Bangladesh, on the northern coast of the Bay of Bengal, is surrounded by India, with a small common border with Myanmar in the southeast. The country is low-lying riverine land traversed by the many branches and tributaries of the Ganges and Brahmaputra rivers. Tropical monsoons and frequent floods and cyclones inflict heavy damage in the delta region.
What is now called Bangladesh is part of the historic region of Bengal, the northeast portion of the Indian subcontinent. Bangladesh consists primarily of East Bengal (West Bengal is part of India and its people are primarily Hindu) plus the Sylhet district of the Indian state of Assam.
The earliest reference to the region was to a kingdom called Vanga, or Banga (c. 1000 B.C. ). Buddhists ruled for centuries, but by the 10th century Bengal was primarily Hindu. In 1576, Bengal became part of the Mogul Empire, and the majority of East Bengalis converted to Islam. Bengal was ruled by British India from 1757 until Britain withdrew in 1947, and Pakistan was founded out of the two predominantly Muslim regions of the Indian subcontinent. For almost 25 years after independence from Britain, its history was part of Pakistan's ( see Pakistan ).
West Pakistan and East Pakistan were united by religion (Islam), but their peoples were separated by culture, physical features, and 1,000 miles of Indian territory.
Language: Bangla (official), English
Ethnicity/race: Bengali 98%, tribal groups, non-Bengali Muslims (1998)
Religions: Islam 83%, Hindu 16%, other 1% (1998)
National Holiday: Independence Day, March 26
Literacy rate: 43% (2003 est.)
Economic summary: GDP/PPP (2005 est.): $301.4 billion; per capita $2,100. Real growth rate: 5.4%. Inflation: 6.7%. Unemployment: 2.5% (includes underemployment). Arable land: 55.39%. Agriculture: rice, jute, tea, wheat, sugarcane, potatoes, tobacco, pulses, oilseeds, spices, fruit; beef, milk, poultry. Labor force: 66.6 million; note: extensive export of labor to Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, UAE, Oman, Qatar, and Malaysia; agriculture 63%, industry 11%, services 26% (FY95/96). Industries: cotton textiles, jute, garments, tea processing, paper newsprint, cement, chemical fertilizer, light engineering, sugar. Natural resources: natural gas, arable land, timber, coal. Exports: $9.372 billion (2005 est.): garments, jute and jute goods, leather, frozen fish and seafood (2001). Imports: $12.97 billion (2005 est.): machinery and equipment, chemicals, iron and steel, textiles, foodstuffs, petroleum products, cement (2000). Major trading partners: U.S., Germany, UK, France, Italy, India, China, Singapore, Kuwait, Japan, Hong Kong (2004).
Member of Commonwealth of Nations
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 831,000 (2004); mobile cellular: 2,781,600 (2004). Radio broadcast stations: AM 15, FM 13, shortwave 2 (2006) Television broadcast stations: 15 (1999). Internet hosts: 266 (2005). Internet users: 300,000 (2005).
Transportation: Railways: total: 2,706 km (2004). Highways: total: 239,226 km; paved: 22,726 km; unpaved: 216,500 km (2003). Waterways: 8,372 km; note: includes 2,635 km main cargo routes (2005). Ports and harbors: Chittagong, Mongla Port. Airports: 16 (2005).
International disputes: discussions with India remain stalled to delimit a small section of river boundary, exchange 162 miniscule enclaves in both countries, allocate divided villages, and stop illegal cross-border trade, migration, violence, and transit of terrorists through the porous border; Bangladesh resists India's attempts to fence or wall off high-traffic sections of the porous boundary; a joint Bangladesh-India boundary inspection in 2005 revealed 92 pillars are missing; dispute with India over New Moore/South Talpatty/Purbasha Island in the Bay of Bengal deters maritime boundary delimitation; Burmese Muslim refugees strain Bangladesh's meager resources.