Prime Minister Narendra Modi is on a historic two day visit to Bangladesh to celebrate the birth centenary of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic ties between the two friendly neighbours and the 50 years of Bangladesh’s war of liberation. This is PM Modi’s first visit to any country since the pandemic began last year.
Today, Bangladesh holds a place of significance for India in terms of trade and strategic ties in the immediate neighbourhood as well as in the Indo-Pacific region. People-to-people connect--in terms of shared culture, language, art and history and sports--is one of the strongest factors binding the ties between the two countries.
Commercial ties between the two developing economies have strengthened over the years. Bangladesh is India’s largest trading partner in the sub-continent with the total bilateral trade between the two nations standing at $9.5 billion in 2019-20, down compared to the previous fiscal, having crossed $10 billion.
India’s exports to Bangladesh account for more than 85 percent of the total bilateral trade. Some of the major commodities exported to Bangladesh include cotton, electrical machinery, vehicles, iron and steel, plastic and related articles etc. While major imports to India include apparels and clothing, textile fabrics, paper yarn/woven fabrics of paper yarn, animal/vegetable fats and oils, fish etc.
In December 2020, to further boost the bilateral trade cooperation, an India-Bangladesh CEO’s Forum was launched to provide policy inputs in areas of trade and investment and to facilitate exchanges among the business communities. Earlier in February last year, the first meeting of the India-Bangladesh Textile Industry Forum was held to enhance linkages and collaboration in the textile sector.
On March 9, 2021 Maitri Setu--a 1.9 km bridge built over Feni river joining Sabroom in India and Ramgarh in Bangladesh was inaugurated. The bridge will facilitate trade and people to people movement between the two nations. “The name ‘Maitri Setu’ symbolizes growing bilateral relations and friendly ties between India and Bangladesh...With this inauguration, Tripura is set to become the ‘Gateway of North East’ with access to Chittagong Port of Bangladesh, which is just 80 Kms from Sabroom,” said an official statement.
Bangladesh is India’s biggest development partner, with New Dehli extending 3 Lines of Credits (LOC) to Dhaka in the last 8 years amounting
to $8 billion for development of infrastructure in sectors including roads, railways, shipping and ports. Likewise, cooperation in the power sector has evolved with Bangladesh currently importing 1160 MW of power from India.
In the fight against COVID-19, Bangladesh is the biggest recipient of Made-in-India COVID-19 vaccine doses, accounting for 16 percent of the total supplies (grant + commercial) sent to over 75 countries as of March 26.
Earlier, India had also provided medical assistance of 30,000 surgical masks, 15,000 head covers, 50,000 surgical latex gloves, 100,000 Hydroxychloroquine medicine tablets and RT-PCR test kits capable of running 30,000 tests in March-April 2020 as part of bilateral assistance to fight against the COVID pandemic.