Geo Politics of Bangladesh and Neighbourhood
Subject: Political Science | Topics:


Bangladesh is a small country with a great geopolitical importance, situated at the conjunction of South Asia and South East Asia which is regarded by political scientist D.C. Barman as “highly sensitive” considering its geographical, economic and political importance in the region. The unique geopolitical significance of Bangladesh results from myriad interwoven strands, each representing facets of this nation’s complex historical evolution which, in turn, are crucially influenced by specific features of its geographical location. Bangladesh has problem on some geopolitical issues regarding her border,   rivers, maritime border, border trade, Asian high way etc. Here the points are discussed briefly.


Geo politics is the art and practice of using political power over a given territory. term coined by Rudolf Kjellén,Swedish political scientist, at the beginning of the 20th century.Our foreign policy advocates for friendship to all and malice to none, which also dictates our strategic and security outlook. So, one should not be surprised that Bangladesh is very reluctant to view her neighbors as a source of security threats despite the fact that she is having some bilateral issues with her neighbors, particularly India, and Myanmar due to their aggressive policy, in the shape of land/maritime border demarcation, illegal migration, refugee influx, illegal drugs and small arms trade, and human trafficking.

There are several conflicting geopolitical issues between Bangladesh and its neighbourhood_India and Myanmar.


Of all the resources that people depend on, only air is more directly vital to sustaining human life than water. Deprive a person of air, and he dies in minutes. Deprive him of water, and he dies in days. Deprive him of food, and he can go on for weeks or months, depending on his physical condition at the beginning of the fast and on whether he has adequate supplies of water.

Bangladesh is called the mother of rivers, as it has 710 big and small rivers according govt. statistics. The rivers of banglaesh can be devied into four river systems-

                          1. Brahmmaputra-Jamuna,

                          2. Ganga-Padma,

                          3. Surma-Meghna and

                          4. Rivers of Chittagong.

The length of Bangladesh’s rivers is 24,140. The waters of fifty-six rivers from the Ganges and the Brahmaputra river systems flow from India to Bangladesh.

 Bangladesh is getting drier every year due to India’s unilateral withdrawal of water from the common river Ganges flowing upstream from India. The quantity of water down the Farakka point has been critically declining due to taking out of the Ganges water by upper riparian India through various canals by violating the water sharing agreement. [1]


The Ganges and Brahmaputra river basin in South Asia is the largest in the region, encompassing over 1.6 million km2. Flowing from the Himalayans in Nepal and Tibet, both rivers course through India, and ultimately join in Bangladesh where they discharge into the Bay of Bengal. Before the Ganges enters Bangladesh, it divides off a smaller river, the Bhagirathi- Hooghly that flows through the port of Calcutta. Four-fifths of Bangladesh, an area smaller than New YorkState, is straddled by this delta system. Approximately half of the countryþs GDP is based on agriculture, and hence this riversþ irrigation value is vital to the countryþs economy and its over 120 million inhabitants. [2]   

 The topography of Bangladesh (i.e. its sea level elevation and delta wetlands) and its geographical location make it extremely vulnerable to natural disasters.

The major dispute between Bangladesh and India is on the sharing of the Ganges water during lean period.

Duration: 1951 to Now

The origin of the conflict dates back to 1951 when Bangladesh was part of Pakistan.

India began plans for the construction of a mile-long “barrage” (a river flow obstruction) at Farakka, 18 kms from the Bangladeshi border, to increase the diversion of Ganges water to the Bhagirathi-HooghlyRiver to flush silt and keep Calcutta harbor operational during the dry season. It was thought that by increasing the river flow, the harbor could be kept from deteriorating from silt deposition. However, Pakistan protested on the grounds that this action would wreak havoc on the environment. Nevertheless, India continued, and began construction in 1962. With no other course of action, Pakistan (and then later Bangladesh) took the matter before the United Nations General Assembly in 1968 and discussions continued in that forum until 1976. The international attention to the issue caused India to at least concede that the Ganges was an international river, and that þeach riparian State was entitled to a reasonable and equitable share of the waters of an international river.þ [3]

In 1971, Bangladesh became an independent nation, with India aiding it in its independence struggle against Pakistan. It was expected that better relations between India and Bangladesh would result, but India persisted with its Farakka plans, and this led to a general souring of the relationship. In 1972, an Indo-Bangladesh Joint Rivers Commission was established to study the river flow and develop the river water on a cooperative basis. However, work on the Farakka barrage continued, and it was finally completed in 1975. A short-term agreement was subsequently signed by India and Bangladesh to conduct a 40 day trial test of the barrage during the dry season.

Unfortunately, four months later, the President of Bangladesh was assassinated by elements of the military that found him too cooperative with India. The next dry season, India began to divert water at Farakka unilaterally, and continued to do so until 1977 when a treaty on þSharing of the Ganges Waters at Farakka and on Augmenting its Flowsþ was signed by the two countries and guaranteed a minimum flow level for Bangladesh for a five year period. After the expiration of this treaty in 1982, two more short-term agreements were concluded on water sharing until 1988. Thereafter, India began unilateral diversions at will. Moreover, domestic political upheavals, and the growing polarization caused by rising national religious factions (Hindu India vs. Islamic Bangladesh), contributed to a rising level of animosity between the two nations.

