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Will The 50th Year Of India-Bangladesh Relations Bring A New Beginning?

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The relations between India and Bangladesh finally step into their 50th year since its inception in 1971, following the victory in the Liberation War of Bangladesh. Prime Minister Modi also makes his state visit to the country after a year’s gap following the disastrous COVID-19 Pandemic. Also, in terms of the internal situation of India, this visit comes to be held at a point of time when the states of West Bengal and Assam are bound for Assembly Polls. So, at this time this visit is also being witnessed with great importance, as it can have an impact upon the polls of these two states, especially West Bengal.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi addressing a Matua community gathering at Orakandi, Gopalganj in Bangladesh on 27th March 2021.

The Bangladesh Visit And India’s Internal Politics

Prime Minister Modi in his state visit to Bangladesh, this time had planned to make visits to 2 of the major Hindu religious sites like the Jeshoreshwari Kali Bari which is one of the 51 Shaktipeethas in this sub-continent, located at Satkhira District of Bangladesh and Orakandi in Gopalganj, the birthplace of Shri Harichand Thakur, the founder of the Matua sect of Hinduism.

His visits to these two places can be seen as quite important and a source of confidence-building measure for the Hindu community in Bangladesh as well as the people of West Bengal. His visit to the shrine of Harichand Thakur at Orakandi, the Matua Namashudra Community in the Indian State of West Bengal showed a strong sense of positivity and pride in their feelings. In West Bengal’s total population, 30 million people are found to be followers of this sect and 15 million of these people are voters.

So the impact of the Matua voters can be found in around 50 electoral seats in West Bengal. Prime Minister Modi assured me of granting financial aid for the construction of Joint Multi-Purpose Community halls and many other infrastructural works in these sites, along with 2 primary and medium level schools for girls at Orakandi.  This can be understood in a way, by which India is trying to make inroads into the cultural and infrastructural development sector of Bangladesh, which might act as a counterweight against China’s efforts to leave its footprint if it is carried out devotedly.

Also, in these 50 years, the 2 countries witnessed a lot of upheavals and developments that can be either positively or negatively viewed with success and failures on the same hand.

Major Developments

  • In the area of defense and strategic cooperation, both countries have been committed to observing peace and security along their frontiers, and also have collaborated in sharing intelligence and fighting terrorism jointly. This is the 3rd time in the Republic Day Parade of India, as a part of foreign contingent participation, the Armed Forces of Bangladesh had participated and exercises like Sampriti and Milan have also been successfully conducted. India and Bangladesh share a land boundary of 4,096.7 kilometers, which is the 5 longest land boundary in the world. The largest land boundary agreement has been concluded in 2015, which has marked the beginning of a new chapter in relations between the two nations. Despite severe opposition from the West Bengal Government.


  • In terms of River Water Sharing, both nations share waters of 54 rivers and since 1972, and have agreed to the working through a Joint River Commission, still, there are confusions regarding the sharing of river waters and most recently, both nations have reached an understanding to share water from the Feni River.


  • Both nations have also collaborated in the international forum in a very cohesive manner, as well. Bangladesh has supported the bid for granting India the permanent seat at UN Security Council also on the attainment of Sustainable Development Goals, initiation of reforms in the Security Council. Also, Bangladesh yielded support to India on the Virtual Conference of SAARC leaders and for the creation of the COVID-19 Emergency fund, and India also supports Bangladesh for assuming CHairmanship of the Indian Ocean Rim Association to work at a greater aspect for ensuring maritime security.


  • The economic relations have been quite encouraging to note, with Bangladesh becoming the largest trade partner for India in South Asia with showing a rise in the share of imports and exports, according to the data of (2018-19).


  • New initiatives have come up in the field of connectivity and people-to-people contacts between both nations, like the Haldibari-Chilahati rail link, which has been opened after 55 years, with showing a rise in roadway and railway connectivity.


  • Most recently, in December a virtual summit was held between Prime Ministers of both the countries, where 7 partnership agreements were signed and India was granted access to the Chittagong and Mongla Ports to allow movement of goods into India’s North-Eastern states.

There remain a contention and issues over sharing of some of the river’s waters, but some speculations are being voiced by Dhaka regarding India’s stand on its citizenship clauses. Still, Bangladesh is a recipient of Chinese Military equipment, as it has inducted a new batch of K-8 Karakorum Trainer Aircrafts, MBT-2000 and VT-5 Tanks, and 2 attack submarines. But recently with the visit of Air Chief Marshal RKS Bhadauria, Bangladesh showed interest in purchasing the Indian-made LCA Tejas aircraft.

Impact And Development Of The Current Visit

In this recent two-day visit of Prime Minister Modi, 5 MoUs have been signed on 27th March, 2021 that have covered a range of bilateral areas of cooperation to enhance the ties between the two nations. The delegations of India and Bangladesh also held talks over the progress that has been achieved in areas of trade, connectivity and energy with and signed MoUs on sports, connectivity, information technology, and commerce.

