• Recently, India and Bangladesh have held a virtual summit covering comprehensive discussions on all aspects of bilateral relations and exchanged views on regional and international issues.
  • Bangladesh also invited India for the celebration of 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s Independence in 1971 and 50 years of India-Bangladesh diplomatic relations, to be held in March 2021.


Challenges in India Bangladesh relations

  • Teesta river issue and river disputes – Of the 57 transboundary rivers, Bangladesh shares 54 of them with India. Teesta is the 4th largest river in Bangladesh (after Ganga, Bramhaputra and Meghna). Bangladesh has been consistently demanding 50% share of the water.
  • Chinese initiatives in Bangladesh – China is financing 25 energy projects, in Bangladesh including 1320-Megawatt power plant. 
    • China has extended its support to build Bangladesh Second Nuclear power plant.
    • Highway and rail network connecting Bangladesh througMyanmar to Yunnan province.
    • Bangabandhu-1 First communication satellite of Bangladesh was negotiated and financed through help of Chinese government. 
  • Rise of radicalisation in Bangladesh – The vulnerability of Bangladesh as a centre of terror is not new. Since 9/11, the vulnerability of Bangladesh to terror attacks has increased manifold. There is growing Al-Qaeda and ISIS presence in Bangladesh. The implications of all this are very severe for India.
  • Illegal immigrants: Since the 1971 war of independence that created the state of Bangladesh, millions of Bangladeshi immigrants (the vast majority of them illegal) have poured into India. This is changing the demography of northeastern states which is causing unrest.
  • Rohingya crisis: There are almost 11 lakh Rohingyas refugees living in Bangladesh. While India has supplied humanitarian aid to Bangladesh under ‘Operation Insaniyat’ for the Rohingya crisis but Bangladesh expects India to put pressure on Myanmar for repatriation of over a million of Rohingyas.
  • Border Management: The IndoBangladesh border is of porous nature which provides pathway for smuggling, trafficking in arms, drugs and people.

Significance of Bangladesh for India



  • Connecting North East India: Each of seven north eastern states is land-locked and has shorter route to the sea through Bangladesh. Transit agreement with Bangladesh will spur the socio-economic development of North-East India.
  • Bridge to Southeast Asia: Bangladesh is a natural pillar of Act East policy. It can act as a ‘bridge’ to economic and political linkages with South East Asia and beyond. Dhaka’s support in BIMSTEC and BBIN initiatives complement Delhi’s Southeast Asia outreach.
  • Strengthening South Asia as a regional power: by leveraging on organizations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) for promoting cooperation among its member nations to economic growth and securing strategic interests.
  • Securing sea lanes of communication: Bangladesh is a major country in the Indian ocean rim and strategically placed nearby important sea lanes. As South East Indian ocean is becoming hotbed of piracy, Bangladesh can play significant role in containing the same. 
  • Fighting terrorism and deradicalization: Both the countries are very vulnerable to the propaganda of religion based radical outfits thus they could cooperate in deradicalization efforts, sharing intelligence, and other counter-terrorism efforts. 
  • To contain insurgency in North-East: A friendly Bangladesh can ensure that no anti-India terror or insurgent activities can be carried out from its soil.
  • Balancing China: A neutral Bangladesh would ensure containment of an assertive China in this region, and help in countering it’s string of pearls policy.


Economic importance

  • Bilateral trade: Currently, the volume of bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh is about $9 billion while the trade potential is at least four times the present level.
  • Investment opportunities: There are huge opportunities for investment in defense, such as in military hardware, space technology; infrastructural development, and other areas.
  • Cooperation in blue economy: such as exploration of hydrocarbons, deep-sea fishing, preservation of marine ecology and disaster management

Steps taken by India to improve relations

Trade Partnership for Growth:

  • The Duty-Free and Quota Free access given to Bangladeshi exports to India under South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011.
  • Emphasized on addressing issues of non-tariff barriers and trade facilitation including port restrictions, procedural bottlenecks and quarantine restrictions so that both countries can take full advantage of SAFTA flexibility.
  • Directed the officials to expeditiously conclude the ongoing joint study on the prospects of entering into a bilateral Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA).

Connectivity for Prosperity:

    • Jointly inaugurated the newly restored railway link between Haldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) and noted that this rail link will further strengthen trade and people to people ties between the two sides.
    • Welcomed the signing of the second addendum to the Protocol on Inland Water Transit and Trade (PIWTT).
    • Agreed to an early operationalization of the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) initiative Motor Vehicles Agreement through the expeditious signing of the Enabling MoU for Bangladesh, India and Nepal to commence the movement of goods and passengers, with provision for Bhutan to join at a later date.
    • Bangladesh expressed keen interest in the ongoing India Myanmar Thailand trilateral highway project and sought the support of India for enabling Bangladesh to connect with this project.


  • Satisfaction on commencement of a temporary Air Travel Bubble to facilitate the urgent requirements of travellers on both sides.


Cooperation in Water Resources, Power and Energy:

  • Bangladesh highlighted the need for early signing of an interim agreement for sharing of the Teesta waters, as agreed upon by both the governments in 2011.
  • Underscored the need for early conclusion of Framework of Interim Agreement on sharing of waters of six joint rivers, namely, Manu, Muhuri, Khowai, Gumti, Dharla and Dudhkumar.
  • Recalled the positive contribution of the Joint Rivers Commission (JRC) and looked forward to the next round of Secretarial level JRC meeting at the earliest.
  • Agreed to expedite implementation of projects including India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, Maitree Super Thermal Power Project as well as other projects.
  • Welcomed the signing of the Framework of Understanding on Cooperation in the Hydrocarbon Sector which would further augment energy linkages by streamlining investments, technology transfer, joint studies, training and promoting hydrocarbon connectivity.
  • Agreed to enhance cooperation in energy efficiency and clean energy, including in biofuels.
  • Forcibly Displaced Persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar (Rohingya):
  • India appreciated the generosity of Bangladesh in sheltering and providing humanitarian assistance to the 1.1 million forcibly displaced persons from the Rakhine State of Myanmar, in the Rohingya Crisis.

Partners in the Region and the World:


  • India thanked Bangladesh for supporting India in its election to the United Nations Security Council.


  • Both countries agreed to continue working together towards achieving early reforms of the UN Security Council, combating climate change, attainment of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) and protection of the rights of migrants.
  • Highlighted that regional organisations such as the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) have an important role to play.
  • Bangladesh will assume chairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) in 2021 and requested the support of India for working towards greater maritime safety and security.
  • Bangladesh appreciated the work of the New Development Bank and thanked India for inviting Bangladesh to join the institution.

Way forward

  • India should implement Neighbourhood First policy of prioritizing support to its smaller neighbors to gain their confidence especially given China’s presence.
  • India should leverage the shared culture-history and economic complementarities and build people to people relationships to build strong relationship between two nations.
  • It should also proactively resolve the outstanding issues like Teesta water treaty

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