India’s links with Bangladesh are civilisational, 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. With Bangladesh, India shares not only a common history of struggle for freedom and liberation but also enduring feelings of both fraternal as well as familial ties. This commonality is reflected in multi-dimensional relations with Bangladesh at several levels of interaction. High-level exchanges, visits and meetings take place regularly alongside the wide ranging people-to-people interaction. India’s Missions in Bangladesh issue about half a million visas every year and thousands of Bangladeshi students study in India on self-financing basis and over 100 annual GOI scholarships.
Recent High Level Contacts
1. Vice President of India Shri M Hamid Ansari accompanied by MOS(EA) Mrs. Preneet Kaur, two MPs and official & media delegation visited Dhaka on May 5-6, 2011 for the inaugural ceremony of joint celebration of the 150th birth anniversary of Rabindra Nath Tagore. During the visit, Vice President held talks with President Zillur Rahman and PM Sheikh Hasina, Foreign Dipu Moni and Leader of Opposition Begum Khaleda Zia called on him.
2. Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina accompanied by a 123-member delegation that included Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Water Resources, Advisers and a 50-member strong business contingent paid a State visit to India from January 10-13, 2010. The visit was very successful and gave both countries a historic opportunity to build a new and forward looking relationship. On January 12, 2010 Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was conferred the prestigious Indira Gandhi Prize for Peace, Disarmament and Development for 2009. The Prime Ministers of the two countries agreed to put in place a comprehensive framework of cooperation for development of the two countries based on their mutually shared vision for the future. A Joint Communiqué issued during the visit outlined various initiatives. Shri Pranab Mukherjee, Finance Minister visited Dhaka on August 7, 2010 to witness the signing of the US$ 1 billion Line of Credit Agreement between EXIM Bank of India and Government of Bangladesh.
3. Smt. Sonia Gandhi, President, INC and Chairman, UPA visited Dhaka on July 24-25, 2011 to receive the Bangladesh Freedom Honour conferred on Smt. Indira Gandhi for her unique role and contribution to the Liberation War and birth of Bangladesh. In the forenoon of July 25, she attended the inaugural session of an International Conference on Autism spectrum disorders & developmental disabilities as Chief Guest. Smt. Gandhi also had meetings with PM Sheikh Hasina and Bangladesh President during the visit.
4. Home Minister Shri P. Chidambaram visited Bangladesh on July 29-30, 2011 for delegation level talks with his counterpart Ms. Sahara Khatun on all issues of mutual interest. He also met Foreign Minister Dr. Dipu Moni and called on PM Sheikh Hasina on July 30, 2011. A Coordinated Border Management Plan between BSF and BGB was signed by the DGs of the border guarding forces on July 30 during the visit.
5. Minister for Overseas Indian Affairs and Civil Aviation Vayalar Ravi visited Dhaka on April 19-21, 2011 for the 4th Colombo Process Ministerial Conference on overseas employment and labour migration. MOIA&CA met his Bangladesh counterparts and discussed issues of mutual interest during the visit. Commerce and Industry Minister Anand Sharma visited Bangladesh on April 22-23, 2011 and held meetings with BD leadership, including Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Commerce Minister Faruk Khan. Foreign Secretary Smt. Nirupama Rao visited Dhaka on June 6-8, 2011 for Foreign Office Consultations and held discussions with her Bangladesh counterpart on the entire gamut of bilateral issues. She called on Prime Minister and Foreign Minister on July 7, 2011.
6. External Affairs Minister Shri SM Krishna visited Bangladesh on 6-8 July, 2011 and held bilateral talks with his counterpart Dr. Dipu Moni. He also called on President and Prime Minister of Bangladesh. Protocols of Exchange on the Instruments of Ratification of the bilateral agreement on the protection and promotion of investments between India and Bangladesh were signed on July 7. Document relating to Standard Operating Procedure for monitoring of entry/exit of Bhutanese vehicles between Indian LCSs and Bangladesh LCSs was also signed during the visit.
7. PM had a bilateral meeting with PMSH in April on the margins of 16th SAARC Summit in Thimphu and EAM met Foreign Minister of Bangladesh Dr.Dipu Moni in New York in September 2010. Finance Minister’s visit to Dhaka in August 2010, FM Dr. Dipu Moni’s visit to Tripura in November 2010, Commerce Minister of Bangladesh’s visits to New Delhi in October and Kolkata in December 2010 and visits by the Advisers of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in addition to a number of other crucial visits have helped both sides to pursue bilateral agenda. After the new Government took office following General Elections in Bangladesh on December 29, 2008, Shri Pranab Mukherjee, then EAM paid an official visit to Dhaka on February 9, 2009. Two agreements on trade and bilateral investment promotion and protection were signed. Shri Somnath Chatterjee, Hon’ble Speaker, Lok Sabha visited Dhaka from February 21-23, 2009 to address the Members of Bangladesh Parliament at the opening ceremony of ‘Parliamentary Orientation Program for 9th Jatiya Sangsad’.
8. A 24-member Parliamentary Friendship Group with Bangladesh has been constituted in the Indian Parliament with Shri Sameer Magan Bhujbal, MP(NCPLS) as its President in June 2011. The Bangladesh side has been requested to share composition of a similar group for contacts and exchanges. An eight member parliamentary delegation led by Jatiya Sangsad Speaker Mr. Abdul Hamid visited India for attending the Fifth SAARC Speakers and Parliamentarians Conference on July 9-12, 2011 at the invitation of Lok Sabha
Speaker Smt. Meira Kumar.
