Published:  12:25 AM, 10 June 2019

Bangladesh-India relations written with blood

Bangladesh-India relations written with blood

March - December 1971. Recall those horrific times that we transited then. India stood beside us whole-heartedly during those horrendous months of Pakistani military machine to annihilate us from our own homeland. The Western saying, "A friend in need is a friend indeed" echoes the Russian proverb "a friend is known in a trouble" and the words of Kazakh philosopher, poet and writer Abai, "You can distinguish a good friend from a fake one.

Fake friends are like a shadow. On a sunny day you cannot get rid of them. When it is cloudy you cannot find them, no matter how much effort you make." And we must say we found India and its people as our true friends in our dire emergency needed times of 1971 to liberate and establish Bangladesh as a sovereign and independent state from the savage military ruler of Pakistan.

During the Bangladesh Liberation War of 1971, India provided extensive aid, training and shelter for the exiled government of Bangladesh and Bengali nationalist freedom fighting guerrilla force that was fighting the Pakistani Army. 10 million Bengali refugees poured into India during 1971, increasing tensions between India and Pakistan.

At the outbreak of the Indo-Pakistani War of 1971, the Joint Force including regular army of Bangladesh, Mukti Bahini (Freedom Fighters) and the Indian Military liberated the-then East Pakistan, leading to the establishment of Bangladesh. India's role in the independence of Bangladesh led to the development of strong bilateral relations. The-then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi spoke along with Bangladesh's founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman before more than half a million people at Suhrawardy Udyan in Dhaka.

Bangladesh's links with India are civilizational, 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. The two nations have been strong allies since 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. With the onset of economic liberalization in South Asia, both countries have 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. We are also the largest trading partners in South-Asia.

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.

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. 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 one key pact with Bangladesh: one on Teesta waters.

During her first official visit then to Bangladesh, former Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj concluded various agreements to boost ties which include:

a. Easing of Visa regime to provide 5-year multiple entry visas to minors below 13 and elderly above 65.

b. Proposal of a special economic zone in Bangladesh.

c. Agreement to send back a fugitive accused of murder in India.

d. Provide an additional 100 MW power from Tripura.

e. Increase the frequency of Maitree Express and start buses between Dhaka and Guwahati and Shillong.

f. Bangladesh allowed India to ferry food and grains to the landlocked Northeast India's using its territory and infrastructure.

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 and 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. 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 US$2 billion to Bangladesh.

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 US$500 million to purchase defence equipment.

The trade is set to go at US$10 billion by 2018 through ports. 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.

The India-Bangladesh relationship does carry strong historical and cultural overtones, but both sides also realize the immense benefits of a strong relationship. While Dhaka does have some grudges against New Delhi, some legitimate, it has not defined its national identity merely in terms of being anti-India, nor has it neglected historical and cultural commonalities. Significantly, Bangladesh has not been excessively dependent on any one country - ensuring that it maintains a degree of autonomy in its foreign policy - unlike some of India's other neighbors.

Given the shared history and commonality of language, cultural exchanges form an important bond of friendship between the people of two countries. Special emphasis has been laid on promotion of exchanges in the fields of music, theatre, art, painting, books, etc. A bilateral Cultural Exchange Program (CEP) 2009-2012 provides the framework for such exchanges.

The two nations likewise have huge interests in proceeding to work together in battling fear based oppression. In the event that India will expand its control over its immature upper east, financial network and improved combination with other territorial on-screen characters like Bangladesh, Bhutan, and China is basic.

India will have a significantly more noteworthy shot of achievement at keeping up peace in its northeastern states while creating them financially with Bangladesh's proceeded with collaboration, however, Bangladesh likewise has a solid motivating force to help India. Precariousness along the fringe areas of Bangladesh can serve to stop Indian venture, as well as indications of instability may likewise take away from other advancement and undermine the possibilities of Bangladesh turning into a local center point.

More prominent local collaboration, particularly in the field of financial improvement to destroy the neediness trap, might be a definitive objective of every single South Asian. Be that as it may, unless some remedial and brilliant measures are embraced right now, the circumstance may move the other way.

That would be amazingly unsettling for the large number of destitution stricken South Asians. They may need to go past the geopolitical impulses and move towards more concrete provincial collaboration like what the Europeans and Southeast Asians are doing. Something else, improvement as such will just evade the South Asians.

Bangladesh's relations with India have certainly witnessed a significant upswing over the past decade, some persistent challenges notwithstanding. In fact, there have been a number of setbacks. The Teesta river water treaty had to be scuttled at the last minute in 2011, due to pressure from Mamata Banerjee, the West Bengal chief minister who has agreed to accompany Modi to Bangladesh but did back out at the last moment from former Prime Minister Manmohan Singh's entourage in September 2011, as a protest against the Teesta agreement

. The treaty has likely been placed on the backburner. Modi has been trying to build consensus with Banerjee, the West Bengal chief minister, but progress has not been forthcoming, and this is unlikely to change until the next Bidhansha elections of Paschimbanga (West Bengal) Assembly elections.

Deaths of Bangladeshi citizens in the Indo-Bangladesh border became one of the embarrassments between the two nation's bilateral relations in recent years. Theshoot-to-kill policy by India's Border Security Forces (BSF) that according to the newspaper reoports killed nearly 1,000 Bangladeshis between 2001 and 2011 has still remained at the core of the talks between Bangladeshi and Indian officials visiting each other though the number of killing has minifiedas of late.

As many as 1,984 Indian army personnel were killed in the Bangladesh's liberation war with Pakistan, according to official sources. However, Indian NDTV in a report on December 16, 2011 said around 3,900 Indian soldiers were killed and 9,851 wounded in the war. We salute them, we give salutation to magnanimous Indira government, her true-blue lieutenants and people in general of India.So, it is aptly articulated that Bangladesh-India relations was written with bloodsince 1971.

The bilateral trade relationship between India and Bangladesh is currently of special interest to both countries. Both the countries have long shared common objectives for closer economic. Despite some prorogues in the relations between the two countries, recent headlines about the cooperation between the two nations in the South-East Asia demonstrate that the special relationship shows no signs of weakening.

The writer is a senior citizen, writes on politics, political and human-centered figures, current and international affairs

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