Also, the most attractive part of this visit was the Humanitarian gesture shown by the Indian delegation towards the people of Bangladesh, where a key for 109 Ambulances have been handed over to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and a dose of 1.2 million COVID vaccines have been handed over to the Government of Bangladesh.

In terms of active engagement between the governments, there are means like governmental and political leadership that would seek towards laying the foundation of new progress, and with space and industrial sector which would focus on nurturing the ground level stakeholders. But, keeping view of this age, the new generation on both sides needs to take up the cause and extend the drive of friendship and tranquillity with reinforcing better relations; making a site for restoration of the memories and legacy of the Liberation War, that would unite both the nations on the same thought and believe.

Also, facilitation of changes between the people through expanding people-to-people contact, as both nations have a bright future, thereby extending tourism, cultural or entertainment exchanges that have a rich cultural and natural potential.

Bangladesh being a gateway of India’s Neighborhood First Policy, the city-to-city connections cannot be ignored between Delhi, Kolkata, Khulna, Jessore, Dhaka, and Agartala. The recent inauguration of the ‘Maitri Setu’ between the Indian states of Tripura to Bangladesh’s Ramgarh Upazila has resolved some of the vexed issues that had appeared as a distraction in the last few.

Dhaka goes on to hold more importance for India’s engagement in the Bay of Bengal in being the Headquarters of BIMSTEC. Still, despite being a part of China’s Belt-Road Initiative, it has also at the same time stressed doing business with India which is a more important economic program that can work on balancing China’s hegemonic steps in the Indian Ocean region.

However, still, there are many unresolved issues between both India and Bangladesh, but it’s the voice of the people of these 2 nations that are taking the relationship ahead, the people of both nations share the same history of struggles, culture, and brotherhood. Issues like the sharing of Teesta Rivers’ Waters which is a hindrance from the end of the current West Bengal Government, need to be solved.

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An ambassador and trained facilitator under Eco Femme (a social enterprise working towards menstrual health in south India), Sanjina is also an active member of the MHM Collective- India and Menstrual Health Alliance- India. She has conducted Menstrual Health sessions in multiple government schools adopted by Rotary District 3240 as part of their WinS project in rural Bengal. She has also delivered training of trainers on SRHR, gender, sexuality and Menstruation for Tomorrow’s Foundation, Vikramshila Education Resource Society, Nirdhan trust and Micro Finance, Tollygunj Women In Need, Paint It Red in Kolkata.

Now as an MH Fellow with YKA, she’s expanding her impressive scope of work further by launching a campaign to facilitate the process of ensuring better menstrual health and SRH services for women residing in correctional homes in West Bengal. The campaign will entail an independent study to take stalk of the present conditions of MHM in correctional homes across the state and use its findings to build public support and political will to take the necessary action.

Saurabh has been associated with YKA as a user and has consistently been writing on the issue MHM and its intersectionality with other issues in the society. Now as an MHM Fellow with YKA, he’s launched the Right to Period campaign, which aims to ensure proper execution of MHM guidelines in Delhi’s schools.

The long-term aim of the campaign is to develop an open culture where menstruation is not treated as a taboo. The campaign also seeks to hold the schools accountable for their responsibilities as an important component in the implementation of MHM policies by making adequate sanitation infrastructure and knowledge of MHM available in school premises.

Read more about his campaign.

Harshita is a psychologist and works to support people with mental health issues, particularly adolescents who are survivors of violence. Associated with the Azadi Foundation in UP, Harshita became an MHM Fellow with YKA, with the aim of promoting better menstrual health.

Her campaign #MeriMarzi aims to promote menstrual health and wellness, hygiene and facilities for female sex workers in UP. She says, “Knowledge about natural body processes is a very basic human right. And for individuals whose occupation is providing sexual services, it becomes even more important.”

Meri Marzi aims to ensure sensitised, non-discriminatory health workers for the needs of female sex workers in the Suraksha Clinics under the UPSACS (Uttar Pradesh State AIDS Control Society) program by creating more dialogues and garnering public support for the cause of sex workers’ menstrual rights. The campaign will also ensure interventions with sex workers to clear misconceptions around overall hygiene management to ensure that results flow both ways.

Read more about her campaign.

MH Fellow Sabna comes with significant experience working with a range of development issues. A co-founder of Project Sakhi Saheli, which aims to combat period poverty and break menstrual taboos, Sabna has, in the past, worked on the issue of menstruation in urban slums of Delhi with women and adolescent girls. She and her team also released MenstraBook, with menstrastories and organised Menstra Tlk in the Delhi School of Social Work to create more conversations on menstruation.

With YKA MHM Fellow Vineet, Sabna launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society. As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Read more about her campaign. 

