When India promptly felicitated Bangladesh for holding a “free and fair” 12th National Elections, the government leaders in Bangladesh were visibly excited.
Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi congratulated his Bangladesh counterpart Sheikh Hasina on her “victory for a historic fourth consecutive term in the Parliamentary elections” and also said, “We are committed to further strengthen our enduring and people-centric partnership with Bangladesh.”
On the eve of the 75th Republic Day of India, a Bangladesh business daily Share Biz in Bangla publishes a damning first-page lead story “India is not among the top 10 development partners of Bangladesh”.
The story was published in the byline of a reporter Ismail Ali writes, that since the liberation war of Bangladesh, India is one of the friendly countries in South Asia.
Having the longest international border, the country always stood by its neighbour at various times. Bangladesh’s diplomatic and economic relations with India are also very deep.
However, there is a lopsided trade imbalance between the two countries. India is Bangladesh’s second-largest source of imports.
It is also worth noting that every year Bangladesh’s trade gap with India is widening rather than narrowing. In the Financial Year (FY) 2021-22, for example, Bangladesh imported commodities worth US$14.58 billion from India, while its exports to that country were merely US$1.8 billion.
Every day, thousands of Bangladesh nationals travel to India for medical treatment, been lagging business and pleasure. The two countries have shared the same history, culture and tradition for centuries during the Moghuls and British colonial era.
An estimated US $5 billion annually is remitted to India by documented and undocumented Indian expats working in Bangladesh. Similarly, thousands of economic migrants work in India as menial labourers.
Although India boasts of Bangladesh being a development partner and heightened bilateral relations, which both countries reiterate on all occasions.
The largest country in South Asia is not on the list of top 10 development partners of Bangladesh. India has been lagging in foreign economic assistance to Bangladesh since its independence.
India has provided nominal economic assistance to Bangladesh for 52 years from financial year (FY) 1971-72 to FY 2022-23. This information has emerged in the latest report of the Economic Relations Department (ERD), a government department which negotiates foreign economic assistance.
According to ERD’s report, Bangladesh’s foreign debt has reached US $92.367 billion in the 52 years since independence. At this time, Bangladesh received US $30.105 billion in various grants.
The total development assistance received is US $122.472 billion. Of this, $7.031 billion came from food aid, $10.908 billion from product aid and $104.533 billion from project aid.
The World Bank has provided the most assistance to Bangladesh among any single international multilateral donor agency, amounting to $28.446 billion. It is 23.23 per cent of the total development cooperation.
The international multilateral donor agency has donated $1.623 billion under this economic assistance. The remaining $26.823 billion was loaned by the World Bank.
Another, multi-lateral donor agency Asian Development Bank (ADB), which is in the second position on this list provided Bangladesh with $22.424 billion in development cooperation.
It is 18.31 per cent of development cooperation and provided only $382 million to Bangladesh. The remaining $22.42 billion was disbursed as loans.
The two international multi-lateral agencies have never provided food aid to Bangladesh. However, the two agencies have given some loans under product support.
Japan is third in assisting Bangladesh. In the last 52 years, the country has given $20.452 billion or 16.70 percent of foreign aid. Of the total aid, Japan has given $3.609 billion in grants and $16.843 billion in loans.
China is in the fourth position. The country has given $8.115 billion or 6.63 percent of aid to Bangladesh. Of the financial assistance, China has donated only $104 million.
Russia ranks fifth in the list of development partners.
The country has given $6.874 billion to Bangladesh in the last 52 years, which is 5.61 per cent of the total aid. Of the country’s aid, only $35 million was in grants.
The United Nations and its bodies are in the sixth position among the list of development partners. The UN has given the entire amount of $4.795 billion or 3.92 percent was disbursed as a grant to Bangladesh.
The United States ranks seventh and has provided $3.856 billion or 3.15 percent of foreign aid.
The United Kingdom was followed by the USA and provided economic assistance worth $2.727 billion or 2.23 per cent.
Germany, ranked ninth and tenth respectively in development cooperation.
The country gave Bangladesh $2.251 billion or 1.84 percent and Canada gave $2.214 billion or 1.81 percent.
Apart from this, India has given 2.143 billion dollars or 1.75 percent of development assistance to Bangladesh. And the European Union (EU) has contributed 2.105 billion dollars or 1.72 per cent.
Contributions from other organisations and countries amount to less than two billion dollars. Among them, the Asian Infrastructure Bank (AIIB), UNICEF, Islamic Development Bank (IDB), Netherlands, France, Denmark and Saudi Arabia have development cooperation amounting to more than one billion dollars. The rest have less support than that.
According to ERD data, different countries have provided food aid to Bangladesh at different times. Basically, in the post-independence years, food aid was higher. This support has decreased in recent times.
Over 89 percent of food aid in 52 years was received in grants, amounting to $6.268 billion. The remaining $763 million, or about 11 per cent, was loan assistance.
Food aid has been given to Bangladesh the most by the United Nations and its various organizations, amounting to 2.143 billion dollars. The United States is next in food aid. The country has provided food aid to Bangladesh at various times under USAID, amounting to $1.804 billion.
About 52 percent or $5.651 billion of product assistance came from grants and 48 per cent or $5.257 billion was loans. Japan and the World Bank provided the most product assistance. And 18.186 billion dollars or 17.40 per cent of the project assistance came as grants. The remaining 86.347 billion dollars or 82.60 percent was loan assistance. World Bank, ADB and Japan are the top three lenders.
Finally, on 20 January, Indian External Affairs Minister Dr. S. Jaishankar in a microblogging Twitter (X) wrote: So glad to meet with my new Bangladesh counterpart Dr. Mohammed Hasan Mahmud in Kampala [Uganda at 19th Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) Summit] and further stated that “India-Bangladesh relations are growing from strength to strength.”
- Saleem Samad is an award-winning independent journalist based in Bangladesh. A media rights defender with the Reporters Without Borders (@RSF_inter). Recipient of Ashoka Fellowship and Hellman-Hammett Award. He could be reached at [email protected]; Twitter (X): @saleemsamad