Credit: The Singapore Post
The bilateral relationship between India and Bangladesh has witnessed a reaffirmation of warmth and mutual cooperation, as emphasized by Dr. Hasan Mahmud, the Foreign Minister of Bangladesh, during his inaugural visit to India in January 2024.
Expressing gratitude towards the people and government of India, Dr. Mahmud highlighted India’s steadfast support for ensuring a free, fair, and transparent election process in Bangladesh, thereby safeguarding democracy.
 The relationship between India and Bangladesh stands as a testament to the enduring bonds of friendship and collaboration between two neighboring nations. Established immediately after Bangladesh’s independence in December 1971, India was the first country to recognize Bangladesh as a separate and independent state, setting the stage for a relationship deeply rooted in shared history, culture, and values.
 The ties between the two countries extend beyond mere diplomatic relations; they are civilizational, cultural, social, and economic in nature, reflecting a rich tapestry of connections that unite the peoples of India and Bangladesh.
High-level exchanges and visits between leaders of both nations have been a regular feature, reinforcing the depth and significance of their bilateral relations. Landmark visits, such as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit to India in January 2010 and Prime Minister Manmohan Singh’s visit to Bangladesh in September 2011, have ushered in new chapters of cooperation and partnership. These interactions underscore the commitment of both countries to strengthening their multifaceted relationship, characterized by principles of equality, partnership, and mutual growth.
Over the past four decades, India and Bangladesh have worked tirelessly to consolidate their political, economic, trade, and cultural ties, laying the foundation for comprehensive cooperation across various sectors. Notably, both nations share 54 rivers, leading to collaborative efforts for the equitable sharing of water resources and conservation of biodiversity, such as the Sunderbans ecosystem.
Economically, Bangladesh holds strategic importance for India, serving as its largest trading partner in the subcontinent. Bilateral trade between the two countries has flourished, with significant investments from Indian companies contributing to Bangladesh’s economic growth. Furthermore, initiatives like the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and inter-grid connectivity for power transmission highlight the commitment to bolstering infrastructure and connectivity between the two nations.
In times of need, India has consistently stood by Bangladesh, providing vital assistance during natural disasters and humanitarian crises. From aid packages to rehabilitation efforts, India’s support has reached even the remotest locations of Bangladesh, underscoring its unwavering solidarity and friendship.
However, despite the strong bond between India and Bangladesh, challenges persist, including issues related to transboundary river waters, illegal migration, and drug smuggling. Addressing these challenges requires concerted efforts and cooperation between both countries, as well as a forward-looking approach to fostering mutual understanding and trust.
Looking ahead, the way forward for India-Bangladesh relations lies in continued collaboration and dialogue, bolstered by initiatives aimed at enhancing connectivity, promoting cultural exchanges, and addressing common challenges. By harnessing the spirit of friendship and cooperation, India and Bangladesh can build a brighter future for their peoples and the region at large, embodying the true essence of a partnership based on mutual respect, trust, and shared aspirations.
India and Bangladesh share a deep-rooted bond forged by a shared history and common cultural heritage. Since Bangladesh’s independence in 1971, India has played a pivotal role in supporting its eastern neighbor in various spheres, ranging from diplomatic assistance to economic cooperation and humanitarian aid. This article explores the multifaceted relationship between India and Bangladesh, highlighting their enduring friendship and mutual cooperation, as well as the challenges and opportunities that lie ahead.
The cultural affinity between India and Bangladesh is evident in their shared traditions, language, and values. Bengali culture, with its rich literary heritage, music, and art, serves as a common bond that transcends national boundaries. The cultural exchanges between the two countries have further strengthened their ties, fostering a sense of camaraderie and understanding among their peoples.
Initiatives such as the exchange of cultural delegations, joint festivals, and cultural events have contributed to enhancing people-to-people ties and promoting cultural diplomacy between India and Bangladesh.
Moreover, India and Bangladesh share deep economic linkages, with trade and investment playing a crucial role in their bilateral relations. Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in South Asia, with bilateral trade between the two countries witnessing steady growth over the years. India’s exports to Bangladesh include a wide range of products, including textiles, machinery, electronics, and pharmaceuticals, while Bangladesh exports garments, textiles, and agricultural products to India. Both countries have implemented various trade facilitation measures to promote bilateral trade and investment, including the establishment of border haats (markets) and the signing of bilateral trade agreements.
In addition to trade and investment, India has been a key partner in supporting Bangladesh’s economic development through bilateral assistance and development projects. India has provided financial assistance and technical expertise for various infrastructure projects in Bangladesh, including road and rail connectivity, power generation, and telecommunications. The India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline, which connects the Indian city of Siliguri to Parbatipur in Bangladesh, is a flagship project aimed at enhancing energy cooperation and promoting regional connectivity. Similarly, India’s support for the development of the Chittagong and Mongla ports in Bangladesh has contributed to improving maritime trade and logistics in the region.
Despite the strong bilateral ties between India and Bangladesh, the relationship has not been without its challenges. One of the key issues that have strained their relations is the sharing of transboundary river waters, particularly the Teesta river. Despite several rounds of negotiations, a water-sharing agreement on the Teesta river has remained elusive, leading to tensions between the two countries. Similarly, the issue of illegal migration from Bangladesh to India has been a contentious issue, with concerns raised about security and socio-economic implications. The Rohingya refugee crisis has further exacerbated the issue, putting pressure on both countries to address the humanitarian and security challenges posed by the influx of refugees.
Despite these challenges, India and Bangladesh have continued to deepen their bilateral cooperation and strengthen their partnership across various sectors. Both countries have recognized the importance of maintaining peace and stability in the region and have reaffirmed their commitment to resolving outstanding issues through dialogue and diplomatic means.
The recent visit of Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina to India and the signing of several agreements and memoranda of understanding (MoUs) between the two countries underscore their shared commitment to enhancing their bilateral ties and promoting mutual prosperity.
India and Bangladesh share a special relationship characterized by friendship, cooperation, and mutual respect. The two countries have made significant strides in deepening their economic, cultural, and strategic ties over the years, contributing to peace, stability, and development in the region. While challenges remain, including unresolved territorial disputes and external pressures, both India and Bangladesh are committed to addressing these issues through dialogue and diplomatic engagement.
By building on their shared heritage and common aspirations, India and Bangladesh can further strengthen their partnership and realize their shared vision of a peaceful, prosperous, and interconnected South Asia. Also, it is imperative for Bangladesh to exercise caution and prudence in its dealings with China to safeguard its sovereignty, independence, and long-term interests.
 While Bangladesh values its relationship with China as an important economic partner, it is crucial for the country to maintain strategic autonomy and avoid becoming overly reliant on Beijing. Bangladesh must be vigilant against potential risks associated with Chinese investment and infrastructure projects, ensuring that they align with the country’s development priorities and adhere to transparent and sustainable practices.
By maintaining a balanced approach and diversifying its international engagements, Bangladesh can mitigate the risks of undue influence and interference from external powers, preserving its sovereignty and upholding the best interests of its people.