PM Modi Sheikh Hasina Meeting: Enhancing Indo-Bangladeshi Relations

PM Modi Sheikh Hasina Meeting: Enhancing Indo-Bangladeshi Relations - LitFeeds

On June 22, 2024, Prime Minister Narendra Modi of India and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina of Bangladesh convened in Delhi for a significant bilateral meeting. The agenda encompassed crucial issues such as defense cooperation, the blue economy, and counter-terrorism efforts, highlighting the robust ties between the two neighboring nations. To grasp the depth of this meeting, it is imperative to delve into Bangladesh’s historical context, India’s pivotal role in its independence, and the evolution of their bilateral relations.

Historical Context and the Birth of Bangladesh

Pre-1947: Colonial Era

Before the partition of British India in 1947, Bangladesh was part of Bengal, a culturally rich and historically significant province. The partition resulted in East Bengal becoming East Pakistan, while West Bengal became part of India, driven by religious and geopolitical factors.

1947-1971: Struggle for Independence

Tensions escalated in East Pakistan due to economic disparities and political discontent with West Pakistan. The Awami League, led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, emerged as a prominent advocate for East Pakistan’s rights and autonomy.

The situation intensified after the 1970 general elections, where the Awami League secured a landslide victory in East Pakistan. However, the central government in West Pakistan resisted transferring power, leading to widespread protests and civil disobedience. On March 26, 1971, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman declared Bangladesh’s independence, triggering a brutal crackdown by the Pakistani military. This marked the beginning of the Bangladesh Liberation War, characterized by severe atrocities against the Bengali population and international humanitarian outcry.

India’s Role in the Liberation War

India played a pivotal role in supporting Bangladesh’s struggle for independence. Prime Minister Indira Gandhi provided moral, diplomatic, and material support. India sheltered approximately 10 million Bengali refugees and supported the Mukti Bahini (Liberation Army) with training and arms. The Indo-Pakistani War of 1971 erupted when Pakistan launched preemptive airstrikes on Indian airbases on December 3, 1971. India’s military intervention swiftly turned the tide, leading to the surrender of Pakistani forces in East Pakistan on December 16, 1971, and the establishment of Bangladesh as an independent nation.

Post-Independence Indo-Bangladeshi Relations

1971-1990: Building Bilateral Ties

Following independence, India and Bangladesh established warm and cooperative relations. The 1972 India-Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Peace laid the foundation for mutual respect, non-interference in internal affairs, and collaboration in trade, communication, and culture.

1990s: Political Changes and Challenges

The assassination of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in 1975 and subsequent political turmoil strained Indo-Bangladeshi relations. Periods of military rule and the rise of Islamist parties in Bangladesh led to fluctuations in bilateral ties. However, the restoration of democracy in the 1990s revitalized efforts to strengthen relations.

2000s to Present: Strategic Partnership

Since the early 2000s, Indo-Bangladeshi relations have significantly improved. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s tenure since 2009 has witnessed enhanced cooperation in trade, connectivity, energy, and security. Key milestones include the resolution of the longstanding land boundary dispute through the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015, underscoring the depth and maturity of the relationship.

The June 2024 Bilateral Meeting: Key Discussions

Defense Cooperation

Defense cooperation was a focal point of the June 2024 meeting. India and Bangladesh emphasized joint military exercises, training programs, and technology transfers to strengthen regional stability and security.

Blue Economy

Both countries discussed the blue economy, focusing on sustainable ocean resource management for economic growth and environmental preservation. With extensive coastlines along the Bay of Bengal, opportunities for collaboration in fisheries, marine biotechnology, and renewable energy were explored.

Counter-Terrorism

Counter-terrorism efforts were crucial in the discussions, reflecting shared concerns over terrorism and extremism. Both nations reiterated their commitment to intelligence sharing, border management, and joint operations against terrorist networks.

Considering China’s Influence

China’s growing influence in South Asia is a significant consideration for both India and Bangladesh. While Bangladesh has engaged with China under the Belt and Road Initiative (BRI), including critical infrastructure projects like the Padma Bridge, it maintains strong security and cultural ties with India. India views Bangladesh as a vital partner in countering China’s regional influence, focusing on enhancing connectivity, trade, and defense cooperation.

Future Prospects

India-Bangladesh Relations

The future of Indo-Bangladeshi relations appears promising, with a commitment to deepening cooperation across multiple domains. Ongoing projects such as the India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline and the Akhaura-Agartala rail link are set to enhance economic integration. Cultural and historical ties continue to serve as a robust foundation for people-to-people connections.

Economic Growth and Development

Bangladesh’s economy, one of the world’s fastest-growing, positions it as a key player in regional trade, with plans to graduate from the UN’s Least Developed Countries (LDC) list by 2026. Continued collaboration with India in technology, infrastructure, and education is crucial for sustaining this growth trajectory.

Regional Security and Stability

Both India and Bangladesh have a vested interest in ensuring regional security and stability. Enhanced defense cooperation and joint efforts to combat terrorism under platforms like BIMSTEC are pivotal in this regard.

Conclusion

The June 2024 meeting between Prime Minister Narendra Modi and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina underscored the enduring Indo-Bangladeshi partnership rooted in history and shared aspirations. As they navigate regional complexities, their collaboration will play a crucial role in fostering stability and prosperity in South Asia.

In summary, the bilateral meeting marked a significant milestone in Indo-Bangladeshi relations, reaffirming commitments to defense, the blue economy, and counter-terrorism for regional peace and prosperity.


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