India-Bangladesh ties, a model for bilateral cooperation


The state visit of the Prime Minister of Bangladesh Sheikh Hasina, to India (September 5-8) has amply showcased the high stakes of both polities in their bilateral ties, imbued with regional significance.

Even before reaching New Delhi, Ms. Hasina underlined the importance of the special “bonding” between the two nations, where one helped in the liberation of the other, and where both have worked together closely, especially since Ms. Hasina came to power again in 2009.

Dhaka’s expectations

In one of her most candid interviews given just prior to her visit, Ms. Hasina vividly recalled how India had helped her all the way when she faced the greatest personal tragedy of her life: the assassination of her father, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, and a number of other members of her family.

’Bangabandhu’ Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was a Bangladeshi politician, statesman and Founding Father of Bangladesh who served as the first President and later as the Prime Minister of Bangladesh from April 1971 until his assassination in August 1975.

As Prime Minister, she reciprocated the gestures adequately by taking firm action against anti-Indian insurgent groups soon after assuming power.

Since then, the two governments have successfully resolved several old problems such as the exchange of enclaves and the conclusion of long-pending land and maritime boundary agreements.

The India–Bangladesh enclaves, also known as the chiṭmahals or pasha enclaves, were the enclaves along the Bangladesh–India border, in Bangladesh and the Indian states of West Bengal, Tripura, Assam and Meghalaya.By 100th Constitutional Amendment Act, 2015, India signed Land Boundary Agreement with Bangladesh for the mutual exchange of enclaves.Under this agreement, which was ratified on 6 June 2015, India received 51 Bangladeshi enclaves (covering 7,110 acres) in the Indian mainland, while Bangladesh received 111 Indian enclaves (covering 17,160 acres) in the Bangladeshi mainland.The enclave residents were allowed to either continue residing at their present location or move to the country of their choice.

Challenges in bilateral relations:

1. Rohingya crisis:

The continued presence of 1.1 million Rohingyas who fled from Myanmar in 2017 has created enormous pressure on the economy and social harmony. Ms. Hasina has said India is a big country that should “accommodate” them. Further, she wants stronger support from India to facilitate their early return to Myanmar.

2. Teesta river water sharing:

The absence of agreement on sharing of the Teesta’s waters, pending since 2011 due to West Bengal’s refusal to relent, and the broader issue of joint management of 54 common rivers, have been constant grievances.

3. Bangladesh- China bonhomie:

India’s sensitivity to growing cooperation between Dhaka and Beijing rankles the authorities in Bangladesh. Ms. Hasina has stressed the point that if there were differences between India and China, she did not wish to “put her nose to it”.

4. Secularism in Bangladesh:

The Bangladeshi PM has conceded that despite her government’s secular policy, “incidents” against the Hindu minority have occurred, but her government has acted against miscreants. At the same time, she has expressed concern about the safety of minorities in India, pointing out that “it is not only (in) Bangladesh, even in India also sometimes minorities suffered”.

The context above helps to evaluate the outcome of Ms. Hasina’s latest India visit. She last visited India in 2019. She played host to the Prime Minister and the President of India, when they visited Bangladesh in March and December 2021, respectively.

The visits marked triple epochal celebrations: the birth anniversary of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, the Father of Nation; the golden jubilee of Independence; and 50 years of the establishment of diplomatic relations between India and Bangladesh.

These visits were utilised to reach new agreements and add further content and momentum to the relationship.

Specific outcomes:

The latest visit resulted in seven agreements designed to increase cooperation in the diverse domains of water sharing, railways, science and technology, space, media and capacity building.

Indian officials identified several specific outcomes of Ms. Hasina’s discussions with Prime Minister Narendra Modi.

  1. Agreement “to continue close security cooperation” over counter-terrorism, border crimes, and border management.
  2. The two sides recommitted themselves to enhancing their development partnership which is already quite extensive and multi-faceted.
  3. They agreed “to build resilient supply chains” between the two countries and “across the region”.
  4. A significant decision was to launch the Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (CEPA) in 2022 and to conclude negotiations by the time Bangladesh graduates from least developed country status in 2026.
  5. The leaders favoured expanding connectivity through more rail, road, inland waterways, and coastal shipping linkages. They agreed to build on the impressive successes achieved in the past decade in this sphere.

Latest developments:

1. Economic relations :

Bilateral trade has touched a high watermark of $18 billion. Logistics for power trade between Bangladesh and its neighbours — India, Nepal and Bhutan — have been put in place. India will assist Bangladesh by sharing its rich experience of innovation through startups.

2. Rohingya issue:

On the displaced people from the Rakhine state, India expressed appreciation for Bangladesh’s “generosity” in sheltering them, made an assurance of more material assistance, and reiterated its previous position to support their “safe, sustainable and expeditious return”.

3. River water sharing:

As expected, there was no resolution of the Teesta question, but in a significant forward movement, the two governments agreed on the sharing of the waters of the Kushiyara, the common border river. They also agreed to exchange data on other rivers, set up their priorities and begin formulating the framework for “the interim water sharing arrangements”.