The political climate began to change when in 1992, the prime ministers of the two countries met and agreed to renew efforts for a solution. In addition, Bangladesh revived its attempts to internationalize the affair by bringing forth the dispute before the UN General Assembly and the Commonwealth Heads of Governments Meeting in 1993. In addition, the issue was raised in the South Asia Association for Regional Co-operation (SAARC), although no definite action was taken. SAARC comprises Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal, Pakistan, and Sri Lanka, and its main goal is to “accelerate the process of economic and social development in member states, through joint action in the agreed areas of cooperation.”[4]

In 1996, a new atmosphere of regional cooperation was created with a change of government in India, and in December of 1996, a Ganges Water Sharing Treaty was signed that is supposed to last for thirty years. The Treaty addresses the heart of the conflict: water allocation during the five months of the dry season (January-May). During the rest of the year, there is sufficient water that India can operate the Farakka diversion without creating problems for Bangladesh. However, increasing upstream withdrawal in Northern India has further lowered the dry-season flow at Farakka, further complicating matters. Hence, the Treaty stipulates that below a certain flow rate, India and Bangladesh will each share half of the water. Above a certain limit, Bangladesh will be guaranteed a certain minimum level, and if the water flow exceeds a given limit, India will withdraw a given amount, and the balance will be received by Bangladesh (which will be more than 50%). [5]

Despite the Treaty, there are still factions in Bangladesh that feel that India should not be drawing off any water at Farakka, as well as elements in India that donþt want Bangladesh to receive any water. Annually, the Ganges brings to its mouth over 2 million tons of silt. Due to increasing deforestation in the foothills of the Himalayans, the amount of erosion is growing. With such levels of silt, it is increasingly no longer possible for the Hooghly to retain a flushing role for CalcuttaHarbor, and it is time for India to realize this and terminate Ganges water withdrawal and concentrate on port development further downstream.

In addition, due to silt deposition and flooding patterns, the Ganges is actually naturally shifting eastward, and it is only a question of time before the HooghlyRiver will no longer be capable of supporting deep harbor operations. India should except this fact and plan for a harbor much closer to the Bay of Bengal, else it should consider regular and more intensive dredging operations. [6]


India’s proposed Tipaimukh Dam will be a disaster for the Environment of Bangladesh. Though India has claimed that it will not hamper Bangladesh, but the Farakka Dam is an example for everyone in Bangladesh how it made the disaster. The Indians are going ahead with the construction of the massive Tipaimukh barrage-this events collectively impinge on us in more than one ways but the one which directly affects our very ability to survive is the issue of water-sharing of some 53 common rivers between India and Bangladesh. By constructing Tipaimukh and other barrages, India is depriving us of life-giving waters, drastically reducing our ability to survive and therefore this is the issue needing immediate and continued public attention and the subject of this commentary. India has resumed construction of the Tipaimukh barrage on the Barack river just a kilometer north of Jakigonj in Sylhet; the construction work was stalled in March 2007 in the face of protests within and outside India. The barrage when completed in 2012 is supposed to provide 1500 megawatts of hydel power to the Indian state of Assam but in return its going to bring about a major disaster for Bangladesh, practically contributing to drying up of 350 km long Surma and 110 km long Kushiara rivers which water most of the north-eastern regions of Bangladesh. The Tipaimukh barrage is going to seriously affect not only agriculture in large portions of Bangladesh, particularly in winter, but is also going to bring about negative ecological, climatic and environmental changes of vast areas in both Bangladesh and India. [7]

IndiaRiver Linking Project:
India’s River Diversion Plan: Its impact on Bangladesh .Indian plans to divert vast quantities of water from major rivers, including the Ganges and Brahmaputra, threaten the livelihoods of more than 100 million people downstream in Bangladesh, the Bangladeshi government fears. Ministers are so concerned that they are considering appealing to the United Nations to redraft international law on water sharing, said a report of the leading British daily The Guardian. A recent report by correspondent John Vidal from Dhaka said: The ambitious Indian plans to link major rivers flowing from the Himalayas and divert them south to drought-prone areas are still on the drawing board, but Bangladeshi government scientists estimated that even a 10% to 20% reduction in the water flow to the country could dry out great areas for much of the year.

More than 80% of Bangladesh’s 20 million small farmers grow rice and depend on water that has flowed through India. “The idea of linking these rivers is very dangerous.It could affect the whole of Bangladesh and be disastrous,” said Hafiz (uddin) Ahmad, the water resources minister. “The north of Bangladesh is already drying out after the Ganges was dammed by India in 1976. Now India is planning to do the same on [many of] the 53 other rivers that enter the country via India. Bangladesh depends completely on water.”
The minister was quoted as saying that the government had protested to India but had so far not had any response. “Without this water we cannot survive,” he said. “If [rice] production falls then we would not know how to survive. We want no kind of war, but international law on sharing water is unsure and we would request the UN to frame a new law. It would be a last resort.” “Great parts are turning into a desert, rivers have lost their navigability, salt water is intruding into farming areas. You can walk across the river Gori at some times of the year,” said the minister. [8]


Govt decides to get connected as per original UN-Escap plan [9]

AHN, a proposed network of 1,41,000km of standard roadways crisscrossing Asian countries and linking them with Europe, was conceived in 1959 with an aim to promote development of international road transport in the continent. The Asian Highway, also known as the Great Asian Highway, is a cooperative project among countries in Asia and Europe and the UN-Escap for improving the highway systems in Asia.

It is one of the three pillars of Asian Land Transport Infrastructure Development (ALTID) project endorsed by the Escap commission at its 48th session in 1992. The ALTID is comprised of Asian Highway, Trans-Asian Railway (TAR) and facilitation of land transport projects.

Agreements have so far been signed by 32 countries to allow the highway to cross the continent and reach Europe. A significant part of the funding comes from the larger more advanced nations as well as international agencies such as the Asian Development Bank. The project is scheduled for completion in 2010.

At least 15 countries, including Pakistan became founding members by signing the agreement when the idea was conceived in 1959. In 1971, Bangladesh automatically became a founding member but its status was later lowered to observer after it missed the

Abandoning the country’s previously proposed routes, the government decided to connect Bangladesh to the Asian Highway Network (AHN) accepting routes proposed by India & the United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (UN-Escap).

“We decided to connect Bangladesh to the Asian Highway Network for the welfare of the country,” Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain told reporters after a meeting at Bangladesh Secretariat.

. It is strange that according to the ESCAP-crafted laws Bangladesh cannot even propose any amendment to the AH routes now without signing the agreement first! And not signing will mean that Bangladesh will be left out and the AH will bypass Bangladesh leaving it isolated and causing it to lose in the process the opportunities of trade, investment and service revenues. It is not clear where the AH can go in its westward advance if it bypasses Bangladesh.

   This assertion has been made despite the knowledge that the cost-benefit of the proposed routes does not favour Bangladesh at all. Indeed Bangladesh will not be benefited from the currently proposed routes for the AH is quite clear. One question is whether this route would then serve merely as a transit corridor for India to carry its cargo of men and materials from its one part to another through Bangladesh.

