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Lecturrete topic 245 - Changing relation between India and Bangladesh


The diplomatic relationship between India and Bangladesh, two neighboring countries in South Asia, has witnessed significant transformations over the decades. Marked by shared history, culture, and geography, the bilateral ties between these nations have seen phases of cooperation, contention, and gradual realignment. As both countries navigate through the 21st century, their relationship has evolved into a multifaceted partnership encompassing political, economic, and socio-cultural dimensions. This article delves into the changing dynamics of India-Bangladesh relations, highlighting key developments, statistical insights, and future prospects.

Historical Context

The historical ties between India and Bangladesh date back to the pre-colonial era when the Bengal region was a significant cultural and economic hub. The partition of India in 1947 and the subsequent creation of East Pakistan (now Bangladesh) marked the beginning of a complex relationship between India and the then East Pakistan. The Liberation War of 1971, in which India played a crucial role, led to the birth of Bangladesh, establishing a foundation for a robust bilateral relationship.

Political Relations

Early Years and Independence

India’s support for Bangladesh during the 1971 Liberation War laid the groundwork for strong political ties. The initial years post-independence saw a warm relationship, with both nations working closely to address common challenges. Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Bangladesh’s founding leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman shared a vision of regional stability and cooperation.

Political Shifts and Contentions

The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 marked the beginning of a turbulent phase in bilateral relations. Subsequent military regimes in Bangladesh and their alignment with Pakistan strained ties with India. Issues such as border disputes, insurgency movements, and water-sharing conflicts further complicated the relationship.

Renewed Engagement in the 21st Century

The turn of the century witnessed a renewed engagement between India and Bangladesh, particularly after the election of Sheikh Hasina as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh in 2009. Under her leadership, Bangladesh has sought closer ties with India, focusing on mutual benefits. High-level visits, including Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s visit to Bangladesh in 2015, have further solidified this partnership.

Economic Relations

Trade and Investment

Economic cooperation has emerged as a cornerstone of India-Bangladesh relations. Trade between the two countries has grown significantly over the years. As of 2022, bilateral trade volume stood at approximately USD 11 billion, with India being one of Bangladesh’s largest trading partners. Key export items from India include cotton, automobiles, and machinery, while Bangladesh exports ready-made garments, jute products, and seafood to India.

Infrastructure and Connectivity

Infrastructure development and connectivity projects have been pivotal in enhancing economic ties. Initiatives such as the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal (BBIN) Motor Vehicle Agreement aim to facilitate seamless movement of goods and people across borders. Additionally, the construction of rail and road links, such as the Akhaura-Agartala rail link, underscores the commitment to regional connectivity.

Energy Cooperation

Energy cooperation has also been a significant aspect of the bilateral relationship. India exports electricity to Bangladesh through various grid connections, helping Bangladesh address its energy deficits. In 2018, the two countries inaugurated the 1,320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project in Rampal, Bangladesh, symbolizing their collaborative efforts in the energy sector.

Socio-Cultural Relations

People-to-People Ties

The socio-cultural ties between India and Bangladesh are deep-rooted, driven by shared linguistic, religious, and cultural heritage. The Bengali language and cultural festivals like Durga Puja and Pohela Boishakh are celebrated with equal fervor on both sides of the border. This cultural affinity has fostered strong people-to-people connections, further strengthening bilateral relations.

Educational and Cultural Exchanges

Educational and cultural exchanges have been instrumental in enhancing mutual understanding. Scholarships for Bangladeshi students in Indian universities, cultural festivals, and joint research initiatives are some of the avenues through which both countries promote cultural diplomacy. The Indian Council for Cultural Relations (ICCR) plays a crucial role in facilitating these exchanges.

Tourism and Pilgrimage

Tourism and pilgrimage also form a significant part of the socio-cultural interactions between the two countries. The shared heritage sites, including the historic temples and mosques, attract tourists and pilgrims from both sides. Efforts to simplify visa procedures have further boosted tourism, contributing to the people-to-people connect.

Security and Strategic Cooperation

Counter-Terrorism and Border Management

Security cooperation has become increasingly critical in the India-Bangladesh relationship. Both countries face challenges related to terrorism, insurgency, and illegal migration. Joint efforts in counter-terrorism, border management, and intelligence sharing have been pivotal in addressing these issues. The Border Security Force (BSF) of India and the Border Guards Bangladesh (BGB) regularly conduct joint patrols and meetings to ensure border security.

Maritime Security

Maritime security in the Bay of Bengal is another area of strategic cooperation. Both countries are part of the Indian Ocean Rim Association (IORA) and have engaged in joint naval exercises to ensure maritime safety and combat piracy. The resolution of the maritime boundary dispute through international arbitration in 2014 further exemplifies the commitment to peaceful coexistence and cooperation.

Regional and Global Collaboration

India and Bangladesh’s collaboration extends beyond bilateral issues to regional and global platforms. Both countries are active members of regional organizations like the South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation (SAARC) and the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC). Their joint efforts in these forums aim to promote regional stability, economic development, and collective security.

Environmental and Climate Change Cooperation

Shared River Management

India and Bangladesh share numerous rivers, including the Ganges, Brahmaputra, and Meghna, making water resource management a critical aspect of their relationship. The 1996 Ganges Water Sharing Treaty marked a significant milestone in this regard. Ongoing dialogues and joint river commissions aim to address water-sharing issues and promote sustainable management of transboundary water resources.

Climate Change Mitigation

Both countries are vulnerable to the impacts of climate change, such as rising sea levels, cyclones, and floods. Collaborative efforts in climate change mitigation and adaptation are crucial for the region’s resilience. Joint projects on disaster management, early warning systems, and sustainable development highlight their commitment to tackling environmental challenges together.

Renewable Energy Initiatives

Renewable energy cooperation has gained momentum in recent years. India’s expertise in solar and wind energy can significantly benefit Bangladesh’s efforts to diversify its energy mix. Joint ventures and technical assistance in renewable energy projects exemplify the growing focus on sustainable energy solutions.

Challenges and Future Prospects

Border and Migration Issues

Despite the progress, border management and migration issues remain challenging. The Rohingya refugee crisis has added a layer of complexity to the bilateral relations. India’s humanitarian aid to Bangladesh in managing the refugee influx has been appreciated, but long-term solutions are necessary for regional stability.

Economic Disparities

Economic disparities and trade imbalances need to be addressed to ensure equitable growth. While India enjoys a trade surplus with Bangladesh, efforts to promote balanced trade and investment are crucial. Strengthening regional trade agreements and promoting value-added exports from Bangladesh can help mitigate these disparities.

Political Stability and Cooperation

Political stability in both countries is essential for sustained cooperation. Internal political dynamics and changes in leadership can impact bilateral relations. Continued diplomatic engagement, high-level visits, and institutional mechanisms for dialogue are vital for maintaining and enhancing the relationship.


The changing relationship between India and Bangladesh is a testament to the resilience and adaptability of both nations in the face of evolving regional and global dynamics. From historical ties rooted in shared struggles to contemporary collaborations across multiple domains, the India-Bangladesh partnership has matured into a comprehensive and strategic alliance. As both countries continue to navigate challenges and explore new avenues for cooperation, their relationship is poised to contribute significantly to regional stability, economic prosperity, and cultural enrichment. The future of India-Bangladesh relations hinges on sustained engagement, mutual respect, and a shared vision for a prosperous South Asia.