Explained India-Bangladesh Relations | UPSC


  • The recent visit by Bangladesh PM Sheikh Hasina marked the first state visit by a foreign leader during PM Modi’s third term.
  • Over the last decade, Prime Ministers Sheikh Hasina and Narendra Modi have significantly advanced bilateral relations between India and Bangladesh, marking a “golden chapter” in their history.

History of India-Bangladesh Relations:

Bangladesh Independence (High Phase):

    • The foundation of India’s relationship with Bangladesh was laid during the 1971 Bangladesh Liberation War.
    • India provided critical military and material support to assist Bangladesh in its fight for independence from Pakistan.
    • The first independent government of Bangladesh, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, was formed and administered from Theatre Road in Kolkata.

Military Rule in Bangladesh (Low Phase):

    • Relations soured after the assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975, and subsequent military regimes took control.
    • Anti-India sentiment rose during the military rules of General Ziaur Rahman (1975-1981) and General H.M. Ershad (1982-1991) over boundary disputes, insurgency, and water-sharing issues.

Return of Parliamentary Democracy (Repair and High Phase):

    • After the return of parliamentary democracy in 1991 and Sheikh Hasina coming to power in 1996, bilateral ties improved.
    • A treaty on the sharing of Ganga waters was signed, and cooperation in trade, energy, infrastructure, connectivity, and defense was strengthened.

Significance of India-Bangladesh Relations:


    • Bangladesh provides India with access to the Bay of Bengal and an important route for trade and connectivity with Southeast Asia.
    • Example: India uses Chattogram and Mongla ports for transporting goods to and from its northeastern states.


    • A stable and friendly Bangladesh is crucial for India’s security, particularly in counter-terrorism and border security.
    • Bangladesh’s support is vital in India’s bid for a permanent seat on the UN Security Council.


    • Bangladesh is a critical economy for India’s exports and bilateral trade.
    • Example: Major Indian companies like Tata Motors, Marico, and Airtel have significant investments in Bangladesh.
    • Strengthening economic relations with Bangladesh is crucial for India’s goal of becoming a $5 trillion economy.

Cultural and Civilisational:

    • Bangladesh has a significant Hindu Bengali population and many religious-cultural sites associated with India.

International Cooperation:

    • Active cooperation is crucial for the success of regional forums such as BIMSTEC, SAARC, and COPs to the UNFCCC.
    • Example: Collaborative projects under BIMSTEC like the BIMSTEC Transport Connectivity Master Plan to improve connectivity and trade in the Bay of Bengal region.

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Areas of Cooperation:

Political Cooperation:

    • Frequent bilateral visits and close relations between government heads.
    • Examples: Indian PM’s visit to Bangladesh for their golden Jubilee celebrations of Independence and the awarding of the Gandhi Peace Prize 2020 to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
    • Bangladesh’s PM Sheikh Hasina visited India to participate in the G-20 summit.

Land Boundary Agreement (2015):

    • India and Bangladesh swapped disputed enclaves, resolving a major long-standing dispute.
    • The agreement allowed inhabitants of the enclaves to choose their country of residence.
    • Example: The 2015 resolution of 162 enclaves, with 111 in India and 51 in Bangladesh, improving relations and border management.

Economic Cooperation:

    • Bangladesh is India’s largest trade partner in South Asia.
    • Examples: Bilateral trade reached $18 billion in 2021-2022, and a joint feasibility study on a Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) was concluded in 2022.
    • India has provided duty-free quota access to Bangladesh on all tariff lines except tobacco and alcohol under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011.
    • Example: Collaborations in sectors like textiles, pharmaceuticals, and IT services.

Infrastructure Cooperation:

    • India has extended Lines of Credit worth over $7 billion to Bangladesh since 2010.
    • Examples: The Ahaura-Agartala rail link connects Bangladesh and India’s northeast through Tripura, facilitating cargo movement and boosting regional trade.
    • ‘Maitri Setu’ bridge, a 1.9 km long bridge connecting Sabroom in India with Ramgarh in Bangladesh, enhances connectivity and trade.
    • Example: The Petrapole-Benapole Integrated Check Post (ICP) facilitates smooth cross-border trade and passenger movement.