Bypassing Bangladesh through the Indian “chicken neck” is also improbable. Bangladesh has a bargaining chip here if the member countries of ESCAP are serious about running the AH from east and southeast Asia to the Sub-continent and beyond. India has been asking for an easy passage through Bangladesh.

Cox’s Bazar-Myanmar route

   The point here is that AH must serve the country’s best interests – and to ensure that an AH passing through Chittagong – Cox’s Bazar – Myanmar and beyond is the way. Since its inception in 1959 the perception has always been that the AH will pass through Cox’s Bazar – Myanmar and onward east and west. Both AH 1 and AH 2 enter Bangladesh from India through Benapole, Jessore, Banglabandha and Dinajpur, respectively. Both converge on Dhaka and move on to Tamabil, Sylhet. Neither of them fulfil the ESCAP-laid principles that the AH connects the ports, container depots and business centres of participating countries.

   There is no indication how the Nepalese and Bhutanese traffic will move westward along AH if the current route alignments stick. Will they move back westward through Benapole? The AH 2 also allows an easy access of North Indian traffic into Bangladesh and then on to Eastern India. Even then it remains no more than a sub-regional route.

   By merging with both AH 1 at Jessore and AH 2 via Hatikamrul, AH 41 travels to Dhaka and then separates out to move to Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf to stop there. There is no indication that this route will move into Myanmar and beyond. The AH 2 also allows an easy access of North Indian traffic into Bangladesh and then on to Eastern India. Even then it remains no more than a sub-regional route.

   The route has been designated as a sub-regional route though it traverses Bangladesh territory only. India, Nepal and Bhutan are potential users. No other country will use this route. Thus Indian desire to use Bangladesh ports becomes easier to fulfil. Conceived fifty years ago, the Asian Highway’s 141,000 km route charted out by ESCAP (Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific) is hitherto an unfulfilled dream. Peoples from Turkey to Indonesia with Bangladesh and other countries in-between are yet to see AH’s construction materialize. The dream of seeing loaded containers and international passenger buses rolling down this route from Shanghai or Singapore, or from Dhaka for that matter, to Istanbul and beyond, may not be fulfilled.
Some progress regarding the AH has been achieved in recent years in defining the road links on the basis of an agreement among some of the member countries of ESCAP.

Wrong track

The AH was one of the two major regional projects initiated by then ECAFE (Economic Commission for Asia and the Fareast), the other was the Mekong River project. The Trans-Asian Railway project was added to the list later. It may be mentioned here that the Asian Development Bank was also set up under the auspices of ECAFE with the primary focus on providing the financial underpinning to the regional projects like these. The projects however remained stalled due the Indochina war and the path of isolation chosen by Burma’s military government since 1962. ESCAP (ECAFE’s new name since 1974) revived the projects in the 1980-1990s. The Mekong River project has been successfully implemented to the satisfaction of the riparian countries with financial assistance of bilateral and multilateral donors. By now the AH has advanced a stage; but in this advance Bangladesh has fallen in the wrong track.

Now let us have a detailed look at the designated three routes through Bangladesh.

Both AH 1 and AH 2 enter Bangladesh from India through Benapole, Jessore, Banglabandha and Dinajpur, respectively. Both converge on Dhaka and move on to Tamabil, Sylhet. Neither of them fulfil the ESCAP-laid principles that the AH connects the ports, container depots and business centres of participating countries. The justification for a second entry into Bangladesh through Dinajpur has been to give access to Bhutan and Nepal to AH. However to fulfil the ESCAP-laid requirement that the route originating in any country must connect the capital city of the next country of entry, then Nepal and Bhutan should travel to Delhi and then move on to Bangladesh through the Benapole-border.

Furthermore, there is no indication how the Nepalese and Bhutanese traffic will move westward along AH if the current route alignments stick. Will they move back westward through Benapole? Is that a viable option for them? If the purpose of AH 2 is to give access to Nepal and Bhutan only then this route is the best candidate for becoming a sub-regional route rather than a part of the arterial AH. The AH 2 however also allows an easy access of North Indian traffic into Bangladesh and then on to Eastern India. Even then it remains no more than a sub-regional route.

The third route through Bangladesh (AH 41) is shown to originate at Mongla port and moves on to Jessore to meet AH 1 just after the Benapole border crossing and then moves on to Hatikamrul in Kushia to meet AH 2. By merging with both AH 1 at Jessore and AH 2 via Hatikamrul, AH 41 travels to Dhaka and then separates out to move to Chittagong, Cox’s Bazar and Teknaf to stop there. India, Nepal and Bhutan are likely users. No other country will use this route. Thus Indian desire to use Bangladesh ports becomes easier to fulfil.

The two main arterials of the AH thus enter Bangladesh from India in the west and converges on to Tamabil in Sylhet before crossing into the Indian state of Meghalaya on to Assam, Monipur and Nagaland. It can go further to Myanmar, Southeast Asia and China, and can serve as a sub-regional network in that area though its suitability as a continent-wide Asian Highway remains in doubt. Dr.. Rahmatullah has made it abundantly clear that the route through Tamabil is unsuitable for the AH. In addition to the 1200km extra distance, he says, “the route passes through a mountainous region through four Indian states through which vehicles can move only slowly as the gradients are steep. Trucks with heavy load will have difficulties in moving, fuel consumption will be huge, making travel costly”.

Tamabil is not suitable for India, Myanmar or Bangladesh or for any country between south and southeast Asia”. It is not clear why India will not be benefited since it can easily move its cargo of men and materials through Bangladesh to eastern India, a long held aim of India. It can also move to Southeast Asia from its eastern states if it chooses and finds profitable. [10]


Why Bangladesh would not mull over transit offer by India?

Is there any room for trust and faith thats firmly required between the two countries? No, certainly not. Rather, this faithlessness and lack of confidence is created by India only because of their big brotherly attitude from India.

