This article is part of the series — India–Bangladesh Relations @50: Commemorating Bilateral Ties.
Fifty years ago, the Bangladesh Liberation War in 1971 had added the colours of victory for India as it led the charge towards the formation of the new nation of Bangladesh. The two South Asian neighbours, Bangladesh and India, share a common history, and linguistic and cultural heritage. Their strategic locations complement each other and offer an opportunity to further develop economic links. The victory of independent Bangladesh was a major achievement in this regard. In national politics, it made a long-term impact, and it made an impact on the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government as well.
But the elites and military rulers of Pakistan frowned upon the fish- and rice -eating Bangalees and treated them as second-class citizens. After nine months of birth pangs, the country was liberated from the yoke of the marauding Pakistani troops.
The victory of independent Bangladesh was a major achievement. In national politics, it made a long-term impact, and it made an impact on the Indira Gandhi-led Congress government as well.
The citizens of Bangladesh, especially, will not forget Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi’s able statesmanship in steering her country’s policy to enable the independence of Bangladesh. The good offices of Indian civil administration, diplomacy, and armed forces played a proactive role in creating the new nation. Despite being the world’s largest democracy, India was not economically sound in the 1970s but she bore the burden of providing shelter, food, and healthcare to more than 10 million war refugees. To supplement the national exchequer, India imposed a war levy on sales and purchase of all kinds of tickets and other government services.
As the civil war unfolded in the eastern theatre in the then East Pakistan, India invited fresh enemies, including China, the United States, and the Arab countries during the Cold War era. These countries’ military and diplomacy tilted towards the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, which further encouraged their tendency towards committing genocide
, with the intent to pursue an ethnic cleansing of Bangalees as a nation. The military hawks in the Rawalpindi General Headquarters deliberately targeted Hindus after declaring them as enemies of Islam
. To augment military aid to the Bangladesh War, Delhi’s South Block too put in an effort to muster diplomatic support from Soviet Russia and East Europe. India signed the historic Indo–Soviet Treaty of Peace, Friendship and Cooperation
on 9 August 1971. The Indo–Soviet treaty had a direct impact on the decisive battle, which expedited Bangladesh’s independence and brought about the surrender of the occupying Pakistani forces in mid-December 1971. Indira Gandhi’s global campaign
in September to win hearts of the West and international bodies in favour of the Bangladeshi cause had indeed melted ice.
Never in military history has a victorious army withdrawn so quickly. It was hailed as the first diplomatic success by the hero, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, popularly known as Bangabandhu (Friends of Bengal).
After the war, in less than three months, a joint communiqué was signed stating that the two countries (India and Bangladesh) had agreed to pull out victorious troops
of the Indian Army on 31 March. Never in military history has a victorious army withdrawn so quickly. It was hailed as the first diplomatic success by the hero, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, popularly known as Bangabandhu (Friends of Bengal). In yet another request from Mujibur, he asked for the 93,000 prisoners of war (POW) of the Pakistan armed forces to be shifted to India; this was also agreed upon.
For a justifiable relationship between India and the newly emerged nation, the India–Bangladesh Treaty of Friendship, Cooperation, and Peace for 25 years was signed between visiting Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi and Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on 19 March 1972. The treaty, however, was bitterly criticised by the opposition stating it as a treaty of the hegemony of India. The relations between the two neighbours were on rough seas. The border killings of Bangladesh nationals by the Indian Border Security Force (BSF) and water sharing of the Teesta river remained a major bottleneck to the improvement of the relationship.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina instead proposed to prepare a holistic approach to water-sharing of the 54 international rivers.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi and his Bangladeshi counterpart Sheikh Hasina instead proposed to prepare a holistic approach to water-sharing of the 54 international rivers, like the historic Indus Waters Treaty
between India and Pakistan. Parleys between Modi and Hasina resulted in a momentous land boundary demarcation
signed on 6 June 2015, which opened a new chapter in bilateral relations.
After Hasina returned to power in 2009, she walked the extra mile to address India’s concerns
over Northeast India’s insurgency and connectivity issues. Several separatist leaders of the Northeast were deported, militant camps dismantled, and terror-financing bank accounts were frozen. Such efforts have impacted positively on peacebuilding and reduction of the military in the Northeast Indian states. Since 1975, different regimes had given a lease of their territory to the militants of Tripura, Nagaland, Mizoram, and Manipur with Pakistan’s spy agency ISI, fighting a proxy war against India to take revenge for the 1971 debacle
After Hasina returned to power in 2009, she walked the extra mile to address India’s concerns over Northeast India’s insurgency and connectivity issues.
Finally, in observance of the golden jubilee of independence, a war memorial at Ashuganj, Brahmanbaria on the road to Agartala (Tripura), was dedicated to the 4,000 fallen Indian soldiers in the bloody war
All signs point to the conclusion that the bilateral relationship between the two South Asian countries — India and Bangladesh — will continue to gain further momentum in the years to come.
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