India-Bangladesh ties over the last five decades have made significant achievements in building political capital, boosting the trade and connectivity sector, along with partnerships in key areas like training and capacity building, Trend reports citing The Print.
Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to begin her four-day visit to India as Bangladesh is an important partner under India’s “Neighbourhood First” policy.
Under the visionary leadership of Prime Ministers Narendra Modi and Sheikh Hasina, India and Bangladesh have attained tangible results in several areas including settling land and maritime boundary demarcation, security, connectivity, development cooperation, cultural exchange, power and energy, trade and commerce, blue economy, defence.
Last year marked the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh’s independence, 50 years of the bilateral relationship and Mujib Barsho — 100th birth anniversary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, also known as the father of Bangladesh and ‘Bangabandhu’.
Earlier, Prime Minister Modi also paid a state visit to Bangladesh from March 26-27, 2021, a visit which symbolised the partnership of half-a-century between India and Bangladesh that has strengthened, matured and evolved as a model for bilateral relations for the entire region.
During the visit, it was decided to commemorate December 6 as Maitri Diwas, the day when India recognized Bangladesh in the year 1971. Maitri Diwas celebrations were held in 20 capitals around the world including Delhi and Dhaka. Prime Ministers of both countries have met 12 times since 2015.
Both countries have mutually beneficial trade flows. Bangladesh is now India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. Bilateral trade has grown from USD 9 billion to USD 18 billion in the last five years. Bangladesh has become the 4th largest export destination for India with a growth of over 66 per cent from USD 9.69 billion in FY 2020-21 to USD 16.15 billion in FY 2021-22.
Another major factor is the expanding connectivity between the two nations. India’s well-connected rail system was used to supply essential commodities to Bangladesh when trade via the land route was disrupted during COVID.
For the first time, Indian Railways “Oxygen Express” transported Liquid Medical Oxygen to Bangladesh in Railway containers. In total, railways operated 20 Oxygen Express Trains to Bangladesh in support of Bangladesh’s fight against COVID.
Despite the pandemic, both countries were able to achieve progress on important connectivity initiatives. There have been numerous recent achievements in the connectivity sector such as the inauguration of the Maitri Setu Bridge over River Feni in Tripura and the inauguration of Chilahati-Haldibari rail link — with that, five out of the six pre-1965 cross-border rail links have been operationalised.
Others include the inauguration of the passenger train Mitali Express from New Jalpaiguri to Dhaka in June 2022 using the Chilahati-Haldibari cross-border rail link and the three trial runs have been conducted under the Agreement on the use of Chattogram and Mongla port for movement of goods to and fro from India through the Chattogram and Mongla port.
The India-Bangladesh development partnership has also made significant strides. Bangladesh is India’s largest development partner with nearly one-fourth of the GoI commitment under GoI LoC having been made to Bangladesh.
Total contracts have crossed the milestone figure of USD 2 billion and total disbursements have crossed USD 1 billion. India’s development assistance projects cover a wide variety of sectors such as railways, roads and transport, power generation and transmission, inland waterways, ports and shipping, economic zones, ICT, petrochemicals, renewable energy, waste management and aviation with a bulk of the projects aimed at improving connectivity.
India also undertakes High Impact Community Development Projects (HICDPs) in the areas of education, health, water, culture, urban development, disaster management and community welfare undertaking projects such as the construction of school/college buildings, laboratories, dispensaries, deep tube wells, community centres, renovation of historical monuments/buildings etc. 88 such projects have been undertaken and 72 have been completed.
Under Nutan Bharat Bangladesh Maitree Muktijoddha Santan Scholarship, over 9,000 Bangladesh students have availed scholarships for education in India since 2017. Scholarships are awarded to Higher Secondary and Undergraduate students who are descendants of Muktijoddhas (1971 Liberation war veterans).
Furthermore, India has been a hub of medical treatment for Bangladesh nationals. Of the 2.8 lakh visas issued in 2021, 2.3 lakh were medical visas. Under the Muktijoddha medical scheme – 147 patients have been treated since 2018. Under this scheme, Muktijoddhas (1971 Liberation war veterans) are treated free of cost in Indian Military Hospitals.
Bangladesh is currently India’s biggest visa operation globally. In 2019, 13.63 lakh visas were issued. (ANI)