India played an important role in the firth of Bangladesh as an independent nation in 1971. The foundation of deep and close India-Bangladesh relations was laid down by the three agreements signed by them during the visit of Indian Prime Minister to Dhaka in March 1972.
- The first was the Treaty of Friendship and Cooperation which affirmed the principles of Panchsheel as the guiding principle between the two.
- The second was the trade and commerce agreement which among other things provided for the freedom of trade to the people living areas up to 16 km from the boundary.
- The third was the agreement on the cultural cooperation between the two countries.
Also, India promised to provide an assistance of Rs. 25 crores for the reconstruction of Bangladesh. In 1974, both agreed to demarcate their boundary as India handed over two small enclaves – Dahagram and Angorpota to Bangladesh and, in return got possession of the area of Berubari. This exchange of territory was the need for administrative and transportation convenience. It should be noted that there are still small enclaves on the boundary, which are to be demarketed and exchanged for the sake of convenience of both. In 2011, both countries have agreed to start this process again.
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7 Main Areas of Concern
1. Ganga Water Agreement
The distribution of Ganga water has been the main consent between the two countries. The problem arose in 1975 when India decided to construct Farakka dan on river Ganga to divert its water to river Hoogly to improve the navigability of Calcutta harbour. Bangladesh objected to Indian project on the ground of not getting due share in the water of Ganga. The problem of distribution of Ganga water was resolved by two agreements signed in 1977 and 1996.
The first agreement was known as Farakka Agreement was concluded in 1977. Under the Agreement, India will get 40000 cusecs of water while Bangladesh would get 34000 cusecs of Ganga Water. In the lean season, the share of India would be reduced to 28000 cusecs. Since Bangladesh violated some conditions of this agreement, it came to be suspended in 1982. However, both parties continued with the ad-hoc arrangement till 1996, when new Ganga water agreement signed between the two countries.
The 1996 agreement makes a realistic assessment of an availability of water in Ganga. The main provisions of the agreement are –
- If the availability of water in Ganga is less than 70000 cusec of water, both countries will share an equal amount of water.
- If the availability of water between 70000 and 75000 cusec Bangladesh’ share would be 35000 and India would get the rest of the water.
- If the availability of water is more than 75000 cusec, India would get 40000 cusecs of water and rest of water will go to Bangladesh.
The Ganga water agreement shall be in force for the period fo 30 years. It is one of the major achievements in resolving bilateral issues though mutual consultation, for the better India-Bangladesh relations. Both countries have decided to continue negotiation to develop an understanding with respect to use of water in other rivers.
2. Chakma Refugees
Chakma is the Buddhists living in Chittagong hill tract of Bangladesh. In order to avoid discrimination and prosecution in Bangladesh, they have been coming to the Indian State of Tripura. India has requested Bangladesh to take back these refugees, but the response has not been encouraging. Finally, two countries sign and agreement in 1997, by which Bangladesh has agreed to take back all 50000 Chakma refugees. By now all Chakma refugees have been taken back by Bangladesh.
3. Barbed Wire Fencing in the Border
India and Bangladesh share a border of 3200 km, which is not properly guarded on all places. In order to check the infiltration of illegal immigrants, India decided to fix barbed wire fencing along the entire border, which was objected to by Bangladesh. However, India continued with fencing, which is now complete.
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4. Teen Bigha Corridor
Teen Bigha is a 178 meter long and 85-meter wide corridor along the Indo-Bangladesh border. Bangladesh demanded it because it facilitates the movement between two areas of Bangladesh lying on both sides of this corridor. India decided to hand over this corridor to Bangladesh in 1992 on the basis of the perpetual lease, but India will retain sovereignty over this corridor and Indian citizen will have freedom of movement in this corridor. The transfer of this corridor fulfils the longstanding demand of Bangladesh.
5. Sanctuary of India Ultra Elements
Some ultra elements and members of outlawed organizations active in North-East parts of India have found safe sanctuary in Bangladesh. India has been insisting of handing over such elements due to security reasons. But successive Bangladeshi governments have not obliged India. However, when Awami League came to power, India raised this issue. Consequently, the present government handed over in 2009 some of the top ULFA activists, who found safe sanctuary in Bangladesh. This has helped in the improvement of India-Bangladesh relations.
6. Development Partnership
Bangladesh is one of the four Least Developed Countries (LDCs) of South Asia. Besides extending all benefits and concessions given by India to all LDCx, India has been a dominant partner in the development of Bangladesh. Both started Dhaka-Kolkata rail service named as “Maitri Express” in 2008 after a gap of 43 years.
7. Recent High-Level Visits
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India in January 2010 and the two countries signed five agreement including cooperation on drug trafficking and criminal matters. ULFA terrorists were handed over to India subsequent to this agreement. Indian PM Manmohan Singh visited Bangladesh in September 2011 and both countries signed a framework agreement on development cooperation and another agreement on the exchange of enclaves and demarcation of remaining patch of the boundary.