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51 years of India-Bangladesh ties: Deeper than the ocean and higher than the Himalayas?

Bangladesh and India have a bond that was as high as the Himalayas and as deep as the ocean.


Sentinel Digital DeskBy : Sentinel Digital Desk

  |  15 May 2022 9:57 AM GMT

Fumiko Yamada


Bangladesh and India have a bond that was as high as the Himalayas and as deep as the ocean. On a regular basis, many new initiatives are introduced to their multidimensional cooperation. Bangladesh-India ties have undergone dramatic transformations, reaching new heights.

2021 was a fantastic year for the partnership between India-Bangladesh. In 2022, both are committed to expanding it even more. India and Bangladesh have a special and long-standing bilateral relationship marked by mutual trust, friendliness, and understanding.

Dr S Jaishankar, India's Minister of External Affairs, visited Bangladesh and Bhutan from April 28 to 30, 2022. The External Affairs Minister met with Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina during the trip.

Bangladesh's Foreign Minister AK Abdul Momen said that Indian External Affairs Minister S Jaishankar, who visited Dhaka for a one-day visit recently, brought good news and a surprise. The Bangladeshi PM may visit India this year.

President of India Ram Nath Kovind conducted a State Visit to Bangladesh from December 15 to 17, 2021, at the request of President of Bangladesh Abdul Hamid, to attend the 50th Vijay Diwas festivities in Bangladesh as the Guest of Honour. This was the President's first trip to Bangladesh and his first abroad trip since the Covid-19 pandemic broke out. The team that accompanied the President included Dr Subhas Sarkar, Minister of State for Education, and Rajdeep Roy, Member of Parliament (Lok Sabha). Given the 50th anniversary of the two countries' peoples' joint sacrifices during Bangladesh's struggle for independence in 1971, the visit was significant.

Bangladesh and India will celebrate their 51th year of friendship this year. It is a partnership between two souls developed from the same philosophy, history, culture, and sacrifice. It's a bond forged through the terrible days of our fight for freedom and independence. It's a partnership built on mutual respect and trust. It's a friendship based on the blood of both countries' martyrs mixed together in the same stream. "The Indo-Bangladesh friendship would remain intact forever," Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Bangladesh's Father of the Nation, remarked in Kolkata in February, 1972. No world power will be able to split the two.

During her visit to Bangladesh in March, 1972, the then Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi expressed a similar attitude, saying, "Indian soldiers lost their blood on the soil of Bangladesh, and their blood was mingled with that of freedom fighters, and that has cemented two countries' friendship. Bangladesh and India shared many similar ideas on a number of national and international issues," she added, "but each country should chart its own course. Mutual respect should be the foundation of any friendship." In reality, such was the spirit that sparked the friendship between the two countries.

Though the Government of India officially recognized Bangladesh as a sovereign independent country on December 6, 1971, the unofficial recognition was extended to Bangladesh much earlier when India opened its border for Bangladeshis fleeing the Pakistani military's atrocities, which began in the middle of the night on March 25, 1971. It was India that gave the independence fighters arms training and pushed them into Bangladesh with arms to free their motherland from Pakistani tyranny. Wasn't it India's acknowledgment of Bangladesh as a nation that preceded their formal recognition? On that day, our connection was truly tangled.

Bangabandhu paid the most visits to any country, visiting India five times (including stopovers). Indian President VV Giri and Prime Minister Indira Gandhi visited Bangladesh at the invitation of Bangabandhu. Their travels reflected the importance that the two countries placed on their friendship. Furthermore, ministerial and senior official visits from both sides had greatly aided in the broadening, deepening, and strengthening of the relationship.

A number of high-level visits has place between the two countries. In January 2010, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid a visit to India. In September 2011, the Indian Prime Minister visited Bangladesh and signed a Framework Agreement on Development Cooperation and a Protocol to the Land Boundary Agreement of 1974. In March, 2013, Indian President Pranab Mukherjee visited Bangladesh. In December, 2014, Bangladesh President Md Abdul Hamid paid a visit to India.

Narendra Modi, the current Indian Prime Minister, visited Bangladesh in June, 2015. Within a month of his visit, 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh became Bangladeshi territory, and 51 Bangladeshi enclaves in India became Indian territory, bringing the 68-year-old humanitarian situation to a peaceful conclusion. On August 19, 2015, Sheikh Hasina travelled to India to attend the funeral of Suvra Mukherjee, President Pranab Mukherjee's wife.

