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.
Literacy rate: 57.7% (2011 est.)
Communications: Telephones: main lines in use: 962,000 (2012); mobile cellular: 97.18 million (2011). Broadcast media: state-owned Bangladesh Television (BTV) operates 1 terrestrial TV station, 3 radio networks, and about 10 local stations; 8 private satellite TV stations and 3 private radio stations also broadcasting; foreign satellite TV stations are gaining audience share in the large cities; several international radio broadcasters are available (2007). Internet hosts: 71,164 (2012). Internet users: 617,300 (2009).
Transportation: Railways: total: 2,622 km. Highways: total: 21, 269 km; paved: 1,063 km; unpaved: 20,206 km (2010). Waterways: 8,370 km; note: includes 3,060 km main cargo routes (2005). Ports and harbors: Chittagong, Mongla Port. Airports: 18 (2013).
International disputes: Bangladesh referred its maritime boundary claims with Burma and India to the International Tribunal on the Law of the Sea; Indian Prime Minister Singh’s September 2011 visit to Bangladesh resulted in the signing of a Protocol to the 1974 Land Boundary Agreement between India and Bangladesh, which had called for the settlement of longstanding boundary disputes over undemarcated areas and the exchange of territorial enclaves, but which had never been implemented; Bangladesh struggles to accommodate 29,000 Rohingya, Burmese Muslim minority from Arakan State, living as refugees in Cox’s Bazar; Burmese border authorities are constructing a 200 km (124 mi) wire fence designed to deter illegal cross-border transit and tensions from the military build-up along border.