India-Bangladesh Relations are not as bad as portrayed
Bangladesh Will Determine Whether India's Geostrategy Would Make Substantial Progress Or Not
Recently, a piece of news that Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had not given an appointment to the Indian High Commissioner for four months, has become a hot topic. It has led to speculation as to whether there is a crack in the relations between India and Bangladesh. In fact, this is not the case. The Prime Minister of Bangladesh did not meet any foreign envoys during the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
Relations between India and Bangladesh are in fact becoming better. The Bangladesh Minister of Foreign Affairs pointed out that the relations between the two countries are rock solid and that the past few years have been the golden age of bilateral relations.
From the perspective of great power diplomacy, Bangladesh intends to carry out balanced diplomacy between China and India. It maintains good relations with China and India to maximize national interests.
Indian diplomats also said that the two countries are close brothers. Since the outbreak of the pandemic, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina have had three online exchanges and talks.
In recent years, India-Bangladesh relations have seen rapid growth. Economically, India is one of the largest development partners of Bangladesh and Bangladesh is the largest trading ally of India in South Asia. In terms of investment, Indian investment in Bangladesh increased from US $43 million in 2010 to US $116 million in 2019, with a stock of US $725 million. Bangladesh's exports to India reached US$ 1.2 billion in 2019, tripling in the past two years and outnumbering the US $1 billion exported to China, Bangladesh's largest trading partner.
From the perspective of regional cooperation, Bangladesh is an important node of the regional sub-regional cooperation framework led by India, especially in BIMSTEC and the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal cooperation framework where Bangladesh ranks first on the list.
The maritime boundary dispute between the two countries was resolved in 2014, and the successful exchange of enclaves in 2015 removed obstacles to further development between the two countries. In addition, the two countries also cooperate in the fields of aviation, information technology, civil nuclear cooperation, shipping, energy and tourism, and have signed 90 memorandums of understanding.
Notably, bilateral cooperation was further enhanced during the COVID-19 pandemic. Firstly, an Indian company acquired Bangladesh's largest liquefied petroleum gas supplier. Secondly, the Indian railway logistics department launched a container service from Calcutta to Bangladesh's Benapole. Finally, India handed over 10 locomotives to Bangladesh.
It is undeniable that there are also some problems and disputes between India and Bangladesh. For example, India is wary about relations between Pakistan and Bangladesh and has always viewed the development of Pakistan-Bangladesh relations with suspicion. The Nationality Registration and Citizenship Amendment Act introduced by India, affecting a large number of so-called ‘Bangladeshi Muslims’ in northeastern India, worried people in Bangladesh.
Due to geographical proximity, it is the common need of the two countries to strengthen bilateral cooperation. For India, Bangladesh plays an important role in promoting its geostrategy, security and regional cooperation. From the perspective of geostrategy Bangladesh is the starting point for India’s "Act East" and Indo-Pacific strategies. Bangladesh will determine whether India's geostrategy would make substantial progress or not.
Land and water coordinated transport to northeast India through Bangladesh, which borders northeast India, will save time and money as compared to traveling via the Siliguri Corridor. Moreover, improvement of India-Bangladesh relations can ensure the security and stability of northeastern India.
From the perspective of regional cooperation, Bangladesh is an important node of the regional sub-regional cooperation framework led by India, especially in the Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC) and the Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal cooperation framework where Bangladesh ranks first on the list.
For Bangladesh, India is an important support for carrying out a balanced diplomacy among great powers, expand foreign economic and trade cooperation and enhance its role in the United Nations. From the perspective of great power diplomacy, Bangladesh intends to carry out balanced diplomacy between China and India. It maintains good relations with China and India to maximize national interests.
From the perspective of expanding foreign economic and trade cooperation, the COVID-19 pandemic has greatly reduced Bangladesh's clothing exports and foreign exchange earnings. India's transit trade can effectively make up for the deficit. From the perspective of multilateral diplomacy in the United Nations, India was elected as a non-permanent member of the United Nations in June, which coincides with Bangladesh's commitment to promoting friendly relations with the international community, actively participating in international affairs, pursuing peace and development, and constantly improving its international status and influence.
The development of India-Bangladesh relations is not a zero-sum game, but a good thing that benefits many parties. First of all, the improvement of relations between India and Bangladesh is in line with the wishes and national interests of the peoples from the two countries. Secondly, it promotes the pace of sub-regional cooperation in South Asia. Last but not the least, it has contributed to the stability of the world economy since the outbreak of COVID-19 pandemic.
(Yu Yongbois from Chengdu Public Security Bureau; Huang Dekai Scholar of Sichuan Police College)