A student from Delhi School of Social work, Vineet is a part of Project Sakhi Saheli, an initiative by the students of Delhi school of Social Work to create awareness on Menstrual Health and combat Period Poverty. Along with MHM Action Fellow Sabna, Vineet launched Menstratalk, a campaign that aims to put an end to period poverty and smash menstrual taboos in society.

As a start, the campaign aims to begin conversations on menstrual health with five hundred adolescents and youth in Delhi through offline platforms, and through this community mobilise support to create Period Friendly Institutions out of educational institutes in the city.

Find out more about the campaign here.

A native of Bhagalpur district – Bihar, Shalini Jha believes in equal rights for all genders and wants to work for a gender-equal and just society. In the past she’s had a year-long association as a community leader with Haiyya: Organise for Action’s Health Over Stigma campaign. She’s pursuing a Master’s in Literature with Ambedkar University, Delhi and as an MHM Fellow with YKA, recently launched ‘Project अल्हड़ (Alharh)’.

She says, “Bihar is ranked the lowest in India’s SDG Index 2019 for India. Hygienic and comfortable menstruation is a basic human right and sustainable development cannot be ensured if menstruators are deprived of their basic rights.” Project अल्हड़ (Alharh) aims to create a robust sensitised community in Bhagalpur to collectively spread awareness, break the taboo, debunk myths and initiate fearless conversations around menstruation. The campaign aims to reach at least 6000 adolescent girls from government and private schools in Baghalpur district in 2020.

Read more about the campaign here.

A psychologist and co-founder of a mental health NGO called Customize Cognition, Ritika forayed into the space of menstrual health and hygiene, sexual and reproductive healthcare and rights and gender equality as an MHM Fellow with YKA. She says, “The experience of working on MHM/SRHR and gender equality has been an enriching and eye-opening experience. I have learned what’s beneath the surface of the issue, be it awareness, lack of resources or disregard for trans men, who also menstruate.”

The Transmen-ses campaign aims to tackle the issue of silence and disregard for trans men’s menstruation needs, by mobilising gender sensitive health professionals and gender neutral restrooms in Lucknow.

Read more about the campaign here.

A Computer Science engineer by education, Nitisha started her career in the corporate sector, before realising she wanted to work in the development and social justice space. Since then, she has worked with Teach For India and Care India and is from the founding batch of Indian School of Development Management (ISDM), a one of its kind organisation creating leaders for the development sector through its experiential learning post graduate program.

As a Youth Ki Awaaz Menstrual Health Fellow, Nitisha has started Let’s Talk Period, a campaign to mobilise young people to switch to sustainable period products. She says, “80 lakh women in Delhi use non-biodegradable sanitary products, generate 3000 tonnes of menstrual waste, that takes 500-800 years to decompose; which in turn contributes to the health issues of all menstruators, increased burden of waste management on the city and harmful living environment for all citizens.

Let’s Talk Period aims to change this by

Find out more about her campaign here.

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A former Assistant Secretary with the Ministry of Women and Child Development in West Bengal for three months, Lakshmi Bhavya has been championing the cause of menstrual hygiene in her district. By associating herself with the Lalana Campaign, a holistic menstrual hygiene awareness campaign which is conducted by the Anahat NGO, Lakshmi has been slowly breaking taboos when it comes to periods and menstrual hygiene.

A Gender Rights Activist working with the tribal and marginalized communities in india, Srilekha is a PhD scholar working on understanding body and sexuality among tribal girls, to fill the gaps in research around indigenous women and their stories. Srilekha has worked extensively at the grassroots level with community based organisations, through several advocacy initiatives around Gender, Mental Health, Menstrual Hygiene and Sexual and Reproductive Health Rights (SRHR) for the indigenous in Jharkhand, over the last 6 years.

Srilekha has also contributed to sustainable livelihood projects and legal aid programs for survivors of sex trafficking. She has been conducting research based programs on maternal health, mental health, gender based violence, sex and sexuality. Her interest lies in conducting workshops for young people on life skills, feminism, gender and sexuality, trauma, resilience and interpersonal relationships.

A Guwahati-based college student pursuing her Masters in Tata Institute of Social Sciences, Bidisha started the #BleedwithDignity campaign on the technology platform, demanding that the Government of Assam install
biodegradable sanitary pad vending machines in all government schools across the state. Her petition on has already gathered support from over 90000 people and continues to grow.

Bidisha was selected in’s flagship program ‘She Creates Change’ having run successful online advocacy
campaigns, which were widely recognised. Through the #BleedwithDignity campaign; she organised and celebrated World Menstrual Hygiene Day, 2019 in Guwahati, Assam by hosting a wall mural by collaborating with local organisations. The initiative was widely covered by national and local media, and the mural was later inaugurated by the event’s chief guest Commissioner of Guwahati Municipal Corporation (GMC) Debeswar Malakar, IAS.

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