadership of Sheikh Mujibur Rehman (Party=  Awami League)  . They were  Anti Pakistan (+ China and USA)  and Pro India (+ USSR)
  • 1975 : Mujibur Rehman was assassinated due to military coupe by Zia-ur-Rehman =>this regime was Pro China and US (but Anti-Pakistan) and Anti India & USSR. Later, he established Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP)

Hence due to historical reasons

Awami League Follows Bengali first ideology Good Relations with India Present Leader -Sheikh Hasina
BNP Follows Islam first ideology Animosity with India Present Leader – Khalida Zia

Importance of Bangladesh for India

  • Geopolitical Importance of Bangladesh
    • Outlet for North Eastern States => land-locked states have  shorter route to the sea through Bangladesh.
    • Important for Security of Bay of Bengal  & tackling pirate activities
  • Success of Act-East policy
    • Bangladesh can act as ‘bridge’ to economic and political linkages with South East Asia.
  • Integral part of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First Policy
  • To contain insurgency in North-East 
  • Economic importance
    • Bilateral trade: currently $9 billion (+ large unaccounted informal trade) but trade potential is 4 times
    • Investment Opportunity for Indian companies 
    • Cooperation in blue economy( deep sea fishing, hydrocarbons, disaster management etc)
  • Cultural
    • Shared Bangla history => People to People contacts   
    • Rabindranath Tagore is equally famous (‘Amar Sonar Bangla’  written by him)
  • Co-partner in various multilateral Groups
    • Most important of which are SAARC & BIMSTEC
    • Supports India’s bid for observer status at OIC + Counter Pakistan’s statement on Kashmir at OIC Forums
  • To reduce the influence of china
    • ‘Neutral’ Bangladesh  helps to counter China’s One Belt One Road (OBOR) strategy .

Issues in India Bangladesh Relations(Gist)

India  and  Bangladesh   resolved  most contentious  land  boundary  issue 

But  there  are  still  some  contentious  issues  that  needs to  be  resolved

  • Teesta  Water  Treaty –  Teesta  originates in Sikkim and enters Bangladesh after passing through West Bengal. There is conflict on water sharing between West Bengal and Bangladesh
  • Ganga Water : Treaty was signed in 1996 but India constructed Farakka Barrage to supply water to Hooghly and in dry season , Bangladesh doesn’t get fair share of water
  • Illegal  Immigration / NRC Issue –   According to NRC draft , 40 lakh people living in (only) Assam are Bangladeshis. 
  • Transit  Rights  –   India  wants  transit  rights  to  better develop  its  North  East but Bangladeshis saw it  as infringement  of  its  sovereignty.
  • Security  Concerns  –  Bangladesh  provides safe havens to insurgents active in North East
  • Tipaimukh  Hydro-Electric  Power  Project  on  the  Barak  river  
  • Border Management:  Porous border=> smuggling, trafficking in arms, drugs and people.
  • Rohingya crisis: 11 lakh Rohingyas refugees in Bangladesh=> India providing financial help via ‘Operation Insaniyat’ but Bangladesh expects India to put pressure on Myanmar for repatriation  of Rohingyas.
  • Bangladesh uses China card to supplement its bargaining capacity against India. 
  • Growing Islamic radicalisation => ISIS in Bangladesh => can destabilise Indian Subcontinent
  • Competition in some sectors like Textile

Conclusion : India should adopt the Gujral doctrine of unilateral support to its smaller neighbours to gain their confidence especially given China’s presence.

Gist : Things given by India

  • Main role in their Independence
  • Army joint exercises
  • Land Boundry issue and Water boundry issue solved => India lost some land and EEZ but accepted for sake of friendship
  • SAARC satellite  => Free access to transponder
  • Rooppur nuclear power plant is being made by India and Russia in Bangladesh
  • Visa  regime in India has been liberalized for  Bangladeshi tourists and businesses
  • Border Haats on Bangladesh-Meghalaya & Bangladesh – Tripura border
  • 130 km India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline Project for Transportation of Oil.
  • Exporting 660 MW electricity daily, will add 500 MW more.