India articulates transit as an economic issue. Ok thats good. But, where is the certainty of economic benefit in the in returns for transit? Is there any assurance that we would not have to sit for a bargaining meeting to get a hold of money promised by India? Bangladesh is being experienced this sort of legacy from India. India is, time and again, infringing the treaties with Bangladesh. Sheikh Mujib has ratified the constitution as soon as he came back to the country from India following handing over the Berubari under Mujib-Indira boarder treaty. But, India has reneged on its promises to ratify the constitution of their own. Is Bangladesh being paid water in accordance with treaty? Answer is certainly not. Attention from India to minimize the incredible US$ 2 billion dollar trade deficit is being noticed at all?Not yet today.
India is not making any venture to remove tariff barrier on commodities, is not ensuring the entrance of tariff free commodity, rather twisting unnecessary boarder problem by fencing instead of resolving 6.5km unsettled boarder. They keep themselves implicated in captivating the possession of newly surfaced islands instead of solving the problem South Talpotri.
700 Bangladeshi have been killed notoriously by the BSF throughout 2000-2007 according to Human Rights Organization Report. Crime like abduction has been daily event. No country in the world, in the wake of numerous problems, would not offer transit, accordingly, why Bangladesh? A lot of things including sovereignty of Bangladesh must be taken into account prior to offering transit.

How much Bangladesh is all set relating to roads with 4 lens? And how much grounding it has for repairing the roads and also for long time security? Why Bangladesh would have to bear the risk of AIDS spread by Indian truck drivers? The most important thing is to be taken into account that the Bangladesh would have nothing to do against India having been a regional power with atomic weapons if it dispatches conventional arms and military weapons to north-eastern provinces through Bangladesh. Thus, Bangladesh would become an everlasting enemy and be targeted by separatist group of north-eastern provinces if transit is given.
The separatist group may launch attack inside Bangladesh. Consequently, security measures would be impeded and a turbulence situation would be come into view. Patriotic BDRs and boarder-side farmers who have given their blood and sacrifice themselves to protect the country , the children who became orphan, the widow who lost her husband- these all will sacrifice themselves, but will not leave a bit room for transit.
The concept of transit, transshipment and corridor?

Transit refers to the passage across another countrys territory using its own surface transport, while transshipment refers to the same movement using the transport of transiting countries. (Bangladesh Foreign Policy, 322, Harun ur Rashid). For example- if India using its own transport dispatches commodities through Bangladesh to North-Eastern provinces, we may call it transit system. But, if India dispatches commodities using Bangladeshi transport through Bangladeshi land, we may call it transshipment system. Commodities from India after 1947 were to be transported to North-Eastern part of India across eastern Pakistan. It continued till 1960. In 1960 the relation between India and Pakistan turned into most horrible and India banned the flight transportation over India, therefore, Pakistan blocked transit facilities across the eastern Pakistan.

Transit, security and sovereignty

It appears to have been divided the territory of Bangladesh into two sides because of transit route if you observe in the view of security. This is being said that Indian commodity would be dispatched in the form of sealed, Bangladesh would have no control over the sealed thing. India seems to have been created a ground for dispatching military weapons to north-eastern provinces in the name of transit system across Bangladesh if necessary. To this end, Indian forces may get down in soul of Bangladesh, that means through transit or corridor a crocodile is to be invited digging a cannel by Bangladesh.
The relation between India and China is much more related with transit across Bangladesh. As of today, boarder dispute between India and China yet to be solved and apprehensions of war between the two countries having atomic weapons should not be denied. So, in that prospective war India would bring her troops to north-eastern provinces through Bangladesh as it is happened during Second World War in the fate of Belgium. If India-China war is took place, India will conquer Bangladesh by virtue of transit or corridor as Hitler conquered Belgium. (Talukdar Moniruzzaman, transit: khal kete kumir anar porikolpona).

Half of the total military of India has been deployed in the seven sisters region to tackle the unrest there. As India is required more troops there, it cannot be brought to a standstill if it utilizes the transit facility for the purpose of sending troops and military ingredients. It might be presumed that if a war between India and Nepal is happened, the Shiliguri corridor would be closed and in that case Indian troops would have no other way but to march forward by transit route across Bangladesh. In that hasty moment a great military power like India could be defied.

In 1996 the ULFA leader Poresh Borua has made it clear and said “Bangladesh will be targeted and get attacked if it assists India that goes against our Liberation movement.” so, transit and sovereignty cannot be departed.

What would we get in returns for transit?

Answers of some questions must be come across first if we are to offer transit to India. What would Bangladesh get a hold in exchange of transit? Would Bangladesh get transit through India to dispatch commodities to Nepal? Through India towards China? And transshipment through India to Pakistan? Would Bangladesh have a facility to bring in electricity from Nepal over India? Would Bangladesh have a passage in dispatching cargos?

Nehru Doctrine, Transit and South Asia

Demand for transit or corridor across the territory of Bangladesh and ascertaining of unilateral supremacy of India throughout the South Asia all these are integrally connected and based on Nehru doctrine. Nehru used to dream India to be in the same queue with USA, USSR and China, in the power politics. At the same time, India would be in a state of determinant and chief controller of South Asia is the main theme of Nehru Doctrine. The theory is functioning behind making the South Asian countries dependent on India and ascertaining supremacy of India in this region is the Nehru Doctrine. The comment of Bhobani Sen Gupta in this context is worth mentioning it is as follows- “India will not tolerate an external intervention in a conflict situation in any South Asian country, if the intervention has any implicit or explicit anti Indian implication. No South Asian government must therefore ask for external military assistance with an anti Indian-bias from any country. It a South Asian country genuinely needs to deal with a serious internal conflict situation, it should ask half from neighboring countries including India. The exclusion of India from such a contingency with is considered to be an anti-Indian move on the part of government concerned.

If this is be the latent dream and state character of India, how much it will be the horrifying, awful, dire, calamitous and grim that is comprehensible to all. [11]


The India-Bangladesh border is unique for several reasons. One such unique characteristic is the close proximity of Indian and Bangladeshi border villages. In the border villages there are houses where the front door is in India and rear opens on the Bangladeshi side. Such instances are the norm and not an exception

In 1947 the Radcliffe Award delineated the boundaries between India and East Pakistan. In 1974, following independence, a comprehensive new boundary agreement, the Indo-Bangladesh Land Boundary Agreement, was signed by the prime ministers of Bangladesh and India, but it has yet to be ratified.

