In an effort to highlight places of interest in countries across the world, their varied culture, economy and history, The Statesman brings to you a Weekly Focus on countries with which India shares diplomatic ties and friendship. This week’s focus is on Bangladesh. Know all about the country.

Capital:  Dhaka, Currency: Bangladeshi taka, Ethnic groups: Bengali at least 98%, ethnic groups 1.1% (Note: Bangladesh’s government recognises 27 ethnic groups under the 2010 Cultural Institution for Small Anthropological Groups Act; other sources estimate there are about 75 ethnic groups; critics of the 2011 census claim that it underestimates the size of Bangladesh’s ethnic population (2011 est.) Languages: Bangla 98.8% (official, also known as Bengali), other 1.2% (2011 est.), Religions: Muslim 89.1%, Hindu 10%, other 0.9% (includes Buddhist, Christian) (2013 est.)

Indian presence

About 10,000 strong Indian community is estimated to be living in Bangladesh. Indians in Bangladesh are well-respected for their hard work and managerial skills and as a community are doing very well socially and economically. Most of the Indians are engaged in Ready Made Garment (RMG) sector or as top professionals in MNCs. Around 3,000 Indian students are also pursuing medical courses in different universities/colleges in Bangladesh.

Food and drink

The cuisine of Bangladesh straddles the boundary between India and Myanmar and things get more Burmese and less Indian the further south and east one goes. For the Muslim majority in Dhaka and northern and western Bangladesh, curry is the national dish flavoured with the same rich spices found in neighbouring India.

Fish features prominently on local menus alongside biryani, the ubiquitous fried-rice served all over Bangladesh. Bengali meals are centred on rice and dal ~ indeed many Bangladeshis live on these two staples supplemented by vegetables and the odd bit of fish and meat.

Crabs and prawns are popular on the coast while hilsa, bheti, butterfish and catfish are served all over the country. In the tribal east look out for dishes based on bamboo shoots, dried fish, coconut and sour sauces. Some of the specialities include Shami Kebab, Chotpoti, Mishti doi, Ilish,Bhaji and Cha. Muslims in Bangladesh are prohibited from drinking alcohol and it is only available to non-Muslims in limited locations.

Secular celebrations

Ekushee (21 February), also called Shaheed Dibash, is the National Day of Martyrs, commemorating those who died defending the Bangla language in 1952. Shadheenata Dibash, or Independence Day (26 March), marks the day when Bangladesh declared itself separate from Pakistan. Poila Boishakh, the Bengali New Year, is celebrated on the first day of the month of Boishakh (generally in April).

Bijoy Dibosh, or Victory Day (16 December), commemorates the day in 1971 when Pakistani forces surrendered to a joint Bangladeshi-Indian force. May Day is also celebrated.

Weather and climate

Hot, tropical climate with the monsoon season lasting from late May to October. Temperatures are highest from mid-March to May. Rainfall averages over 100 inches. The cool season is between November and early March.’

Commercial relations

Bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh has grown steadily over the last decade. In the five years, total trade between the two countries has grown by more than 17%. India has provided duty-free quota-free access to Bangladesh on all tariff lines except tobacco and alcohol under the South Asian Free Trade Area (SAFTA) since 2011. Four Border Haats, two each in Tripura and Meghalaya, have been established for the benefit of bordering communities. Additional Border Haats on the India-Bangladesh border are under consideration. Total Indian investment proposals in Bangladesh registered with the Bangladesh Investment Development Authority (BIDA) exceed US$ 3 billion.

Indian FDI in Bangladesh reached US$ 88.0 million in 2015-16. During Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s visit in April 2017, 13 agreements worth around US$ 10 billion of mainly Indian investment in power and energy sectors in Bangladesh were signed. India has extended three Lines of Credits to Bangladesh in the last seven years, amounting to US$ 8 billion. This makes Bangladesh the largest recipient of LOC funds from India till date.

Cooperation in the power sector has become one of the hallmarks of India-Bangladesh relations. Bangladesh is currently importing about 660 MW of power from India.

Visa: For tourist visa the following documents are required: Original Passports with 6 months validity from date of travel with at least 2 blank pages, 2 Photos, Visa Applications Form, Covering letter mentioning details of the travel, passport, Salary slips for last 3 months and Leave letter in original (if employed), Company Registration proof (if self-employed), Bonafide letter / ID Card copy (students), Retirement proof if retired, Hotel Bookings and Air Tickets. No fees is required.

TOURIST ATTRACTIONS

Sundarbans of Bangladesh: Renowned as the home of the Royal Bengal Tiger, this UNESCO World Heritage Site is a major tourist attraction of Bangladesh. It is one of the largest mangrove forests in the world, located on the coasts of the Bay of Bengal. Travellers can engage in fun activities such as night walks through the jungle, hikes, boating trips through the narrow canals and creeks and cruises.

St Martin’s Island and Cox’s Bazar: The St Martin’s Island, popularly called the “Coconut Island”, is a beautiful place to visit in Bangladesh. The only coral island of Bangladesh may be easily accessed by the Keari Sindbad cruiser, which can be boarded from Teknaf. The island offers a pleasant and relaxed ambience. The island is filled with coconut trees. One of the major Asian destinations is the Sunset Point on the St Martin’s Island. The island is also famous for its Sea Turtle Conservation Program Site at Cox Bazar. Another major tourist attraction of Bangladesh is the beach in the small fishing town of Cox Bazar, known to be the world’s longest unbroken stretch of sandy beach.

Dhaka, the Capital city: Without visiting Dhaka, a trip to Bangladesh is incomplete. Dhaka is the largest and also the Capital city of Bangladesh. Dhaka is an economic, academic and cultural hub of Bangladesh. The National Memorial, Liberation War Museum, National Parliament House, Shahid Minar, Hatir Jheel (Lake), Lalbag Fort, Dharmajika Buddhist Monastery, Pink Palace, Ahsan Manzil, American Church of the Holy Resurrection, Baldha Gardens, Ramna Park, Bangabandhu Memorial Museum and Maynamati Ruins are some of the hottest tourist spots in Dhaka.

Other tourist places are: Srimangal, Chittagong Ship Breaking Yard, Rangamati, Bandarban, Somapura Mahavihara, Kuakata, Sylhet, Gaur, Bagerhat, Barisal and Sonargaon.

 

Compiled by Kunal Jain ([email protected])