Wednesday, May 18, 2022

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India-Bangladesh “Maitri Diwas” – A “much deeper connotation”

Monday marks 50 years of India recognizing an independent, sovereign Bangladesh, celebrated as “Maitri Diwas”. As MEA says, Maitri with Bangladesh “has traversed towards a ‘Shonali Adhyaya’ or a Golden Chapter”.
See the trajectory. Bangladesh was the destination of Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s first visit after the disruptions and lockdowns of the pandemic. He traveled to Bangladesh in March this year as the Chief Guest at the celebrations to commemorate the Golden Jubilee of the creation of Bangladesh.

The President of India will participate in the golden jubilee Victory Day celebrations in Dhaka on 16 December.

On Maitri Diwas, PM Narendra Modi said in a tweet- “ Today India and Bangladesh commemorate Maitri Diwas. We jointly recall and celebrate the foundations of our 50 years of friendship. I look forward to continue working with H.E. PM Sheikh Hasina to further expand and deepen our ties. “

India was one of the first countries to establish bilateral diplomatic ties with Bangladesh on December 6, 1971.

Pakistan’s humiliating defeat at the hands of the Indian Army in the Indo Pak War 1971 or Liberation War 1971 also strengthened India Bangladesh ties.

Maitri Diwas is being commemorated in 18 countries besides Dhaka & New Delhi. These countries are Belgium, Canada, Egypt, Indonesia, Russia, Qatar, Singapore, UK, Australia, France, Japan, Malaysia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Switzerland, Thailand, UAE and USA.

On Maitri Diwas MEA said – “During the visit of PM Shri Narendra Modi to Bangladesh in March 2021 to attend the national day of Bangladesh, it was decided to commemorate 06 December as Maitri Diwas (Friendship Day). Ten days before the liberation of Bangladesh, India had recognised Bangladesh on 06 December 1971. India was one of the first countries to establish bilateral diplomatic ties with Bangladesh. The holding of Maitri Diwas is a reflection of the deep and abiding friendship between the peoples of India and Bangladesh that has been forged in blood and shared sacrifices.”

What makes this Maitri Diwas more significant and historically interesting is that it coincides with the arrival of Russian President Vladimir Putin to India. Of course, India was the first country to recognise the newly liberated state of Bangladesh, but in the war of liberation along with India’s valour, generosity and decisiveness, an important role was played by the Soviet Union as well, of which Russia is the inheritor state.

In fact, the 1971 Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation in August 1971 is believed to have had a direct impact on the battle in the eastern war theatre between India and Pakistan.
Some of the clauses of the 1971 Indo-Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation became a deterrent for other powers and countries to meddle in the war.

Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary of the Russian Federation Mr Nikolay R. Kudashev wrote in an article in August ( on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty) “… That Treaty was an integral part of the range of events, which had divided the history of South Asia into before and after, – the third war between India and Pakistan, the creation of Bangladesh and the adoption of the relevant UN SC resolution strongly supported by the Soviet Union along with prevention of attempts to attack India by other powers..”

Further, the article said- “.. Russia keeps following the Shimla Agreement of 1972 taking principled position against raising the Kashmir issue in the UNSC and other platforms and any interference in territorial disputes between the two neighboring countries”.
The history of that war is a testimony of not only Indo-Bangla friendship, but also of Indo – Russian friendship.
Soviet diplomats in the UN also scuttled moves to discomfort India. The Soviets had also vetoed the Security Council in favour of India. So much so that the Indo-Soviet Friendship Treaty of 1971 is deemed as the template for the Indo-Bangladesh Friendship Treaty signed in 1972.

In fact, the Indo-Bangladesh Friendship has expanded very rapidly in several areas recently. Both nations had signed and ratified the Land Boundary Agreement in 2015 and the demarcation of the maritime boundary.
Five of the six railway linkages between the two countries, that existed prior to 1965, have been revived. India has announced that the sixth will soon be revived. An additional railway line is being built to link Akhaura with Agartala.

In the Bay of Bengal and 54 rivers, shared by India and Bangladesh, are being exploited to create a low-carbon footprint connectivity through waterways and coastal shipping. Now, cargo can move to Agartala from Kolkata via Chattogram.
India and Bangladesh have linked their power grids. A common energy market is emerging. Over 1100 MW of power now moves across the border. India and Bangladesh are cooperating in power generation, including, but not exclusively, through the flagship 1320 MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project.

Bangladesh has joined the International Solar Alliance, an India initiative. Cooperation in renewable power is a distinct possibility.
India and Bangladesh are soon to be linked through hydrocarbon pipelines also.
Bangladesh is India’s biggest trade partner in South Asia. India is the second largest trade partner of Bangladesh. Despite the pandemic, bilateral trade grew at an unprecedented rate of 14% from USD 9.46 billion in FY 2019-20 to USD 10.78 billion in FY 2020-21.

India-Bangladesh cooperation between healthcare professionals during pandemic, has expanded in the digital space. IT parks are being built in 12 districts in Bangladesh to further cooperation in this domain.
More than a third of India’s total soft loans, through concessional lines of credit, are deployed with Bangladesh. Credits worth more than US$ 10 billion on the ‘softest’ terms have been extended. Similarly, India has given a USD 500 million Defence Line of Credit, which is being scaled up. This is what gives “Maitri Diwas” a “much deeper connotation”.

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