The 1974 Indo-Bangladesh Agreement. The 4,351-kilometer boundary between India and Bangladesh, of which 180 kilometers runs along river lines, has yet to be fully delineated. A dispute over a 6.5-kilometer stretch of floodplain shared with the Indian state of Tripura has yet to be resolved. Ratification of the boundary agreement has been delayed due to the existence of 111 Indian enclaves in Bangladesh and 51 Bangladesh enclaves in India, complicating the process of delineating the boundary line. These enclaves, which were not taken into account by the Radcliffe Award, came into being when the previous rulers of the princely states of Cooch Behar (which merged with India) and Rongpur (which merged with East Pakistan) gambled away portions of their lands to each other. The problem is further complicated by shifting river courses. The locals mistakenly think that the boundary runs in the mid-channel of a river irrespective of subsequent changes in the river course. As a result, border people of either side take possession of land that has fallen on their side as a result of a change in the river course. Heated disputes and exchanges of fire from the border outposts have occurred. A recent conflict between border forces in April 2001 at Pyridwah and Boraibari raised tensions but was handled with restraint by both governments.

Chitmahal is the enclaves between India and Bangladesh border in the Indian state of West Bengal. India has about 92 exclaves of Bangladesh, and 106 exclaves of India are within Bangladeshi soil. The enclaves were part of the high stake card or chess games centuries ago between two regional kings, the Raja of Cooch Behar and the Nawab of Rangpu,] The little territories were the result of a confused outcome of a treaty between the Kingdom of Koch Bihar and the Mughal Empire.

After the partition of India in 1947, Cooch Behar district was merged with India and Rangpur went to then East Pakistan, which became Bangladesh in 1971. In 1974, both countries agreed to exchange the enclaves or at least provide easy access to the enclaves, but since then little has materialised. Talks between the two countries on the issue resumed in 2001, but the lack of a concrete time frame has relegated the issue to the back burner.

The residents of the enclaves live in abysmal conditions, with a lack of water, roads, electricity, schools and medicines. Crime also is rampant, as complaining would mean crossing the international boundary due to the lack of law enforcement resources. Residents of the enclaves may only go to their respective countries on the production of an identity card, after seeking permission from the border guards, causing much resentment.

Bangladesh exclaves

Available sources indicate that along the northwestern boundary there are at least 192 enclaves, the political status and exchange protocol of which are yet to be settled. Of the total, 119 enclaves inside India are claimed by Bangladesh while 73 enclaves inside Bangladesh are claimed by India. An account of 75 enclaves in northwestern Bangladesh which are inside India and identified as parts of Bangladesh suggest that 41 of them are in lalmonirhat (2 in hatibandha upazila, 1 in Lalmonirhat Sadar, 4 in kaliganj, 3 in aditmari, 28 in patgram, and 3 in phulbari), 16 in kurigram district (all in bhurungamari upazila) and 18 in panchagarh district (2 in Panchagarh Sadar upazila, 12 in boda and 4 in debiganj

1.Dohogram–Angorpotha (Teen Bigha Corridor)

A Bangladeshi exclave administrated Pathgram upzila in Lalmonirhat zila lies within the Indian province of West Bengal. The exclave has an area of 25 km2 (10 sq mi) with a resident population of 20,000 people. The exclave lacks all facilities. The lone health complex remains virtually useless for lack of power supply as India refused to link the exclave with mainland Bangladesh with power supply lines.

The Tin Bigha Corridor, “no larger than a football field,” is the name of a strip of land measuring 178 mtrs x 85 mtrs in the district of Cooch-Behar in West Bengal, which connects northern Dahagram and Angorpota enclaves with the mainland of Bangladesh.

The corridor has a long and complex background. For a proper appreciation, one needs to go back to the Radcliffe Award, the Berubari dispute and the legal developments that followed. The then East Pakistan was created by dividing the province of Bengal and by adding to the part separated from India some areas of Assam. This division took place on the basis of the report of the Bengal Boundary Commission, known as the Radcliffe Award.

In the agreement signed on 16 May 1974 by Indira Gandhi and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Prime Ministers of India and Bangladesh, it was decided to put into effect the demarcation of boundaries at selected stretches. Section 14 of the agreement was about handing over of the southern part of South Berubari to India in exchange of a passage in perpetuity linking Angarpota-Dahagram with Patgram in Bangladesh. The Berubari dispute was thus finally resolved by Article 1.14 of the Agreement which stated:
“India will retain the southern half of South Berubari Union No. 12 and the adjacent enclaves, measuring an area of 2.64 square miles approximately, and in exchange Bangladesh will retain the Dahagram and Angorpota enclaves. India will lease in perpetuity to Bangladesh an area of 178 metres x 85 metres near ‘Tin Bigha’ to connect Dahagram with Panbari Mouza (P.S. Patgram) of Bangladesh.”

During the Pakistani period, under the 1952 agreement, India agreed to hand over ‘Tin Bigha’ to Pakistan in perpetuity to link Angarpota-Dahagram in exchange of the southern half of South Berubari Union No. 12 and the adjacent enclaves. Whereas, in 1974 agreement, India instead of handing over ‘Tin Bigha’ to Bangladesh in perpetuity, only agreed to grant a lease in perpetuity of Tin Bigha to Bangladesh despite the fact that Bangladesh agreed and handed over the sovereignty of half of South Berubari union No. 12 to India in perpetuity. The Bangladeshi draftsmen of the agreement completely ignored this due to which by handing over the sovereignty of South Berubari Union No. 12 to India, Bangladesh in exchange received nothing except a lease in perpetuity of the Tin Bigha from India.


In terms of ethnic composition, Bangladesh is the most homogenous of the states of South Asia. Almost 98 per cent of the population is made up of Bangalees. Nonetheless, since its independence in 1971, the country was facing considerable problems in integrating its ethnic minorities to the national mainstream. These minorities, primarily, but not exclusively. Chakmas, constitute less than 1 per cent of the total population and are concentrated in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) – a hilly, sylvan territory covering about 9 per cent of the total area of Bangladesh backed.

