[Answered] Critically examine the effectiveness of India’s ‘Neighbourhood First’ policy in the context of its diplomatic relations with Bangladesh and other neighbouring countries.

Introduction: Give a brief context to the question

Body: Importance of Bangladesh for India especially as part of Neighbourhood First Policy.

Conclusion: Way forward

Bangladesh Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was sworn in for a fifth term after a landslide victory in recent elections held in Bangladesh. Her party Awami League won nearly three-quarters of elected seats in parliament, with allied parties and friendly independent candidates making up nearly all the remainder. The win is significant for India as she is seen as one of India’s closest friends and allies, over the years & fostered a friendly and mutually beneficial relationship between the two countries.

Effectiveness of India’s “Neigbourhood First” Policy regarding Bangladesh

  • National Security: PM Hasina is seen as a very cooperative leader who has eased India’s security on its very long eastern border. Her crackdown on anti-India elements and counter-terrorism cooperation with India has single-handedly improved India’s overall security situation over the last decade or so.
  • Economic cooperation: Bangladesh has replaced Pakistan as be second-largest economy in the South Asian region with a GDP of Bangladesh $460 billion in 2022, more than Pakistan’s $375 billion. As per recent estimates, Bangladesh was the fifth largest export destination for Indian goods & accounted for more than 2.7 percent of all Indian exports, worth $12.2 billion.
  • Regional cooperation: India hopes that Bangladesh will serve as a pivot for regional cooperation in the Bay of Bengal littoral, which connects South and South East Asia, extending beyond the subcontinent. The Bay of Bengal Initiative for Multi-Sectoral Technical and Economic Cooperation (BIMSTEC), which links the eastern subcontinent with Myanmar and Thailand, has its secretariat in Dhaka.
  • Connectivity: India’s ‘neighbourhood policy’ has focussed on Bangladesh, which has emerged as a key interlocutor in India’s ‘Act East Policy’ and sub-regional groupings like BIMSTEC and the BBIN Initiative. The Padma multipurpose bridge and the Akhaura-Agartala rail link will dramatically change connectivity within Bangladesh and with India. Bangladesh is facilitating efficient connectivity to India’s Northeast through overland transit and inland waterways.
  • Water resource management: Significant progress has been made in the field of water resources management especially related to the Teesta water-sharing agreement. The two nations have successfully signed a MoU about the equitable distribution of the Feni River’s waters.
  • Energy cooperation: The India-Bangladesh Friendship Pipeline connecting Siliguri in West Bengal and Parbatipur in the Dinajpur district of Bangladesh, will transport one million Metric Tonnes Per Annum (MMTPA) of High-Speed Diesel to Bangladesh.
  • Defence cooperation: Bangladesh & India share 4096.7 km. of the border; the longest land boundary that India shares with any of its neighbours. The two nations also conduct Joint Exercises like Exercise Sampriti and Exercise Bongosagar.

Conclusion

Bangladesh is integral to India’s Neighbourhood Policy, especially in the wake of recent disturbances in the region between India and Maldives. India needs to strengthen regional groups like SAARC, BIMSTEC, etc that will give full impetus to India’s Neighbourhood First policy and elevate India-Bangladesh relations to another level.

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