(Sabrina Rahman Shanto, Master’s in Human Geography with specialisation in Globalisation, Migration and Development at Radboud University, Nijmegen, the Netherlands and Intern at BASUG writes the following for EBF)
The relationship between the two neighbouring countries- Bangladesh and India- are traditionally socio-cultural and economic. Both the countries have a shared history, a common heritage, cultural ties, love for art, culture and literature. Bangladesh and India also share a common border of 4096 km and have bilateral ties from 1971 which help both of the countries in each and every kind of investment like power and energy, partnership development, transport, culture, river water sharing etc. (Delhi Renew Teesta Water Pledge, 2019). Besides these ties, both countries also share bonding further than a strategic partnership which includes value, history, language and democracy (Delhi Renew Teesta Water Pledge, 2019). In this article, I will mainly focus on the improvement of prevailing relations between the two neighbouring countries -Bangladesh- India. I choose this focus because there are already some tasks which are completed successfully for this bonding but there are still some tasks which are pending because of some contradiction. My goal of this article is to show how a difficult task is going forward without hampering the relations between countries as well as improving the relationship between them. For this paper, I will mention four Memoranda of Understanding (MoU), the displaced people from Myanmar and the Teesta water sharing agreement to make my arguments more authentic. Due to some limitations, not all aspects can be covered. However, the significance of these outcomes will help to understand the improvement of prevailing relation between two countries (Bangladesh-India).
Bangladesh and India got engaged for four Memoranda of Understanding (MoU) to strengthen their bilateral cooperation according to the Delhi Renew Teesta Water Pledge in 2019. The first agreement is to provide a mid-career training to 1800 civil servants from Bangladesh. The second agreement is on cooperation in the field of medicinal plants. The third agreement is on reducing corruption. The last one is to simplify the investments in the Indian Economic Zone in Mongla. According to Delhi Renew Teesta Water Pledge (2019), Bangladesh is helping Rohingyas from Myanmar and as a humanitarian gesture, India wanted to support them and give them security which was really appreciated by the Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen. 22nd April, 2017 Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited India and signed contracts on nuclear energy, defence and electricity but the contract for the share of Teesta river water was still pending (Hindustan Times, 2018). According to Rashid (2018), Indian Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj announced on the last week of May in 2018 that without the consent of West Bengal it will not be possible to sign the contract of Teesta River. Teesta is a very important river for both Bangladesh and India. In one hand, India has a plan to irrigate 9.32 lakh hectors area and use the water from Teesta and on the other hand, this plan will hamper 21 million Bangladeshi who lived in the basin area of Teesta River while only 1 million 30 thousand Indians will be affected. The ratio is 70 for Bangladesh and 30 for India. Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee had appointed expert committee but the decision was in the favour of Bangladesh. It is also discussed that in 2011 the draft agreement was made for the Teesta river and there 37.5% was for Bangladesh and 42.5% was for India. The rest 20% was for river navigability but due to the disagreement of West Bengal chief minister, the agreement was not completed. There was also a proposal for the replacement of Teesta River with Dudkumar River. However, there was less water than Teesta and also this river originates from Bhutan which means a tripartite agreement (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India) is required. There is a Joint River Commission of Bangladesh and India which is established in 1972 for examining the effect of the dam. According to Delhi Renew Teesta Water Pledge (2019), India is working for quickly signing the long pending Teesta water sharing agreement. India’s External Affairs Minister Sushma Swaraj yesterday assured this issue while visiting Bangladesh Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen. Despite of having these obligations and disagreements, the treaty is on the way to implement.
Till now, this treaty didn’t create any conflict between countries. It just took a long time to solve all the difficulties. The agreement is going to be successful because of the respectful relationship between the two countries. Otherwise, there are some gaps where some conflicts could be created. Both countries even agreed that they are working more closely than before in every sector (Delhi Renew Teesta Water Pledge, 2019). This relationship is even extending in the field of technology, energy and security (Delhi Renew Teesta Water Pledge, 2019). Netherlands 8 February 2019.