However, a complex webs of reasons, like, relative exposure of the tribal people to education, modernization arid political turmoil during the last years of Pakistani ruler their failure to support the Liberation War. They gradually developed a sense of being alien from the national mainstream and finally, appeared to the political arena with socio-political demands that would end their century old backwardness, thus, giving rise to an ethnic problem in the country.

Lack of mutual understanding, sensitivity to each other’s interests and moderation between the tribal people,the central government coupled with intransigence on the part of both the sides transformed an usual problem of nation building into an ethnic conflict. Since late 1970s, sporadic armed clashes with varied degree of intensity are taking place between government troops and the members of Shariti Bahini (Peace Corps) – the armed wing of the movement called Fahari Jana Sanghaty Samity (PJSS)..

That Bangladesh’s quest for finding out a solution to its ethnic-problem has heen seriously complicated by overt and covert involvement of India in the problem. Indian involvement in the ethnic turmoil in CHT has largely been clandestine while providing the Shanti Bahini insurgents with sanctuary, huge ammunitions, training and military assistanc.It was alleged that the Indian intelligent agencies wre involved.  In her official pronouncements, New Delhi confessed only its ‘humanitarian” assistance to the refugees, while persistently denying any assistance rendered to the insurgent.


More serious is the issue of the Rohingyas. The Rohingyas are Muslims who inhabit the Arakan region facing Bangladesh. For their looking like Bangladeshis or ethnicity and their religion, they have been always under harassment by the predominant Burmese people of Myanmar who mainly run that country and form its elites especially among the ruling armed forces. : Myanmar has a poor human rights record for suppressing and depriving its minority communities of basic rights and privileges and as a result of these thousands of Muslim Rohingya refugees cross into Bangladesh territory to escape the atrocities committed by the military junta.

The Rohingyas have been always persecuted in their homeland for their distinctiveness. In 1991, following some incidents, the Burmese border security forces and the army drove out over 250,000 Rohingyas from Arakan and they had to be sheltered by Bangladesh since that time. After some years, talks between the two countries led to the return of a large number of the Rohingyas. But many still remain as the repatriation programme was suspended in 2007. Instead of resuming it, Myanmar authorities seem to be planning to push in afresh on a large scale the Rohingyas into Bangladesh. Press reports quoting different sources indicate that there is the possibility that the Myanmar authorities are plotting to start fresh troubles to create the ground for pushing into Bangladesh some 2 million Rohingyas. In other words, they have plans to push out their entire Rohingya population from Arakan into neighbouring Bangladesh.

Thus, Bangladesh government should be extremely wary from now on to watch these developments to be able to frustrate and defeat them. The Bangladesh-Myanmar borders could soon turn out to be a hotbed of serious troubles. For precluding such an outcome, Bangladesh needs to much increase its vigil in the Bangladesh-Myanmar borders and deploy security forces in adequate number. More important would be launching immediate wide ranging diplomatic activities to be able to prevail on Myanmar authorities to see reason and be restrained from pushing Rohingyas into Bangladesh. Among Myanmar’s neighbors, China has the greatest influence on that country. Therefore, it should be the lookout of Bangladesh to use their Chinese friends to put pressure on Myanmar to hold back from their various adventuristic designs against Bangladesh including the pushing in of the Rohingyas. In sum, Bangladesh has no choice but to be proactive in relation to Myanmar to be able to offset another large scale pouring in of Rohingya refuges from across the borders into its territories.
The numbers of Rohingyas who have remained in Bangladesh for the last two decades, have created serious problems for this country. They have to be sheltered, fed, clothed and taken care of in different ways mainly by Bangladesh notwithstanding that foreign aid or UN assistance also came for their upkeep. But the main responsibility for the looking after of the refugees from Myanmar has been one of Bangladesh and its government. For a long time and before the repatriation of these refugees started, Bangladesh authorities were found too stressed in caring for these uprooted people. Another big wave of Rohingyas coming from across the borders would mean resurrection of huge problems which seemed about to end.
Media reports from various sources indicate that a mass forced migration of the Rohingyas into Bangladesh would be imminent. Already, some thousands of Rohingyas have crossed over into Bangladesh territories during the last couple of weeks. From what they had to say, the authorities here could form an impression that the Myanmar military and para military are once again letting loose a rein of terror on these helpless people so that they get frightened and tortured enough into fleeing their homes leaving their everything behind. So, it is more than high time for Bangladesh government, to wake up from its slumber or to shake off its low key response and to counteract the growing problem while it remains controllable or reasonable. Any delay in this matter could mean a situation where it would have to face up to a sudden flood of refugees which would be much more difficult to control or even try such a thing in view of its purely humanitarian aspects.
Bangladesh government needs to contact Myanmar authorities at the highest level and persuade them to call off the terrorizing of the Rohingyas immediately. Only from an easing of conditions for them–locally– the Rohingyas are likely to get back their confidence and the motivation to stay in their home country. The most effective way to deter this push in of Rohingyas in great number would be contacting countries such as China which have most leverage on Myanmar and the UN with the aim of using their influence to stop the repression of the Rohingya population.


To save sovereignty strong defense is the most important thing. Bangladesh Rifles, newly named Border Guard of Bangladesh and Border Security Force/BSF of  India. The role of Former BDR is praise worthy, but BSF killed thousands of Bangladeshi without any reason, they attacked BDR also.


