By Surbhi Agrawal, University of Petroleum and Energy Studies, Dehradun.

With the recent Agreements, India has embarked upon a mission to maintain peace with its neighbor country, Bangladesh. This step of the countries will help improve ties and will boost trade between both the countries. Bangladesh and India are not just neighbors, but the nations are bound by the thread of history, religion, culture, language and kinship & a passion for cricket. India not only shares a common history of struggle, for freedom and liberation, but also the enduring feelings of both fraternal as well as family ties, with this neighbor. However, there are several issues, such as illegal migration, insurgency, border, water disputes and dispute over the issue of Moore Island etc., between these two country’s relations. But, ending up these evils, the two countries have signed 22 Agreements and Memorandums of Understanding on economic cooperation, trade and investment, security, infrastructure development, education, science and technology, IT and culture.

Moving towards the success, this historic Agreement, which was signed between the then Prime Ministers of the respective countries, Mr. Rahman and Mrs. Indira Gandhi in May, 1947 and which was held back by India, due to the reason that it would require a Constitutional Amendment to implement it, has been finally implemented by the Parliament. According to the letters exchanged between the two Foreign Secretaries, the entire process, including physical exchange of enclaves and land parcels in adverse possession along with boundary demarcations will be completed between July 31, 2015 and June 30, 2016. The working group of both the countries will address any dispute that may arise after the transfer, for the next five years till June 2020. To address the complex and controversial issue, both sides have agreed to conduct a joint visit to the enclaves. Mr. Narendra Modi hoped that Indian investments in Bangladesh would help in bridging the trade gap between the countries. Therefore, this multi-level connectivity using water and land ways, which are established partly in the form of Agreements and partly in the form of Memorandums of Understanding, will boost Bangladesh’s economy on the one hand and India’s access to the north-eastern States on the other.

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CONNECTIVITY DEALS BETWEEN BOTH COUNTRIES

Following agreements were passed between India and Bangladesh:

  • At the occasion of the visit of Prime Minister, Mr. Modi of India to Dhaka, the two sides swapped documents regarding the LBA (Land Boundary Agreement) that paved the way for the operationalization of the 1974 pact under which 161 enclaves under the control of both the countries were exchanged. A total of 111 border enclaves were transferred to Bangladesh in exchange for 51 that will become a part of India. Residents will have the right to choose where they want to stay; either they can stay where they were staying or can move to the other side.

  • Elaborating on the energy sector, the two countries have decided to initiate an annual India- Bangladesh Energy Dialogue to be led jointly by Secretary (Petroleum) of India and Secretary, Power Division of Bangladesh. The dialogue will undertake issues like comprehensive energy sector cooperation in areas of coal, natural gas, LNG, supply of petroleum products in the sub-region, renewable energy, oil and gas pipelines etc.

  • Mr. Narendra Modi has also agreed to consider Bangladesh’s proposal to bolster connectivity by introducing the second Maitree Express between Khulna (Bangladesh) and Kolkata (India).

  • Prime Ministers, Mr. Narendra Modi and Ms. Hasina welcomed the signing of the ‘Costal Shipping Agreement’, which will open up newer avenues of cooperation in the areas of bilateral and regional trade and connectivity.

  • Both agreed on the need for combining inland water protocol routes to utilize their full potential.

  • Both expressed their satisfaction on the “unparalleled” level of cooperation between the two countries on security related issues and reaffirmed their “unequivocal and uncompromising position against extremism and terrorism in all forms and manifestations”.

  • The MOUs on Prevention of Smuggling of Fake Currency Notes, Cooperation between Coast Guards and Prevention of Human Trafficking, will augment security cooperation.

  • The two leaders stressed on the need for effective implementation of the Coordinated Border Management Plan (CBMP) for better border management so as to prevent cross border criminal activities, irregular movement, incidents of violence and tragic loss of lives.

  • They also finalized the Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for allowing usage of Indian border roads for construction and maintenance of Border out Posts (BOPs) of Border Guard Bangladesh as well as use of Indian medical facilities in different areas in the border area by Bangladeshi personnel, who are deployed in the vicinity.

Other than the apparent benefits, this Agreement has brought a new ray of hope for both the countries. India’s relation with Bangladesh is a sign of progress and prosperity for both the countries. The Agreement signed between them has brought a drastic change in the lives of people too. On the humanitarian side, the people living in the enclaves would be highly benefitted. They had no clear identity so far. They enjoyed none of the basic amenities and facilities such as schools, hospitals, electricity, pure drinking water, etc. Therefore, with the implementation of the LBA all these problems will be solved and these people will now have a proper nationality and access to the State provided benefits.

The Prime Minister of Bangladesh, Ms. Hasina, has taken a great step to punish terrorists and criminals with the help of the firm which deals with anti-India terrorism and successfully sent many of the worst war criminals of the 1971 freedom struggle, who have murdered and raped in the name of keeping Pakistan Islamic, to jail. Therefore, it seems that there is now a good chance that Bangladesh will become a proper Secular State, despite its Constitution formally retaining Islam as the State religion.

Both counties have started working on their three prime areas of economic cooperation and investment: energy, infrastructure and connectivity, which will definitely give them success. India has started investing in many of Bangladesh’s products to boost their economy and for the progress of the Country. This investment will surely help to narrow the gap between them.

Therefore, the Prime Minister Ms. Hasina welcomed this event as a new milestone in bilateral relations. The Bangladesh Nationalist party (BNP), in the name of its Chairperson, described the passage of this Amendment as “an important day in our National Life” and the Prime Minister, Mr. Modi said that we are not just “pass pass” but also “saath saath”.

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