India Bangladesh: ET Analysis: Indo-Bangla relations enjoy golden period


NEW DELHI: Bilateral relations between Bangladesh and India have witnessed unprecedented heights over the last few years.

Since the visit of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in 2015 the notable developments that have taken place included resolution of long pending land and maritime boundaries including the issue of enclaves, conclusion of over 90 agreements including in high tech areas, such as space, IT, electronics, cyber security and civil nuclear energy and increase of bilateral trade from $ 7 billion to $ 9 billion (an increase of 28.5 per cent).

India has ensured duty-free access of Bangladeshi goods to Indian market, an increase of Bangladesh ready-made garments exports to India last year by 115 per cent (from $ 130 million to $ 280 million), and an increase in Indian investment, including in process, from $ 3 billion to $ 10 billion.

During the period several development cooperation projects were launched by the Prime Ministers of the two countries including construction of Bhairab bridge and Titas bridge; additional supply of 660 MW of electricity; construction of Akhaura-Agartala rail line etc by utilizing $ 8 billion of Indian Line of Credit.

Akhaura-Agartala rail project will provide a major boost to development and economy of eastern Bangladesh and north eastern India. The 1650 km distance between Dhaka and Kolkata has been reduced to only 550 km with the laying of Akhaura-Agartala rail track. The Indian government has borne expenses for laying of the entire 15 km track 10 km of which fell in Bangladesh territory. The rail project will go a long way promoting the Indian Prime Minister’s “Act East policy”.

Mention may also be made of the ongoing construction of 1320 MW Rampal coal-fired power plant, training of 4000 Bangladeshi officials in India from 2015 to date, training of 1500 Bangladeshi judicial officers in India, and a nearly three- fold increase in number of Indian visas to Bangladeshi nationals from nearly 5 lakh in 2015 to 14 lakh in 2017.

Bangladesh and India are jointly working on several infrastructure development projects in Bangladesh. On September 10 the Prime Ministers of Bangladesh and India jointly inaugurated the rehabilitation of Kulaura-Shahbazpur section of railway line. Restoration of this line will provide direct rail connectivity to Karimganj district of Assam and other north eastern states.

On September 18, the premiers of the two neighboring countries once again jointly inaugurated the construction of 130 km Bangladesh-India Friendship Pipeline between Siliguri in West Bengal and Parbatipur in Dinajpur and the third and fourth dual gauge rail line between Dhaka and Tongi and Tongi and Joydevpur sections of Bangladesh Railway.

Of the friendship pipeline, 125 km belong to Bangladesh and 5 km to India. Some 10, 00,000 tons of fuel can be supplied a year through the pipeline. The oil pipeline will supply 250,000 tonnes of diesel to Bangladesh in the first year and 400,000 tonnes annually in the following years.

Indian Assistant High Commission office has been recently opened in Sylhet. This new office will facilitate faster development of visa to the people of Sylhet and adjoining areas and open new opportunities for promotion of trade, commerceand tourism between Sylhet and north east India and people-to-people contact.

A number of welfare measures and schemes have been introduced to commemorate the spirit of Liberation War of 1971 and honour the invaluable contribution of Muktijoddhas towards building a better future for Bangladesh.

The Indian government has taken some notable initiatives like five-year multiple entry visa for all Muktijoddhas, free of cost treatment of all Muktijoddha patients in Indian Armed Forces hospitals and Nutan Muktijoddha Sanatan scholarship scheme. Muktijoddha scholarship scheme was launched by the Indian government in 2006 and Nutan scheme has been announced by the Indian Prime Minister in 2017. Once both these schemes are combined the Indian government will incur an expenditure of Tk 56 crore on this ground.

The scholarships are awarded by the Indian government to students who are descendants of Muktijoddhas studying in Higher Secondary and Undergraduate categories to assist their educational needs. More than 21,000 students stand to directly benefit from the scholarship schemes. Muktijoddhas endured extreme hardships during the war and the Indian government has extended many facilities to them in recognition of their sacrifices. A delegation of Muktijoddhas is invited to participate in Victory Day celebrations in Kolkata every year.

India has ensured special facilities being extended to Muktijoddhas, senior citizen, women applicants etc, launched Dhaka-Khulna-Kolkata bus and Khulna-Kolkata Bandhan Express services in 2017 and end-to-end customs and immigration services for Dhaka-Kolkata Maitri Express. Prime Minister Modi has termed the present period of relationship between the two countries as ‘Sonali Adhyay’ (golden chapter).


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