Currently India is the 2nd largest trading partner of Bangladesh, and India’s position is at the top for Bangladesh’s imports trade.Though bilateral trade between the countries has increased after the 1990s, the balance of trade is significantly in favour of India. However, Bangladesh has always been trade deficit with India, and recently it has increased exponentially. Limited export base, backward industries, inadequate infrastructure,lower productivity in Bangladesh, appreciation of Bangladesh’s Taka against Indian Rupee, earlier and faster trade liberalization program in Bangladesh compared to India, tariff and non-tariff barriers (NTBs) imposed by the Indian government, huge illegal trade, diversified exports and technologically advanced

Industrial base of India are identified as the main reasons of this huge trade imbalance. [11]

Structural and policy measures such as sound physical, social and economic infrastructure, superior product quality, export diversification, sufficient institutional facilities for banking, credit and insurance, improved law and order situation, labor unrest free environment, an honest and efficient administration, continuous political stability, huge domestic and foreign investments, joint ventures in Bangladesh with buy back arrangements, competitive devaluation of the Bangladesh currency against the Indian currency, removal of illegal trade, tariff and NTBs- free entry of Bangladesh’s exports to Indian market are suggested to improve this trade deficit. Also cordial and productive cooperation between these two nations is crucial to materialize these. Therefore, an analysis of current trade status between the two nations, obstacles and opportunities for mutual trade expansion is very critical for economic development of both countries, especially of Bangladesh, as Bangladesh has been suffering from historical trade deficit with India since its independence. The trade deficit has been increasing exponentially since the recent past. Official data show that compared to 1983, trade deficit in 2003 is more than 46 times higher1 (IMF: Direction of Trade Statistics). This growing deficit is a cause of serious concern for Bangladesh and has important economic and political implications.

Problems Causing Indo-Bangladesh Trade Imbalance

Although the trade deficit with a particular country is not bad if the over all trade balances satisfactory, yet from the distribution aspect of trade policies (the distribution of Benefits and cots among groups of producers and groups of consumers) the growing trade

Deficit with India is a great concern for Bangladesh. Bangladesh’s fear is that if this Deficit continues, Bangladesh will be dependent only on a few products for its exports, And imports from India displace domestic production to such an extent as to deindustrializeBangladesh. As a result, it is argued, a severe polarization in Bangladesh and High levels of unemployment will occur. Therefore, increasing trade deficit with India is A problem and attempts are made here to find out the causes of this problem.

 Bilateral Exchange Rate

Bilateral exchange rates between Bangladesh and India during 1986 to 1999 have been Presented in Table 13 in order to explore the dynamics underlying this expansion of trade Imbalance between these two countries. Available data exhibit that the nominal and real Values of the Bangladesh’s Taka vis-à-vis the Indian Rupee have been appreciating, with Negligible exceptions, over the years. This appreciation of Taka has a significant positive Effect on the increased trade deficit of Bangladesh with India. It is evident from the table that the nominal exchange rate, Taka per Rupee, had been Continuously declining right from 1986 to 1996. In 1997, though it increased slightly, it Started to decline again from 1998. This declining trend of the exchange rate implies that Taka had been appreciating. In nominal term, the exchange rate decreased to 1.140 in 1999 from 2.411 in 1986 indicating a 52.71 percent appreciation of Bangladesh’s Taka Against Indian Rupee during 13 years of time.

Joint Ventures

The trade imbalance can greatly and effectively be reduced by cordial and productive Mutual cooperation. There are still many opportunities that could be exploited for the Greater benefit of both countries and thus reducing the trade deficit of Bangladesh with India. For example, Bangladesh can obtain financial benefits by the greater economic Integration with Indian North-Eastern States (NES), which are geographically situated in A disadvantageous location from the main land.* Dash, K.C. 1996. ‘ The Political Economy of Regional Cooperation in South Asia’, Pacific Affairs, Vol. 69, No.2.

Illegal Border Trade

Being near the notorious ‘golden triangle’–a heaven for illegal drug dealings.Moreover huge amount of Illegal arms dealing, human trafficking, illegal trade of medicine, daily accessories, garments, chemicals, jute, disel, fertilizer, porn Indian books,cds and DVDs, etc. The cattle-smugglers of West Bengal, their knowledge of the border areas, the gaps and the vulnerable areas through which infiltration could happen, their contacts with cattle traders and truckers in the hinterland of India and their contacts with cattle merchants in Bangladesh, all of this combines to form a massive cross-country network.Governments lost huge amount of revenues every year . Bangladesh faces an imminent danger and this cannot be tackled without full cooperation, which is unlikely to be forthcoming, from Myanmar and India.


Maritime boundaries and Talpatty (New Moore) Island

Being surrounded by India and Myanmar, Bangladesh can hardly overemphasize the need to demarcate its maritime boundary on just and equitable basis to assert her sovereignty over its resource rich EEZ (Exclusive Economic Zone) and beyond through which almost 90% of its external trade is conducted. Failure in delineating maritime border may cause Bangladesh to be reduced to a mere landlocked country and lose its strategic significance and relevance in South Asian context.

Maritime boundary negotiations commenced in 1974 but have stalled because of differing perceptions on the applicability of the principles of international law in delimiting the maritime boundary. According to international practice, territorial waters extend 12 nautical miles into sea. Thereafter, water areas with a depth of 70 fathoms are considered as the continental shelf, after which an EEZ of 200 nautical miles is measured. Nations therefore pay particular attention to the drawing up of a baseline for finalizing maritime boundaries, as it has important effect on the total area of the EEZ.
The continental shelf of Bangladesh is enlarging because of an annual deposit of around 2.2 billion tons of sediment deposited into the sea by its river systems. This not only gives hope for land reclamation but also for exploiting seabed resources of hydrocarbon and mineral deposits.

Talpatty/New Moore Island :is 2 square kilometers of uninhabited offshore island at the mouth of a river flowing between an Indian and a Bangladesh district,12 which is visible only during low water. It emerged in 1970 as a result of a tectonic upheaval of the seabed. There is considerable fishing activity in the area. The island assumes significance because possession of the island provides the potential for offshore exploration of oil. Bangladesh belatedly laid claim to it in 1979. In 1981, a tense situation was calmed through diplomacy and by vacating the island, but resolution of the dispute and delineation of the maritime boundaries are priorities.

A country is supposed to enjoy its rights to fishing and extracting and exploring other marine resources in its 12–24 nautical mile territorial sea from the coastline, 200 nautical mile exclusive economic zone and 350 nautical mile continental shelf from the baseline.
According to the Law of the Sea, 12 nautical miles of territorial sea, 200 nautical miles of Exclusive Economic Zone and 350 nautical miles of the continental shelf under the Bay of Bengal is bangladesh’s maritime boundary.