Energy Cooperation:

    • Bangladesh imports nearly 2,000 megawatts of electricity from India.
    • Examples: The India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, connecting Siliguri in West Bengal and Parbatipur in Bangladesh, will transport one million Metric Tonnes Per Annum (MMTPA) of High-Speed Diesel to Bangladesh.
    • Example: Joint ventures in renewable energy projects like the India-Bangladesh Joint Venture Renewable Energy Project and the Adani Power project in Jharkhand to supply electricity to Bangladesh.

Defence Cooperation:

    • India-Bangladesh border of 4096.7 km is the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbors.
    • Joint exercises like Exercise Sampriti (Army) and Exercise Bongosagar (Navy) strengthen defense ties.

Tourism Sector:

    • Bangladeshis make up a large portion of tourists in India.
    • Example: In 2017, the number of tourists from Bangladesh outnumbered those from Western Europe.
    • Initiatives to promote medical tourism and cultural tourism, including visa facilitation and joint tourism packages.
    • Example: The introduction of e-Tourist visas for Bangladeshi citizens has boosted tourism.

Medical Cooperation:

    • Bangladesh accounts for more than 35% of India’s international medical patients and contributes to over 50% of India’s revenue from medical tourism.
    • Example: Collaborative efforts in combating diseases like COVID-19, including vaccine distribution and healthcare infrastructure support.

Areas of Tension:

Sharing of Transboundary River Waters:

    • India and Bangladesh share 54 common rivers, but only two transboundary river water-sharing treaties have been signed: the Ganga Waters Treaty (1996) and the Kushiyara River Treaty (2022).
    • Example: The Teesta river water dispute remains unresolved, with Bangladesh seeking an equitable distribution of Teesta waters, which has not been agreed upon by India and the state of West Bengal.

Deportation of Rohingyas:

    • Conflicting interests in the deportation of Rohingyas to Myanmar.
    • Example: India seeks to give primacy to deportation from its mainland first and then later facilitate deportation from Bangladesh to Myanmar.

Cross-Border Terrorism and Infiltration:

    • Issues like armed dacoity, fake money transfer, cattle smuggling, and prostitution raise internal security concerns.

Drug Smuggling and Trafficking:

    • Bangladesh remains a prime transit point for heroin trafficking from South Asia to Europe, as noted in the 2007 International Narcotics Control Board (INCB) report.

Growing Chinese Influence:

    • Bangladesh is an active partner in China’s Belt and Road Initiative, with significant Chinese investments in infrastructure.
    • Examples: China has built 12 highways, 21 bridges, and 27 power and energy projects in Bangladesh.

Attacks on Minorities:

    • Ethnic attacks on Bangla-speaking Hindus in Bangladesh and attacks on Bangladeshis in India strain cultural relations.

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Way Forward:

Resolve Transboundary Water Disputes:

    • Early resolution of the Teesta river dispute through a tripartite committee involving India, Bangladesh, and West Bengal.

Conclude Free Trade Agreement (FTA):

    • Finalize an FTA with Bangladesh before it loses its Least Developed Country status in 2026 to ensure continued duty-free and quota-free market access.
    • Example: Monitor and prevent misuse of the FTA by China to dump goods in India through the Regional Comprehensive Economic Partnership (RCEP).

Establish Joint Task Forces:

    • Combat cross-border drug smuggling, human trafficking, and illegal immigration through joint task forces.
    • Example: Joint efforts like the Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) to improve border management and surveillance to curb infiltration and illegal activities.
    • Example: Collaborative measures like the India-Bangladesh Joint Task Force on Countering Illicit Drug Trafficking enhance border security.
    • Example: Implementing smart border management systems to enhance surveillance and security.

Create Digital Connectivity Corridor:

    • Establish high-speed internet connectivity, digital services, and e-commerce avenues between the two countries.
    • Example: Collaborate on digital infrastructure projects like the SAARC Satellite Communication Network to support technological exchange and innovation.

Restore Bangladesh’s Global Image:

    • Help Bangladesh counter U.S. sanctions and improve its image by addressing democratic and human rights concerns.
    • Example: Work closely with Bangladesh’s law enforcement agencies to reduce ethnic attacks on Bangla-speaking Hindus.


  • Strengthening India-Bangladesh relations is essential for developing North-East India, improving connectivity to Southeast Asia, and exploring the Indo-Pacific region.
  • Deepening ties through mutual cooperation, resolving conflicts, and enhancing economic and social collaboration will benefit both nations.


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