4. The China issue:

The thrust of the discussion on China-related issues, if it took place at all, is not known. When pressed by the media, India’s Foreign Secretary Vinay Kwatra observed that the strategic priorities, interests, and concerns have all been “factored in our cooperative matrix of engagement”, stressing that this bilateral relationship stands “on its own merits”.

5. Protection of minorities:

The question of the safety of minorities did not find a place in the joint statement, but Dhaka routinely reiterates its commitment to protecting the Hindus in Bangladesh.


It is for Bangladesh citizens to elect their next government, but they should know that the contribution of Sheikh Hasina and the Awami League government to building a strong relationship with their largest neighbour is enormous and widely appreciated in India.

Their leaders have jointly crafted and nurtured “a role model for bilateral and regional cooperation”. It deserves to be protected and strengthened, whatever the future may hold.

How does a COVID-19 nasal vaccine work?


In September 2022, Union Health Minister tweeted that the Central Drugs Standard Control Organisation (CDSCO) had approved Bharat Biotech’s nasal vaccine for primary immunisation against COVID-19 in the 18-plus age group for restricted use in an emergency situation.

It is hoped that Bharat Biotech’s ChAd36-SARS-CoV-S recombinant vaccine, to be administered nasally and developed in association with the University of Washington, will prove a powerful tool in the battle against the virus by preventing infections, something the other vaccines have not been able to do.

What is recombinant vaccine?

Recombinant vaccines are protein or DNA recombinants that are produced by expression in bacterial or yeast systems. These protein or DNA recombinants are introduced into the host cells where they are identified as a foreign material, and as a result, an immune response is triggered.

The advantage of recombinant vaccines is that they can be used for people with weakened immune systems as well. However, one shortcoming is that you need to get booster shots to maintain the effect of the vaccine.

What does the vaccine do?

A nasal vaccine is delivered through the nose or mouth and it is expected to work on the mucosal lining, prompting an immune response at the entry points of the virus in the human body.

It likely prevents the infection right there, thereby also blocking its spread. Scientists have called this sterilising immunity, where the virus is prevented from causing infection in the host effectively.

On its website, Bharat Biotech said , “The nasal route has excellent potential for vaccination due to the organised immune systems of the nasal mucosa”. Effectively, intranasal candidates have shown good potential for protection in animal studies conducted thus far.

What are the advantages of a nasal vaccine?

Nasal vaccine comes with the guarantee of better compliance and the advantage of lower costs.

It can be an option for children too, for whom it has not been authorised for use yet.

Currently most COVID vaccines approved for public Immunization are Intramuscular shots/ jabs.

In August 2020, scientists at Washington University School of Medicine said they had developed a nasal vaccine that targets the SARS-CoV-2 virus. The vaccine could be given in one dose via the nose and was effective in preventing infection in mice susceptible to the novel coronavirus. The investigators then revealed their plan to test the vaccine further on non-human primates and humans.

Early studies at Washington University, according to a report published on the varsity’s website, “showed that nasal delivery of this vaccine creates a strong immune response throughout the body, especially in the nose and respiratory tract. In animal studies, the nasal vaccine prevented infection from taking hold in the body.”

Other such nasal vaccines:

So far, intranasal vaccination is being used only for influenza . However, it cannot be used on certain groups of people, particularly those who have compromised immune systems.

Lacunae of current COVID vaccines:

COVID-19 vaccines currently in use do a good job of reducing disease severity and preventing hospitalisation, but don’t block mild illness or transmission that well.

The reason for that is that they are injected into the muscle. Intramuscular shots prompt an immune response that includes T cells, which destroy infected cells, and B cells, which produce antibodies that ‘neutralise’ pathogens — binding to them to stop them entering healthy cells. These cells and antibodies circulate through the bloodstream.

But they aren’t present at high enough levels in the nose and lungs to provide rapid protection. In the time it takes for them to journey there from the bloodstream, the virus spreads, and the infected person gets ill.

Way forward:

Efficacy study of nasal vaccine:

Exactly how successful these vaccines will be is unclear. Expecting a vaccine to stop transmission of a virus or prevent even mild illness — achieving what is called sterilising immunity — is a high bar. We won’t know whether the vaccine can achieve this until we have conducted further efficacy studies.

In a release, Bharat Biotech said: “The product — iNCOVACC — is stable at 2-8°C for easy storage and distribution. The reactogenic events and adverse events that were documented during the trial were highly comparable to the published data from other COVID-19 vaccines. Product development data will be submitted to peer-reviewed journals and will be made available in the public domain.”

The University of Washington article indicated that two clinical trials of the nasal vaccine were conducted in India which showed that the vaccine is safe and effective at eliciting a strong immune response in people when used either as a primary vaccine or as a booster.”


Early publication of trial data and a speedy rollout of a nasal vaccine would be ideal. By avoiding the jab, the nasal vaccine might be more appealing to people not yet vaccinated. It can be an option for children too, for whom it has not been authorised for use yet.


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