Security and Border management:
9. Security remains a key area of bilateral cooperation. The two countries concluded Agreements on mutual legal assistance in criminal matters; transfer of sentenced persons and combating international terrorism, organised crime & illicit drug trafficking. Home Secretary Level talks and Joint Working Group Meeting were held in Dhaka on January 18-20, 2011 where both sides discussed all issues related to security and border management. The Second DG-level Talks between the Narcotics Control Agencies of the two countries were held in Dhaka on March 23-24, 2011.
10. India’s border with Bangladesh is 4,096 km. It is the longest border that India has with any of its neighbours. The Fourth Joint Boundary Working Group (JBWG) met in New Delhi on 10-11 November 2010 and discussed all outstanding land boundary issues with a view to arriving at a comprehensive solution. Joint Survey in Adversely Possessed Lands and Joint Headcount in enclaves are being held in compliance of the decisions taken at the 4th JBWG. The Joint Headcount in enclaves of India and Bangladesh was conducted from July 15-18, 2011 by joint teams of supervisors and enumerators from India and Bangladesh. The Joint Survey in Adverse Possessions of both countries has also almost been completed.
Sharing of River Waters
12. India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers. The Ganga Waters Treaty was signed on December 12, 1996 for water sharing of river Ganga during lean season (January 1-May 31). The 37th Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) meeting was held in New Delhi from March 17-20, 2010. Water Resources Secretarylevel meeting took place in Dhaka on January 10, 2011 which discussed interim water sharing arrangements in respect of Teesta and Feni rivers and water sharing of six other common rivers. A three member delegation led by BD Water Resources Secretary visited India on June 5-6, 2011 to hold further discussions on water related issues.
12. Bangladesh is an important trading partner for India. The two-way trade in FY 2010-2011 was US$5.099 billion with India’s exports to Bangladesh accounting for US$ 4.586 billion and imports US $ 0.512 million. The trade between the two countries in the last 5 years is as follows:
(Figures in US$ million)
05-06 06-07 07-08 08-09 09-10 10-11
India’s 1864.70 2268.00 3364.00 2841.06 3202 4586.8
India’s 241.96 289.42 358.08 276.58 305 512.5
Total trade 2106.70 2557.40 3722.08 3117.64 3507 5099.3
Source: Bangladesh Bank/EPB Note: FY is July to June
13. Some of the important institutional mechanisms that meet periodically to discuss bilateral issues include Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) and Joint Economic Commission (JEC) at Ministerial level, Foreign Office Consultations, Home, Commerce and Water Resources Secretary level talks, BSF-BDR DG level border coordination conference, Joint Working Group on Security (JWG), Joint Boundary Working Group (JBWG), Joint Working Group on Trade (JWG), Joint Group of Customs Officials (JGC), Protocol Renewal Committee and Standing Committee to review implementation of Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade, and Inter- Governmental Railway Meeting. A Joint Group of Customs Meeting was held on January 18-19, 2011 in Dhaka wherein inter alia Standard Operating Procedure for movement of trucks was discussed. 13thmeeting of the Standing Committee under India-Bangladesh Protocol on Inland Water Transit & Trade was held in Kolkata on January 23-24, 2011. 14th Meeting of the BIWTA was held in Goa wherein the bilateral protocol was renewed for one year till March 31, 2012.
India’s Economic Assistance to Bangladesh
14. On the economic assistance side, India has extended a line of credit of US$1 billion to Bangladesh for a range of projects, including railway infrastructure, supply of BG locomotives and passenger coaches, procurement of buses, and dredging projects. The Line of Credit Agreement was signed in Dhaka on August 7, 2010 between EXIM Bank of India and Government of Bangladesh. India has stood by Bangladesh in its hour of need with aid worth over Taka 250 crore (over US $ 37 million) to help it cope with natural disasters
and floods in 2007-08 including supply of 1,000 MT of skimmed milk powder, and 40,000 MT of rice. India is constructing 2,800 core shelters in the affected villages in Bagerhat district in southern Bangladesh. The first batch of core shelters have been handed over to Bangladesh at Sharonkhola, Bagerhat on July 9, 2011 thus facilitating rehabilitation of over 1600 families.
15. Scholarships and training programmes under ITEC, TCS of Colombo Plan, ICCR, AYUSH, Commonwealth, SAARC and IOR-ARC scholarships/fellowship schemes are being offered to Bangladesh nationals. India offers 100 slots under ITEC and 35 slots under Technical Cooperation Scheme of Colombo Plan every year to Bangladesh. In the last three years (2006-07 to 2009-10), 414 participants from Bangladesh have undergone training in India under ITEC Programme and Technical Cooperation Scheme of Colombo Plan. Muktijoddha Scholarship Scheme extended by the Government of India to Higher Secondary-level students(200 scholarships) and Graduate-level students (478 scholarships). So far three Bangladesh Diplomats have been imparted training at Foreign Service Institute, New Delhi in 2011.
16. 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 Programme (CEP) 2009-2012 provides the framework for such exchanges. To promote bilateral cultural exchanges, the Indira Gandhi Cultural Centre (IGCC) of Indian Council for Cultural Relations was inaugurated at Dhaka on March 11, 2010. Secretary, Ministry of Culture visited Bangladesh from December 19-22, 2010 and Bangladesh Culture Secretary visited India on April 6-8, 2011 for holding talks on joint celebrations of 150th anniversary of Rabindranath Tagore. The joint inaugural ceremonies were held in Dhaka on 6 May and New Delhi on 7
May 2011 and year-long celebrations are underway.
17. In order to promote people to people exchanges, hundred (100) scholarships are being granted by ICCR every year to students from Bangladesh for pursuing general courses in arts, sciences, engineering and also specialized courses for culture, drama, music, fine arts and sports, etc. During Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina’s visit in January 2010, India has offered to provide 300 scholarships annually for five years to students from Bangladesh for studying and training in Universities and training institutions in India.August 2011