Issue : Teesta Water Dispute

Note: 54 rivers pass from India to   Bangladesh => Being lower riparian state, Bangladesh is affected by  dam built on them 

About Teesta

  • Teesta originates in Sikkim & after passing through West Bengal, it enters Bangladesh
  • Importance=> Very important for  irrigation on both sides.


  • India built three Projects on Teesta like Gajoldoba Barrage (in Jalpaigudi) to divert water to other areas => Indian regions started to prosper but Bangladeshis are raising voice against this
  • Radical Islamic Parties like Jamat-i-Islami using it to consolidate people against Sheikh Hasina (Indian ally)
India Bangladesh Relations
Teesta Water Issue

2011 : Teesta Accord Drafted  – India & Bangladesh to get 50:50% respectively.

  • But West Bengal Government acting as impediment to sign this Accord .

Importance of Teesta Accord for India

  • PM Hasina is an important ally of India.
    • Adopted zero tolerance policy against Anti-Indian terror outfits.
    • Help in containing influence of China – in Bay of Bengal region. (BNP favours China) 

Signing deal will consolidate her position in Bangladeshi Polity

  • Not signing such deal give oxygen to radical elements  . Jamait e Islami is  becoming powerful by portraying Sheikh Hasina as puppet of India  

Bangladesh’s trust on India will increase if there are more water sharing agreements

Issue : China Factor in Bangladesh 

  • Bangladesh is part of OBOR project & also attended the OBOR Summits
  • China increasing Defence Partnership with Bangladesh=> recently Bangladesh procured two submarines from Beijing
  • China using Bangladesh as outlet for Kunming Province (Chittagong Port Project)
  • Bangladesh is part of BCIM project
  • China is financing 25 energy projects in Bangladesh including  Bangladesh’s 2nd Nuclear power plant.
  • Bangabandhu-1 – First communication satellite of Bangladesh to be launched with Chinese help.
  • Soft diplomacy – Training of personnel, including Chinese language teachers

But points in Indian favour

  • During freedom struggle,  Communist China helped Pakistan and opposed the creation of Bangladesh
  • China also casted a veto in the Security Council to block new Bangladesh’s entry into the United Nations.
  • Issue of China building dams on Brahmaputra unilaterally.

Issue :North East Factor in Bangladesh relations

  • Initiative  of  bus  service  between
    • Guwahati  to  Dhaka
    • Agartala to  Kolkata  via  Bangladesh 

shorten  the distances  

  • Overcome strategic vulnerability of Chicken Neck by providing alternate route
  • Providing  outlet to industries in North Eats via Bangladeshi ports . Chittagong and Ashuganj ports are just 70 and 40 km from border
  • Development  of  business  haats  (trading  centres)  on 
    • Tripura-Bangladesh
    • Meghalaya – Bangladesh border

But issues

  • Illegal Bangladeshi Migrant Issue  + NRC  issue  
  • North Eastern Insurgents take shelter in Bangladesh 
  • Bangladeshis view India’s use of their land for transit as impingement of their sovereignty

Potentials & prospects :-

  • Indian North East ,Bangladesh & Myanmar should create a tourist circuit
  • Energy  –  Bangladesh  is  electricity  deficient  country.  Hydropower  potential  of north  eastern  states  and  Bhutan  can  be  harnessed  to  satisfy  need  of Bangladesh  . 
  • Jointly  developing  its  ports  (Ashuganj)  to  connect  them  with  our  north  east.
  • BIMSTEC  and  SAARC  have  opened  up  avenues  for  multilateral  exchange  of Goods and Services
  • Cooperation on dealing with climate change => West Bengal and Bangladesh are low lying areas => large scale submergence due to Ocean Level Rise leading to migration crisis

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