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India- Bangladesh Teesta river challenge

Date: 23 August 2020 Tags: India & World

Issue

Bangladesh is discussing an almost $1 billion loan from China for a comprehensive management and restoration project on the Teesta river.

 

Background

India and Bangladesh have been engaged in a long-standing dispute over water-sharing in the Teesta. Bangladesh’s discussions with China come at a time when India is particularly wary about China following the standoff in Ladakh.

 

Details

  • The two countries were on the verge of signing a water-sharing pact in September 2011, when Prime Minister Manmohan Singh was going to visit Bangladesh. But, West Bengal Chief Minister Mamata Banerjee objected to it, and the deal was scuttled.

  • New Delhi has had a robust relationship with Dhaka, carefully cultivated since 2008, especially with the Sheikh Hasina government at the helm.

  • India has benefited from its security ties with Bangladesh, whose crackdown against anti-India outfits has helped the Indian government maintain peace in the eastern and Northeast states.

  • Bangladesh has benefited from its economic and development partnership. Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia.

  • Bilateral trade has grown steadily over the last decade: India’s exports to Bangladesh in 2018-19 stood at $9.21 billion, and imports from Bangladesh at $1.04 billion.

  • China is the biggest trading partner of Bangladesh and is the foremost source of imports. In 2019, the trade between the two countries was $18 billion and the imports from China commanded the lion’s share. 

  • China declared zero duty on 97% of imports from Bangladesh. The concession flowed from China’s duty-free, quota-free programme for the Least Developed Countries. 

  • India too has provided developmental assistance worth $10 billion, making Bangladesh the largest recipient of India’s total of $30 billion aid globally. China has promised around $30 billion worth of financial assistance to Bangladesh.

  • While the Teesta project is important and urgent from India’s point of view, it will be difficult to address it before the West Bengal elections due next year.

  • The test will be if India can implement all its assurances in a time-bound manner. Or else, the latent anti-India sentiment in Bangladesh — which has been revived after India’s CAA -NRC push — threatens to damage Dhaka-New Delhi ties.

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