by Staff Correspondent
The organic relationship between India and Bangladesh is multifaceted and has been filtered over decades through layers of time, change, geo – political developments, regional and global volatility. The relationship that we witness today, the strong and thriving rapport is the nectar that has seeped through.
The Indo-Bangladesh relationship is anchored in the idea of mutual benefit, growth and respect. Our common identity across the world is a bright example of the same. Our social symbiosis is ageless. Being branches of the same tree, Bangladesh, jump started its growth in 1971, with its declaration of the right of self determination. Since then we have shared a brotherhood that’s evident in the way the Indian and Bangladeshi work force employed across the region and how both nations act as fruitful grounds of opportunities for education, health, tourism, employment opportunities and so forth. This brotherhood, harmony and these opportunities then proliferated into economic prosperity as well. Settled strongly on our social bond and intertwined history, is the economic association. Being one of India’s biggest trade partner with trade at $3.16 billion and rising, we have recorded a fast paced growth. The reason lies in the symbiotic nature of this trade. The robust growth in agri-business is owing to our common food habits and age old cultivation practices. Similarly, the unprecedented growth in textiles is rooted in almost identical cultural practices. This co-operation is then further enjoyed by other sectors like power and infrastructure too. Language again, has a played a crucial role in letting this mutually beneficial relationship to grow. Because of this symbiosis, in global perspective, India and Bangladesh act as a common entity rather than two separate and different nations.
The Bay of Bengal washes the shores of both India and Bangladesh and opens an ocean of opportunities when churned in ways that are rational and feasible. Co-operation and collaboration in shared fields of fisheries, ocean based renewable energy, maritime transport, coastal tourism, waste management and area of future potential, i.e. marine hydrocarbon retrieval can jump start the progress desirable in socio economic relationship of India and Bangladesh. The shared land and maritime borders of the two nations encompass among them ecologically sensitive areas and biodiversity hotspots too. These include the marshy and wetlands of Sunderbans, the bio diversity hotspots of inner crescent of Himalayas and the coastal water biomes. From protection of the shared habitat of the Royal Bengal Tiger to the breeding grounds for migratory birds and inland and marine fishes and corals, all fall under the collective responsibility of India and Bangladesh as we stand to reap the maximum benefits out of this symbiosis too.
On the front of security, the recent cases of internal disturbances of Rakhain state of Myanmar in general and political upheavals of entire Myanmar in particular have led to out flux of refugees which in turn has raised a serious concern about peace and security in the region. The maritime security cooperation between India and Bangladesh becomes even more crucial due to the shared close proximity to the Strait of Malacca through which 1/3rd of world’s entire oceanic and energy trade occurs. Piracy and smuggling of narcotics and contraband items is a challenge that needs greater bilateral cooperation.
Navigating through the logical possibilities, the Bay of Bengal presents us with both, opportunities, as well as challenges. The massive sinking geosynclines, which the Bay of Bengal, is in itself, presents the strong possibility of being home to vast economic riches in the form of potential hydrocarbons, marine minerals and other unexplored oceanic wealth. Similarly, the land locked regions of India’s far North East, may benefit with access to ports and sea trade. However, the region is vulnerable to various challenges which may include both natural and man-made disasters. Surrounding the warm Bay of Bengal, our shared marine region is a playground for seasonal and recurring cyclones, which create havoc for human in terms of loss of life and economic setback while causing considerable damage to marine eco system to. Tsunami is another weather phenomenon that becomes a disaster, which has been witnessed in the past and will always be a cause of concern. BIMSTEC is the right step in the direction of cooperation and mutual growth. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi Sectional and Economic Cooperation helps in harnessing the opportunities and mitigating the challenges of this region.
Diversity with congruity is the common denominator, characteristic to both, which India and Bangladesh share between themselves. The 4096.7 km of border is sutured by 54 perennial streams, which unfurl historical and geographical connect between two pools of best human resources on our side of the planet. The region has been the cradle of finest gifts of human endeavor, both in material and cultural terms, in the civilisational history of mankind. Economic history of a civilization is akin to its political history, having its shares of tide and ebb. In the globalized and democratic times, the rise in the above is destined again.
India and Bangladesh both are in their phase of demographic dividend and hence, have humongous potential of reaping benefits from trade and economic cooperation. Textiles, and other human labor-intensive areas of production goods present economic to both the countries. (SAFTA) South Asian Free Trade Area is a possible platform that provides opportunities to reap the most optimum benefits arising out of the comparative advantage possessed by the two youngest nations in terms of workforce. The need is to enhance the skill and human resource capital of our working population so as to achieve the maximum shared prosperity from trade opportunities. India, following the Gujral Doctrine has always helped Bangladesh in particular in form of extending line of credit in both, trade and defense purchase market as well as duty and quota free entry into Indian markets to Bangladesh.
People to people exchanges have gained momentum through opening of Naldibari (India) and Chilahati (Bangladesh) rail link. The Maitreyee express along with bus service from Dhaka to Kolkata, Shillong and Guwahati has given impetus to exchange between people and trade. With Bangladesh giving access to its Chittagong and other ports for transport of goods from North East India, opportunity for commerce and tourism has multiplied in this region. This access of transportation to India’s North East states and on the other hand connects Bangladesh to the proposed India Myanmar Thailand trilateral highway which is expected to give impetus to trade and commerce in the ASEAN-INDIA FTA, benefitting everyone in the India and East Asian region.
What we have witnessed between India and Bangladesh in recent past is a glorious chapter of history and what we will witness in future will itself become a future course for nations to follow for their socio-economic symbiosis. What we have to do is to hold our hands together and keep moving towards that peak from where our nations can see other economies as ‘Conquerors of the Global Economy and Figure Heads of Social Bonding’.