Bangladesh has problems with India and Myanmar on the issue of ‘starting point’ on how to mark the coastline to draw its marine boundary, with apparently overlapping claims of the three neighbouring countries because of the funnel-like coastline of the Bay.

Bangladesh has been preparing its grounds for justifying its claim over the un-delineated maritime boundary, into which neighboring India and Myanmar have reportedly encroached and started initial preparations for hydrocarbon exploration, according to officials at the foreign ministry.

Despite India and Myanmar’s encroachment into Bangladesh’s territorial waters, Dhaka has opted for going for the third round bidding for hydrocarbon exploration in deep water in its claimed 200 nautical miles of territorial water in the Bay of Bengal.

We will go for making new blocks throughout our 200 nautical miles of sea and float international tenders,the energy advisor, Mahmudur Rahman, told INS. He said he had information that India and Myanmar have encroached into 19,000 square kilometers and 18,000 square kilometers into Bangladesh’s maritime territories and floated international tenders for hydrocarbon exploration.

In 2009, Bangladesh registered its objections with the United Nations regarding the claims of India and Myanmar to its territorial waters in the Bay of Bengal.Both the countries want to extract natural resources from the disputed marine territory, with natural prolongation into the continental shelf and the baseline.

The cases have been referred to the international tribunal as ‘fall-back positions’ as a safeguard if no satisfactory results would come out of bilateral negotiations, she said.

The International Tribunal for the Law of the Sea is an independent judicial body set up by the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea to adjudicate disputes arising out of the interpretation and application of the convention.

The government, Dipu Moni said, is scheduled to submit a memorandum to the UN body claiming its legitimate authority over its territorial waters adjacent to Myanmar in the Bay of Bengal by July 1. Myanmar is scheduled to submit its memorandum by December 1.
Bangladesh, she said, is scheduled to submit a memorandum to the UN body claiming its legitimate authority over its territorial waters adjacent to India in the Bay of Bengal by May 31, 2011. India is scheduled to submit its memorandum by May 31, 2012.
The prime ministers of Bangladesh and India, during the visit of the Bangladesh Prime Minister, Sheikh Hasina, to New Delhi in January, agreed on the need for an amicable demarcation of the maritime boundary between the two countries.
Bangladesh negotiators on maritime boundary held meetings with their counterparts in India and Myanmar early this year .‘But we are yet to get any indication from India and Myanmar regarding meetings in Dhaka,’ the official said.
Experts, however, believe an amicable demarcation of the boundary between the two countries will require ‘strong political commitment at the highest level and its translation into reality through bureaucracy.’
‘The ball is in Delhi’s (and Yangon’s) court. It is not in our court now,’ Professor Imtiaz Ahmed of Dhaka University told New Age on Sunday evening.‘Unfortunately, the problem with Delhi is that its political commitment is not usually delivered to the bureaucracy properly. Another problem with them is that they make the process (of bilateral negotiations) slower,’ Imtiaz, a teacher of international relations, said.
Under the UN provision, no claims submitted by a country will be taken for final consideration before settling the objection raised by a neighbouring country, which might have overlapping claims.

The delay in establishing Bangladesh’s claim to its maritime territory has prompted the other neighbors to encroach, observed another source. The country is now lacking the necessary data even to protest if any of the neighbors make any undue claim, although the government had announced earlier determination of the maritime boundary baseline as per the UN convention, completion of the physical survey, and purchase or charter of necessary equipment for the survey, which is a priority project of the prime minister, with a deadline in June this year.

The move Remain:

Bangladesh should fully concentrate on arbitration, having lost two other options. It would take the issue to the International Court of Justice or the International Tribunal Dealing in Demarcation of Sea Boundaries.

But India blocked Bangladesh’s access to either ICJ or the other tribunal, by lodging its protest before Bangladesh could take recourse to such an action.Arbitration is, therefore, the lone option left for Bangladesh. Bangladesh should, in no way, neglect its preparations to place its side of the case before the UN Arbitration Tribunal.


Bangladesh is a poor country. Its poor due to its lack of knowledge of its resources, lack of appropriate and aggressive national policy on protection of its natural rights, political instability and brainless leader.

Bangladesh and Indai are hugging neighbours. Bangladesh wont get its water right by begging to India, it must follow the rules of arbitration. For the proper share of its sea border she must go to UN court of arbitration. To reduce deficit border trade she must look forward to china and other east asian countries. She must make bond with muslim  countries of middle east to keep pressure on India on United Nation and for legal support it must strengthen its relation with China,Japan and Russia. Bangladesh should take the Asian Highway Rout AH-41,instead of AH-1/AH-2 to get connected with all the east asian contries.


1. Holiday, Friday,28 March,2009,p1

2. McCaffrey, S.C., “Water, Politics, and International Law”, in Water in

Crisis: A Guide to the World’s Fresh Water Resources, ed. by P.H.,Gleick,OxfordUniversity Press, 1993,p-134

3. Swain, A., þConflicts over Water:  The Ganges Water Disputeþ, Security Dialogue, Vol. 24, No. 4, 1993, pp. 429-439.

4. South Asian Association for Regional Cooperation, Website: www.south- briefnew.htm

5.  Website:, Treaty Between the Government of the Republic of India and the government of the PeopleþsRepublic of Bangladesh on Sharing of the Ganga/Ganges Water  at Farakka.

6. Verghese, B.G., Waters of Hope:  Himalaya-Ganga Development and Cooperation for a Billion People, Oxford and IBH Publishers, New Delhi,1990, p-256.

7. Iyer, Ramaswamy. 2003.”Relations With Neighbours.” Water: Perspectives, Issues,    Concerns. New Delhi: Sage Publications India Pvt. Ltd. p.244

8. International Water Law Project.2006.The Ganges Water Conflict, A comparative analysis of 1977 Agreement and 1996 Treaty. Helsinki. pp.6-7.

9. The Daily Star, On line edition, 07 Feb, 2010

10. The Daily Star, On line edition, 07 Feb, 2010

12. Hassan, M. K. 2001. ‘Is SAARC a Viable Economic Block? Evidence from Gravity Model’, Journal of Asian Economics, Vol. 12, No. 2,

13. Financial Express,

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