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Reasons why Bangladesh-India friendship is under pressure

Bangladesh and India have close bilateral relations. But issues ranging from disputes over water to religious tensions have sown the seeds of mistrust between the two countries and damaged relations.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi will visit Dhaka in March to mark the 50th anniversary of Bangladesh's independence and the establishment of diplomatic relations between the two countries. The visit is seen as a symbol of decades-old friendship between the two neighboring South Asian countries. Although not everything is going well in terms of bilateral partnerships.

In early 2021, there was a controversy over the supply of the Oxford-AstraZeneca vaccine, which is partnered with the Pune-based Serum Institute of India to develop the vaccine. Ginger Punawala, chief executive of Siram, said the Indian government had banned the sale of Siram vaccines in the private market until the people of India received the vaccine.

That statement created a chaotic situation in Bangladesh. Because Bangladesh had an agreement with India last year to get 30 million doses of vaccine. Therefore, many Bangladeshis think that India has not complied with the agreement. Some have identified India as an untrustworthy neighbor on social media.

However, Punawala later clarified in another statement that the vaccine was allowed to be exported to all countries.

Foreign Minister of Bangladesh A.K. Abdul Momen also confirmed that his country is on the verge of receiving the vaccine. However, Bangladeshis did not take such experience well.

Lailufar Yasmin, an associate professor at Dhaka University, told DW, "Punawala's statement about the vaccine spread in Bangladesh. Because there is no point in refusing to vaccinate us after signing the agreement. '

The reason for disbelief is not keeping promises

Yasmin mentions a number of incidents in which Dhaka felt that India was not keeping its promises.

In September 2020, Bangladesh asked India to resume onion exports to that country after New Delhi abruptly banned onion exports.

India is the largest supplier of onions to Bangladesh, with an average annual purchase of over 350,000 tonnes. After the export ban, the price of onion in Bangladesh has gone up by more than 50 per cent, forcing the government to procure onions from elsewhere and subsidize them.

Yasmin said, "Historically, India's relations with Bangladesh have been good. But the country has missed many opportunities to consolidate that relationship. "

Suffering from water

In December 2020, the two countries discussed issues such as expanding trade, investment and transport links at a virtual summit. However, the trouble of sharing the waters of the river Teesta is avoided, as the river flows into Bangladesh from Sikkim in India and West Bengal.

As a low-lying country, Bangladesh wants India to share more Teesta water. But due to strong opposition from West Bengal, New Delhi has not been able to reach an agreement so far.

Two politicians from West Bengal's ruling Trinamool Congress have said the problem is unlikely to be resolved in the near future as the Teesta water supply glaciers are increasingly melting and sharing water with Bangladesh could increase the risk of drought in various parts of the state.

Sukhendu Shekhar Roy, a member of the upper house of the Indian Parliament elected from the Trinamool Congress, said, "If India wants to share water, it needs to find out how the people of North-West Bengal can be compensated during the growing season." Otherwise, the Teesta River will dry up, as was the case with the Ganges Water Sharing Agreement in 1997. The port of Calcutta is now dead with water flowing towards Bangladesh. Moreover, the groundwater level has dropped so low that arsenic is being found in various areas, endangering the lives of millions of people. That experience has made Bengalis bitter, so they are worried about the sharing of Teesta water. '

Jayita Bhattacharya, Senior Fellow of the New Delhi-based Think Tank Observer Research Foundation (ORF), said, But we need to understand that West Bengal is a major partner in resolving this. This agreement will be difficult to implement if West Bengal does not change its position.

China is trying hard to attract the attention of Bangladesh

While India was trying to resolve the Teesta issue with Bangladesh, China entered the fray and offered Bangladesh এক 1 billion for an irrigation project on the Teesta River. Some experts believe that Bangladesh only wants to benefit economically through its partnership with Beijing.

As Jayita Bhattacharya used to say, ‘Bangladesh, like many other countries, will enter into agreements for its economic benefits. The country has differences with China on a number of issues, so it would be wrong to assume that an economic agreement with China will move Bangladesh away from India.

Emran Saleh Prince, organizing secretary of the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), said, "Bangladesh was forced to turn to China for help as India did not resolve the Teesta issue." India still has time to take action so that we do not have to take help from China. '

Pakistan joined the conflict

Pakistan, China's closest ally in the region, is also trying to improve relations with Bangladesh. However, some observers say that any meaningful relationship between Islamabad and Dhaka is out of the question

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