Estd. 2006
Bolstering Bangladesh-northeast India ties

Dr Abantika Kumari

India and Bangladesh share a 4096-kilometer international boundary, nearly 1880 of which is with India's North-eastern Region (NER), which has a 1434-kilometer land border and a 446-kilometer river-based tract. India's NER is strategically positioned and might serve as the country's gateway to Southeast Asia.

Bangladesh shares borders with Assam, Meghalaya, Tripura, and Mizoram. With the exception of Meghalaya, all states have land and river borders with Bangladesh. The longest land and river-based boundaries with Bangladesh are in Tripura and Mizoram. Closer economic integration and connection with Bangladesh would diminish these states' economic isolation while simultaneously strengthening their linkages with India's heartland. 

India and Bangladesh share a 4096-kilometer international boundary, nearly 1880 of which is with India's North-eastern Region (NER), which has a 1434-kilometer land border and a 446-kilometer river-based tract. India's NER is ideally positioned and can serve as the resource-industry nexus between Bangladesh and NER determines the current pattern of commerce between the two countries. Some important minerals are found in NER and are in high demand in Bangladesh. As a result, NER exports differ significantly from Bangladesh's commerce with mainland India.

Raw resources such as coal, limestone, stone chips, and bamboo are important NER exports to Bangladesh, while finished goods such as cement, plastic, goods, readymade clothing, processed food, and soft beverages are key imports. This makes a compelling case for increased trade between the two regions.

Agartala is 1650 kilometers from Kolkata and 2,637 kilometers from New Delhi through Shilong and Guwahati. The journey between Agartala and Kolkata via Bangladesh, on the other hand, is only about 550 kilometers.

Furthermore, the average distance between Bangladesh's major cities and northeast India is 20 to 300 kilometers. As a result, Bangladesh is always considered a crucial site for NER's connectivity with mainland India by rail, road, and riverine routes. In light of these factors, Bangladesh has the potential to be a key source of rail, road, and river connectivity between the NER and mainland India.

Because of its strategic location, there are several opportunities for trade, transportation, commerce, and connection between the NER and Bangladesh. As a result, it is critical to map out some of the most important sectoral prospects.

Energy security: The Northeast Region contains around 63,000MW of hydropower energy. Bangladesh can benefit from the extra or underutilized power generated in NER by bolstering its power supply. As a result, cooperation in this industry can benefit both regions.

Connectivity with North Eastern India, namely the Seven Sisters, might be extremely beneficial to both parties. As a result, commercial clusters representing both India and Bangladesh should be formed in close proximity to such locations. This aim could be served by establishing G2G Economic cooperation. Energy security: Hydropower energy in the Northeast Region totals roughly 63,000MW. By increasing its power supply, Bangladesh can profit from the extra or underutilized power generated in NER. As a result, industry cooperation can benefit both regions.

Connectivity with the Seven Sisters in North Eastern India might be immensely beneficial to both parties. As a result, economic clusters representing both India and Bangladesh should be established around such sites. Establishing G2G Economic Zones in Assam and Sylhet could help achieve this goal. ic. zones in Assam and Sylhet.

The first step toward increasing tourism between Bangladesh and the Seven Sisters will be to reopen all of the blocked border checkpoints to visitors. There are now only three border checkpoints spanning the states of Tripura and Meghalaya. We must look into the possibility of adding more border checkpoints and developing infrastructure, including communication lines. Furthermore, our international airport in Sylhet can act as a link between the secluded people of the northeast and the rest of the globe. Given the enormous number of state-of-the-art hospitals and educational institutions on this side of the border, Bangladesh can also draw a large number of NER population for medical and educational tourism.

Development of inland waterways: It is clear that both administrations are committed to revive inland navigation between Bangladesh and the NER. However, there are obstacles to making efficient use of the waterways. Heavy siltation, shifting channels, lack of needed water depth during the lean season, night navigation limits, and the absence of appropriate navigation aids are all examples. These issues must be addressed for the mutual benefit of Bangladesh and India's North Eastern Region.

To give access to sub-regional main cities and ports, the Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal Motor Vehicle Agreement (BBIN MVA) would substantially help to cushion chances for cooperation. Under the BBIN MVA, the Bangladesh government is working to increase cross-border trade with NER. Furthermore, concerns such as speeding inter-regional links (i.e., roads, ports, rail, and inland waterways) with NER are already on the table for further debate and action.

In a meeting between Bangladeshi Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and India's External Affairs Minister S. Jaishankar in Dhaka at the end of April, the Bangladeshi premier offered India the use of Chittagong Port. On behalf of Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi, Jaishankar was in Dhaka to extend an invitation to Prime Minister Hasina to visit New Delhi. Prime Minister Hasina pointed out that expanded linkages would allow India's landlocked Northeastern states of Assam and Tripura have access to the Chittagong port when discussing the necessity for greater connectivity between the two neighboring countries for mutual benefit.

This presents a lot of exciting prospects for the two countries to collaborate closely. Bangladesh has the potential to be a major element of India's effort to increase trade in the region as the globe 'pivots to Asia' and the Indian look East policy changes into the Act East policy.

Both the area and New Delhi would benefit from a larger role for the North East. Because of its proximity to Southeast Asia and Bangladesh, the region has the possibility to serve as a bridge for India while also benefiting economically and entrepreneurially.

(Dr Abantika Kumari is an Assistant Professor at the History Department of Allahabad College, Uttar Pradesh, India. She is also a researcher particularly focused on South Asia. She can be contacted at [email protected])

July 17 2022