She also met her Indian colleague at the time.

On the sidelines of the UN General Assembly in September 2015, the two Prime Ministers conducted a bilateral meeting.

During the BRICS-BIMSTEC Outreach Summit in India in October, 2016, Prime Minister Hasina met with Prime Minister Modi in a bilateral meeting.

In April, 2017, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina paid a State Visit to India. Sheikh Hasina was welcomed at the airport by Prime Minister Modi and stayed at the President's home. During the visit, a street in Delhi's centre was named after Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Sheikh Hasina formally launched the Hindi translation of Bangabandhu's unfinished memoirs and paid tribute to the families of Indian troops who died in the liberation fight. The fourth railway connection between Radhikapur and Biral was also launched by the two Prime Ministers.

On March 19, 2018, President Md Abdul Hamid travelled to New Delhi to attend the International Solar Alliance Founding Conference. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina visited West Bengal in May of that year to attend the launching of the Bangladesh Bhaban of Visva-Bharati University in Shantiniketan. Prime Minister Modi was also present.

The two Prime Ministers laid the foundation stone for the Bangladesh-India 'Friendship Pipeline' project and inaugurated two railway projects through video conference in September, 2018. The Prime Ministers of the two countries held a video conference in March, 2019 to launch four more projects. On May 29, 2019, President Md Abdul Hamid travelled to India to witness Narendra Modi's second inauguration.

It's difficult to list the titles of all the documents signed between the two countries so far, including treaties, agreements, MoUs, and protocols. Hundreds of such documents exist, covering a wide range of topics including security, power, trade & commerce, investment promotion, boundary delineation, connectivity, cooperation, infrastructure development, environment, education, culture, blue economy, health, taxation, and defence. Furthermore, several bilateral institutional frameworks exist between the two countries, such as Joint Working Groups. These documents and methods make the partnership between the two countries more particular and fruitful.

Prime Minister Modi visited Dhaka on March 26, 2021, at the request of his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina, to participate in celebrations of Bangladesh's golden jubilee and the birth centennial of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of the Nation. On the 27th of March, the two Prime Ministers met bilaterally. Certain documents between the two countries were signed following the meeting.

During Prime Minister Narendra Modi's State Visit to Bangladesh on March 26-27 last year, both Prime Ministers agreed to jointly celebrate December 6, 2021 as 'Maitri Diwas' to demonstrate that the emotional bonds forged by India's invaluable contribution to Bangladesh's Liberation War remain a "dominant factor" in Bangladesh-India relations. On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of friendly relations between Bangladesh and India, it was planned to mark Friendship Day jointly with 16 other nations on December 6, 2021.

Despite the fact that the world is facing a deadly pandemic, the Indian Prime Minister's travel to Bangladesh at this time demonstrated the depth and strength of friendship that exist between the two countries. A valued buddy is always by his friends' sides, sharing their joys and sorrows. It is worth noting that Bangladesh regards India as a reliable ally, and that, despite its limitations, it gives India's concerns first priority. Bangladeshis yearn to see the India of 1971, which stood with Bangladesh and its people despite the country's countless troubles.

One of the primary cornerstones of India's 'Neighbourhood First' and 'Act East Policies' is its connection with Bangladesh. In areas such as trade and connectivity, energy and electricity, water resources, border control, defense and security, culture, and people-to-people linkages, India and Bangladesh have a strong and comprehensive bilateral relationship. The President of India's visit to Bangladesh on the momentous occasion of the 50th Vijay Diwas demonstrates both nations' great regard for one another and their determination to deepen their relationship based on shared values, mutual trust, and understanding.

We have seen the proof, and we hope that via free, just, and serious conversations, the two countries will find solutions to additional concerns, such as the pending Teesta River water sharing, for a brighter and more prosperous future for the two peoples. Based on the mutual trust and confidence that exists between the leaders and people of these two friendly countries, finding mutually advantageous pathways to bring peace, prosperity, and security to them, the region, and the entire globe should not be a problem. Because India is a larger country, it should listen to Bangladesh with an open and cooperative mind. There should be no unsolved conflicts between the two buddies who also happen to be neighbours.

With that spirit and ambition, Bangladesh and India will make significant progress toward becoming developed countries well before their relationship reaches 100 years; this is the two people's sincere desire. Bangladesh-India friendship remains alive!

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