5 things to know about India-Bangladesh ties: From trade to security

  • Jayanth Jacob, Hindustan Times, Dhaka
  • Updated: Jun 06, 2015 14:45 IST

As Prime Minister Narendra Modi begins what is being described by Indian officials as a "very historic" visit to Bangladesh, here are five things you need to know about ties between the two countries.


The relations are mutually beneficial but Delhi needs to be convincing and persuasive.

Eight years ago, when India wanted to offer sharing of electricity to Bangladesh, Dhaka was unimpressed. It was seen as getting a small return gift for giving India transit to transport cargo from West Bengal to Tripura for building a gas-based power station. But years of persuasion paid off and from October 2013, India started exporting power to Bangladesh. It is estimated that India's northeastern states have the potential to generate 70,000 MW of hydropower. But without Bangladesh, supplying most of that power to other regions would be impossible.


Trade is good but Dhaka's concerns should be heeded.

The trade volume of $6.5 billion is impressive but of this, Bangladesh's exports to India account for a mere $500 million. India needs to narrow the gap. India's plans to invest more in Bangladesh need to be speeded up. There is a growing feeling among sections in Bangladesh that the growing trade only benefits India. For India, Bangladesh plays a key role in its sub-regional connectivity plans which include Nepal and Bhutan.


Security concerns of the two sides are linked.

India and Bangladesh share a 4,096-km border. Five Indian states - West Bengal (2,217 km), Assam (262 km), Meghalaya (443 km), Tripura (856 km) and Mizoram (318 km) - have a border with Bangladesh. Since 2009, Dhaka has been helping India crack down on northeastern militant groups. Bangladesh has also raised its concerns about certain groups using Indian territory against it. Building on the momentum in ties will help foster better security ties between the two sides.


Reassurance on water-sharing issue key for Bangladesh.

Even after 18 years, the Teesta water-sharing pact is far from being sealed despite the two countries agreeing on a 50:50 formula in 2011. Water is a state subject in India and without West Bengal signing up, the Teesta water pact cannot be sealed. It took 20 years for the two countries to seal a water-sharing pact on the Ganga in 1996. Bangladesh says it has received only 232 cusecs (cubic feet per second of water) on March 22, which it says is the lowest in history. With the two countries sharing the waters of 54 rivers, reassurance on water-sharing is necessary.


Building on the goodwill created by the land boundary agreement is crucial.

After a gap of 41 years, the two sides will complete formalities on their land boundary agreement. The lesson here is that without the cooperation of border states, India-Bangladesh ties will not move forward. The West Bengal government walked an extra mile in 1996 for the water-sharing pact. Though chief minister Mamata Banerjee has gone slow on the Teesta pact, she agreed to the land boundary pact and travelled to Bangladesh.

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